The first witness at today's David Kelly inquiry will say the weapons expert was tough and cool under pressure - smashing Downing Street's "Walter Mitty" smear.
Testimony to Dr Kelly's character will come from former army colonel Terry Taylor, a director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Both worked in Iraq, where Dr Kelly was a United Nations inspector and a key to uncovering biological weapons.
A further attempt to besmirch Dr Kelly was revealed yesterday. Top MoD civil servant Sir Kevin Tebbit allegedly told a BBC reporter that Dr Kelly - found with a slashed wrist last month - was "weird" and "eccentric".
Mr Taylor, speaking in advance of Lord Hutton's London hearings, said the apparent suicide was "way out of character for a man I had seen cope with extreme pressures so well".
He added: "During my 15 years of friendship, and 10 years in the most difficult and trying circumstances together battling the Iraqis, I have always admired him for his coolness and his measured approach.
"He certainly didn't flap under pressure, he was a model of how to conduct yourself in tense situations."
Mr Taylor will claim that he and Dr Kelly - outed as a BBC source for its "sexing up" claims over an Iraq dossier - had "tacit permission" from the Government to brief the media.