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Body matches Kelly's description
Tom Happold and Ciar Byrne
Friday July 18, 2003
Kelly: police are searching for missing scientist
Police searching for Dr David Kelly, the Ministry of Defence official quizzed this week over the government's Iraq dossier, have found a man's body.
Officers have confirmed that the body matches Dr Kelly's description.
The 59-year-old went missing from his home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, at 3pm yesterday afternoon after telling his wife he was going for a walk, according to a Thames Valley police spokesman.
The body was discovered lying face down at 9.20am by a police search team at Harrowdown Hill, about five miles from Dr Kelly's home in Abingdon.
No note has been found either at the scene or at Dr Kelly's house. Responding to questions about whether the dead man had died of gunshot wounds, the spokesman said that Dr Kelly was not a licensed firearms holder.
He also confirmed that a number of items had been removed from Dr Kelly's house but said this was normal procedure in missing persons investigations. His family contacted police when he had failed to return by 11.45pm yesterday, two days after he gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the affair.
Dr Kelly, who volunteered to give evidence to the foreign affairs select committee (FAC), admitted to MPs last week he had met the BBC defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, on three occasions since September 2002.
With two MoD police sitting behind him, Dr Kelly confirmed he met Mr Gilligan in a central London hotel on the same day that the reporter said he met his sole source at a central London hotel.
But Dr Kelly said he did not believe he could be the primary source of the report at the centre of a bitter row between the BBC and No 10.
"I believe I am not the main source. From the conversation I had with him I don't see how he could make the authoritative statements he was making from the comments that I made," Dr Kelly said.
Committee members were critical of the government's handling of Dr Kelly, saying he had been the "fall guy" and had been "poorly treated" by the defence minister.
Sir Richard Ottaway, a Tory member of the FAC, told Sky News that if the body was Dr Kelly, it "threw into stark relief the actions of the spin doctors within Downing Street and the Labour government".
He added that "an innocent scientist used in this way demands an inquiry at the highest level".
Although Sir Richard defended the FAC questioning of Dr Kelly on Tuesday, he said: "We thought he'd been put up quite deliberately to distract us from the case of the government's case for war."
"What I do regret is the way that he was quite obviously used by the government and the ministry of defence in this situation."
Donald Anderson, the chairman of FAC, said however that there was no "no way in which government ministers can be blamed" for the way in which Dr Kelly's name became public.
"On the face of it, this appears to be a human tragedy, if the news is now confirmed, and puts much of the discussion which we have had in a very different and personal perspective."
Mr Anderson rejected the idea that the committee's questioning of the former weapons inspector had been unduly harsh.
Expressing condolences the Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith, said: "Of course, there will be many questions arising from these events but now is not the moment for me to comment on the implications of this dreadful news."
The MoD has consistently stood by its claims that Dr Kelly was the sole source of the story, pointing to Mr Gilligan's evidence that he had relied on one source and that three other sources mentioned had not discussed the September dossier or had done so only later.
Dr Kelly has been under enormous pressure since he admitted making contact with Mr Gilligan. He was officially reprimanded for having an "unauthorised" meeting with a journalist, and recently complained that his home was surrounded by journalists.
The MoD denied this afternoon that Dr Kelly had at no point been threatened with suspension or dismissal. It was made clear to him at the time that he had broken civil service rules by having unauthorised contact with a journalist, but "that was the end of it", said a spokesman.
Dr Kelly was given five days to think about his options before the MoD issued its statement on Tuesday July 8 to say that an unnamed official had spoken to Mr Gilligan. And he was given an opportunity to talk through the possible ramifications of going public before the statement was released.
The spokesman added that the MoD had offered Dr Kelly the use of alternative accommodation in order to avoid any press attention at his home address.
A friend of Dr Kelly's, TV journalist Tom Mangold, said that Dr Kelly had told him he had been living in a 'safe house'.
Mr Mangold told ITV News: "She [Dr Kelly's wife] told me he had been under considerable stress, that he was very very angry about what had happened at the committee, that he wasn't well, that he had been to a safe house, he hadn't liked that, he wanted to come home.
"She didn't use the word depressed, but she said he was very very stressed and unhappy about what had happened and this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in."
Mr Mangold said Dr Kelly was a source to many reporters. His ambition was to help serious journalists understand a complex topic.
Tony Blair was informed of the discovery of the body as he flew from Washington to Tokyo on his diplomatic marathon.
His official spokesman, Godric Smith, subsequently said that if they man's body did turn out to be Dr Kelly's then the MoD would hold an independent judicial inquiry on the affair.