Monday, 11 August 2003

A call to arms, a troubled scientist and the unravelling of a mysterious death

Why would a man due to give his daughter's hand away in marriage commit suicide? Why would a man choose to leave his wife and not his job or the country...? When are we going to get a government that isn't full of lying spinbags? I suggest you prepare yourselves; sunglasses for the blinding white-wash that's coming frm that Hutton investigator-guy, and a nose-clip or gas-mask to prevent the inhalation of the repulsively synthetic smell of roses that will follow Phony Tony off the FREE plane-flight back from Barbados - which will have payed for by me and my fellow tax-slaves.

Almost a year has passed since Tony Blair's Government issued its first fateful dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This was not what became known as the "dodgy dossier". That came later. But, as it happened, the controversy surrounding the first dossier on the threat from Saddam Hussein was far more grave.

Dr David Kelly, a former Porton Down scientist and UN weapons inspector in Iraq, was among those involved in compiling it. He had worked for the Ministry of Defence as an expert on biological warfare for the past four years. The dossier was published on 24 September 2002. It contained the portentous warning that Saddam Hussein had chemical or biological weapons ready to use within 45 minutes of the order being given.

We now know, that David Kelly was expressing reservations about this core claim. We know this - even before the Hutton Inquiry takes its first evidence today - because since Dr Kelly's body was found near his Oxfordshire home on 18 July a stream of intriguing new details have emerged.

In October 2002, Dr Kelly gave a slide show and lecture about his experiences as a weapons inspector in Iraq to a small almost private gathering of the Baha'i faith, which aims to unite the teachings of all the prophets. Dr Kelly had converted to the religion three years earlier, while in New York on attachment to the UN. When he returned to England he became treasurer of the small but influential Baha'i branch in Abingdon near his home.

Roger Kingdon, a member, recalls: "He had no doubt that [the Iraqis] had biological and chemical weapons. It was clear that David Kelly was largely happy with the material in the dossier, but he was not so happy with how the material had been interpreted."

Several months later - the date is unclear - Dr Kelly bumped into Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State and confronted him, a meeting which the politician later claimed to forget. Exactly what was said will probably never be known. But conversations between Dr Kelly and his friend, Tom Mangold, the television journalist, suggest that while he was broadly supportive of the document's content he was sceptical of the "45-minutes" claim.

"We laughed about that," Mr Mangold said later. "He reminded me it would take the most efficient handlers at least 45 minutes just to pour the chemicals or load the biological agents into the warheads." A precise man, Dr Kelly was irritated by inaccuracy; he believed the dossier exaggerated intelligence for effect.

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