Britain: Doubts raised about whistleblower suicide

London protest against the Iraq invasion, February 2003. Medical and photographic evidence related to Dr David Kelly’s death h

On August 13, nine leading British medical experts wrote an open letter to the Times calling for an inquiry into the alleged suicide of whistleblower Dr David Kelly in July 2003.

The 59-year-old scientist, the world’s leading expert in biological and chemical weapons, died shortly after being exposed as the source of a leak to the BBC suggesting that the British government had deliberately “sexed up” military intelligence about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

This military intelligence, later revealed to be untrue, formed the basis of Britain’s justification for the war on Iraq, which has killed an estimated 1 million people.

The July 26 Daily Mail released the findings of an investigation into Lord Brian Hutton’s inquiry into Kelly’s death, and said there is evidence of a cover up. Carrying out the inquiry, Hutton took the unusual step of stopping the coronial inquest.

Hutton found that Kelly had killed himself by slashing his wrist with a knife after taking a bottle of painkillers. The letter by the nine medical experts stated that it would be impossible for Kelly to have committed suicide in the way Hutton described.

Another group of medical experts in the Kelly Investigation Group wrote an open letter in January 2004 disputing the cause of death. They alleged that the amount of blood found near Kelly’s body was too small to cause death from the injuries found on his body.

“Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss”, they said. “To have died from haemorrhage [sic], Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood — it is unlikely that he would have lost more than a pint.”

In December 2004, paramedic Vanessa Hunt, who was on the scene, told BBC News: “There just wasn’t a lot of blood. When someone cuts an artery, whether accidentally or intentionally, the blood pumps everywhere.”

They also said the quantity of tablets in Kelly’s stomach was too small to cause death.

Similar claims were made by the signatories of the August 13 letter.

In January 2010, attempts by former assistant coroner Michael Powers to have a full inquest led to the disclosure that Hutton had taken the unusual step of making medical and photographic evidence related to Kelly’s death secret for 70 years.

The Daily Mail said there were also allegations that police had stripped the wallpaper from Kelly’s home after he was declared missing, but before the body was found.