UK may reopen inquest into death of Iraq whistleblower
Britain's attorney general may finally allow a full inquest into the death of David Kelly, a weapons inspector who died under suspicious circumstances shortly after being identified as the source of a leak that embarrassed the British government ahead of the invasion of Iraq.
A probe carried out shortly after Kelly's death -- known as the Hutton inquiry -- was made secret by the British government. Earlier this year, the new coalition government unsealed those records, showing that the inquiry had concluded Kelly's death was a suicide.
But doubts have persisted. In September, a group of medical practitioners sent a letter to Attorney General Dominic Grieve, calling for a full inquiry to be held.
That letter, published by the Daily Mail on Monday, argues that the Hutton inquiry was shut down prematurely -- less than two weeks after the investigation was called -- and was done so on the orders of Charles Falconer, at the time Britain's Lord Chancellor, the Cabinet secretary responsible for the courts.
As the Daily Mail notes, Falconer was once a roommate of Tony Blair, the British prime minister whose push to launch the war in Iraq was dealt a public blow when Kelly told the BBC that Blair's government had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
Falconer replaced the standard inquest with a "non-statutory examination of the circumstances leading to Dr Kelly's death," the Mail reports. "As a result no witness, including Tony Blair and his press secretary Alastair Campbell, swore an oath or was cross-examined."
"The Coroner refused to resume the inquest and rejected relevant evidence following the findings of the Hutton inquiry despite representations made and evidence submitted to him as the exceptional reasons why an inquest should in fact be held," the doctors' letter states.
NO FINGERPRINTS ON TOOLS ALLEGEDLY USED FOR SUICIDE
Among the irregularities the medical professionals cite is the lack of fingerprints on the bottle of pills that Kelly reportedly ingested before he was found dead in the woods near his home on July 18, 2003. Nor were fingerprints found on a knife and water bottle near Kelly's body, even though the knife was supposedly used to open Kelly's wrists.
Contradictory claims abound about the presence of blood at the scene. In August, the detective who found Kelly's body said there "wasn't much blood about." That would contradict the conclusion that Kelly had died by slitting his wrists, which usually results in large amounts of blood spilling. The doctors' group said it was "extremely unlikely" that Kelly had died by his own hand.
"Insufficient blood would have been lost to threaten life," they said. "Absent a quantitative assessment of the blood lost and of the blood remaining in the great vessels, the conclusion that death occurred as a consequence of hemorrhage is unsafe."
But the report released by the government in September stated that there was "heavy bloodstaining over [Kelly's] left arm" and a two- or three-foot long blood puddle next to him.
Last month, the Mail reported that a drug expert told investigators that he believed that Kelly was murdered and a pill overdose was not the cause of his death, even though that was cited as being among the causes of death.
"I reported to the Thames force that I believe that the death of Dr Kelly may have been murder," the expert reportedly said.
The Mail reports that Attorney General Grieve has hired a medical assistant to help him sift through the doctors' report. The paper says he will soon make a decision on whether the report justifies opening a full inquest into Kelly's death.
-- With earlier reporting by Stephen C. Webster