David Christopher Kelly (May 17, 1944 - July 17, 2003) was an employee of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), and an expert in biological warfare. He had served as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq, as a member of UNSCOM he had visited the country 37 times. His work in uncovering Iraq's former biological weapons program led to Rolf Ekeus nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Table of contents
1 Biography
2 Timeline
3 Political fallout
4 Footnote
5 External link


Born in Wales, he graduated from Leeds University with a BSc, followed by an MSc at Birmingham University. In 1971 he received a doctorate in microbiology from Oxford University. In 1984 he joined the civil service, working at what is now DSTL Porton Down. He moved from there to work as an ad hoc advisor to the MoD and the Foreign Office.

Kelly came to prominence in July 2003, in connection with claims that a government spin doctor had "sexed up" a government dossier on illegal weapons in Iraq allegedly in order to increase public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (The dossier which Kelly was alleged to have commented upon is known as the September Dossier, and is not the same as the Dodgy Dossier, which he was not alleged to have been involved with.)

Kelly was found dead at an area of woodlands near his home on July 18 2003. His wrist had been cut and a packet of painkillers was found beside him. The police stated that no-one else was suspected of involvement and that the evidence indicated that Kelly had committed suicide.

David Kelly had become a member of the Baha'i Faith about four years prior to his death. Baha'i teachings condemn suicide and discourage a close involvement with party politics. Kelly's wife and children are members of the Church of England.


September 24, 2002 - The British Government releases a dossier (the "September Dossier") in which it claims that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the order being given.

February 3, 2003 - The British government release a dossier entitled Iraq - its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation . The dossier is later found to have included whole sections from unattributed sources including the postgraduate thesis of a former Californian student Ibrahim al-Marashi. The dossier is subsequently dubbed the "Dodgy Dossier".

May 22 - Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist, and David Kelly meet for lunch in the Victorian Charing Cross Hotel, between Strand and the Thames Embankment in London.

May 29 - Andrew Gilligan claims that a senior MoD official told him that the dossier in September was "sexed up" by the government with the insertion of the 45-minute claim. Subsequently, a row ensues over just who the source was.

June 1 - The Mail on Sunday publish an article by Andrew Gilligan in which he elaborates on his report and specifically names the Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell as the person responsible for the insertion of the 45-minute claim into the September Dossier.

June 2 - BBC TWO's flagship Newsnight programme broadcasts a report by Susan Watts also quoting an unnamed senior official stating that the government added the 45-minute claim. It is subsequently revealed that the source was Kelly. In the programme, an actor reads the comments supposedly made. They were

It was a statement that was made and it just got out of all proportion. They were desperate for information, they were pushing hard for information which could be released. That was one that popped up and it was seized on and it's unfortunate that it was.

That's why there is the argument between the intelligence services and the cabinet office - because they picked up on it and once they've picked up on it, you can't pull it back from them.1

July 8 - David Kelly admits to his seniors at the MoD that he had met Gilligan to discuss the dossier, but denies mentioning any involvement by Campbell. Later that day the government issue a statement saying that a Ministry of Defence official has come forward and admitted meeting Andrew Gilligan on May 22.

July 9 - In a private letter to the BBC, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon names Kelly as the official who had spoken to Gilligan. The name is subsequently revealed by the MoD's press office to The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Times.

July 15 - Kelly appears before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. He tells them he was not the source of the "sexed up" claim. Committee members say they do not believe he was the source of the claim.

July 17 - Andrew Gilligan appears before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and is accused by the committee's chairman Donald Anderson of "changing his story" and being an "unsatisfactory witness". Meanwhile Kelly's family contact police after he fails to return from a walk. Before he had left his house, Kelly had sent an e-mail to a journalist on the New York Times, warning of "many dark actors playing games".

July 18 - Kelly's body is found a few miles from his home. The government announces an independent judicial inquiry into the events leading up to the death, to be chaired by Lord Hutton.

July 19 - Police formally confirm the identity of the body, and indicate that he died as a result of a wound to the left wrist, in an apparent suicide. According to the police, no evidence was found to suggest the participation of any other person in the death. An opened packet of co-proxamol, a prescription painkiller drug, was found beside the body.

July 20 - Richard Sambrook, director of news at the BBC, reveals that Dr. David Kelly was indeed the source for Gilligan's report of the claim that Downing Street had "sexed up" the September Dossier.

July 22 - The BBC announces that the tape of Susan Watt's interview will be supplied to the inquiry into Kelly's death.

Political fallout

In the aftermath of Kelly's death, former minister Glenda Jackson called for the resignation of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. She also suggested on Channel 4 News that the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, should "consider his position". Mail on Sunday reporter, Jonathan Oliver, asked Blair in a press conference in Tokyo whether he had the "blood [of Kelly] on his hands" to which Blair did not comment. Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy, leaders of Britain's main opposition parties, called for Parliament to be recalled to debate the issue.

After the BBC's confirmation that Kelly was the source, it was forced to defend its reporting of what he had said, since Kelly himself had claimed that he could not have been the main source since he had not said what Gilligan had reported. Andrew Gilligan's own report is widely described as 'sexed up' by other sections of the media. The BBC continues to claim that his reporting has been accurate. It also revealed that Kelly's briefing to a Newsnight journalist had been taped and that it was considering making that tape available to Lord Hutton.

Peter Mandelson, a former Blair minister and spin doctor, described Andrew Gilligan as a "loose cannon", the continued support of the [BBC] governors as a "crass error" and said that it needs to review its conduct before it suffered "further erosion of [its] credibility".

During a discussion of the Kelly death on Newsnight, one panellist suggested that Kelly's suicide was because, under pressure during his interrogation before the parliamentary committee, Kelly had in effect lied about his comments to Gilligan, having also lied to the Ministry of Defence over his interview. The panellist suggested that Kelly feared his "dishonest" comments before parliament could come back to haunt him and have repercussions for his pension rights.

Trevor Kavanagh, political editor of the (currently) pro-Blair The Sun tabloid, which had a long history of criticism of the BBC (a possible reason for this being that the BBC - as a television operator - is in competition with Sky Television, who along with The Sun is owned by News Corporation), talked of "the death of the BBC's priceless reputation for integrity".

Government spin doctors suggested that Kelly was "outside the loop" and "did not have access to intelligence." This however was contradicted by other sources who suggested that not merely was Kelly in the loop, he was so influential that MI6 regularly sought out his opinion on Iraq and other issues.


1 BBC TWO Newsnight report, reported in The Irish Times, 24 July 2003.

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