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The Death of David Kelly
January 24, 2010 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Lord Hutton made a request for the records provided to the inquiry, not produced in evidence, to be closed for 30 years, and that medical (including post-mortem) reports and photographs be closed for 70 years: evidence relating to the death of Government weapons inspector David Kelly is to be kept secret for 70 years, it has been reported (more here and here). Kelly was the UK weapons inspector whose suspiciously timed death in 2003, ruled a suicide, has remained a point of controversy ever since.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 (63 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. This definitely makes the whole thing less suspicious.
posted by litleozy at 8:34 AM on January 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Cia op, nothing to see here, move along.
posted by vivelame at 8:35 AM on January 24, 2010


How can they do that? Does anyone have any more information? (I did read the links but they didn't explain much.)
posted by sveskemus at 8:37 AM on January 24, 2010


One way or another, they killed him.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on January 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know, Britain, if you're trying to keep a secret, it's probably best not to cover it up quite so conspicuously.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2010


Well, yeah, I had this quietly filed away as harassment leading to suicide, and though my low drama view of the world means I still favour that theory this doesn't exactly help things.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know. It sounds like an entirely non-suspicious death.
posted by Jpfed at 8:58 AM on January 24, 2010


I don't know. It sounds like an entirely non-suspicious death.

Not quite:

Lord Hutton's report in 2004 concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by cutting an artery in his wrist. But the finding has been challenged by doctors who claim that the weapons inspector's stated injuries were not serious enough. (from article)

posted by litleozy at 9:04 AM on January 24, 2010


I don't understand why he was killed, if he was. He revealed that the dossier had been "sexed up", but that revelation was already out there, Britain was already involved in the Iraq War, and at most this would have been another embarrassing scandal for Blair, of which there was no shortage. He didn't say the dossier was totally bogus, just that the threat had been exaggerated--which was no surprise to anyone.
posted by fatbird at 9:11 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Norman Baker MP's (third link, Daily Mail but still) op ed is astonishing.
In 1973, he had represented the Ministry of Defence at the Bloody Sunday inquests. In 1991, he successfully led the campaign to overturn the decision to extradite the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In 2002, he blocked the attempt by renegade MI5 officer David Shayler to use a public-interest defence to justify his revelations about the actions of the organisation.
Nobody is suggesting that Lord Hutton was anything other than independent but, in the words of Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister, you don’t choose a judge whom you can lean on; you choose one who doesn’t have to be leant on.

[Also (derail!) this is a nice turn of phrase I've not heard before: If you put down the tracks, that’s the way the train goes.]

Yet I still have such a hard time believing that the British government would do such a thing.
Perhaps that's what they are counting on.
posted by Flashman at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, yeah, I had this quietly filed away as harassment leading to suicide, and though my low drama view of the world means I still favour that theory this doesn't exactly help things.
That's about the size of it. I was also inclined to believe that despite the timing it was most likely Dr Kelly took his own life, but they do seem keen on making it look as suspicious as possible.
posted by Abiezer at 9:17 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


this book claims it was not a suicide

http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Death-David-Kelly/dp/1842752170/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264353419&sr=1-1
posted by Postroad at 9:18 AM on January 24, 2010


Yet I still have such a hard time believing that the British government would do such a thing.

But surely you acknowledge the established fact that they deceived the public in order to invade a foreign nation? Is that somehow less reprehensible?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:19 AM on January 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


If anyone thinks the official verdict on Kelly's death is a plausible one, go take a walk in the woods and cut your ulnar artery.

To die from blood loss, you have to bleed out at least 40% of your total blood volume, which would be approximately 2 liters (normal blood volume is 4-5L). The paramedics reported very little blood at the Kelly scene. The knife, which was alleged to belonged to Kelly, had no fingerprints on it. Oh -- and Kelly's death by ulnar arterial bleeding was the only one of its kind that year in the UK.
posted by grounded at 9:25 AM on January 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


The whole Hutton thing felt deeply fishy at the time. Not just his death - tragic though it was - but the underlying drama of state-owned media organisation being torn to shreds by some of the barest-faced liars ever to form a government.

It's an understatement to say that the fact that the government emerged out of it victorious and the BBC cowed was vastly at odds with any sensible reading of the situation - and the conclusions of the enquiry surprised most professional journalists I worked with.

Underneath all the pomp of a judicial enquiry witness after witness stood up and obfuscated. And hence, different angle, different process, but we now have the Chilcot enquiry.

And I say that as someone who devoted most of the summer of 2003 to working on Sky's coverage of the Hutton Enquiry.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:26 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kept secret until we are all dead. Bastards.
posted by chance at 9:28 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the length of time that still remains until the official release of the rest of the Warren Commission documents on the JFK assassination -- not till 2039.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:29 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regardless of whether or not the British government had a hand in David Kelly's death, no one should have the power to lock away evidence like this. I can't fathom any situation where hiding evidence would be categorically a good thing. For justice, I mean. It's obviously a good thing for Lord Hutton if he has something to hide, and I can't see this in any other light.

Maybe someone with knowledge of the UK legal system can answer this one - is there any sort of recourse for what Lord Hutton's doing here - maybe some kind of analog to a US FOIA request? Can't seem to find any info related to that.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2010


I have no doubt that the UK state is capable of all sorts of nefariousness if the need is perceived (the war in the north of Ireland alone provides several examples), just never saw the death of Dr Kelly as being worth the candle from the state's point of view. Flashman was right to point to Hutton as a very safe pair of hands from the establishment point of view, though.
posted by Abiezer at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet I still have such a hard time believing that the British government would do such a thing.

But surely you acknowledge the established fact that they deceived the public in order to invade a foreign nation? Is that somehow less reprehensible?


Amen.

I have no doubt that the UK state is capable of all sorts of nefariousness if the need is perceived (the war in the north of Ireland alone provides several examples), just never saw the death of Dr Kelly as being worth the candle from the state's point of view.

The British government doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Sova at 9:43 AM on January 24, 2010


Kept secret until we are all dead. Bastards.

I think the idea is to keep it secret until the liars are all dead and thus will have gotten away with it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:43 AM on January 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


Yet I still have such a hard time believing that the British government would do such a thing.

But surely you acknowledge the established fact that they deceived the public in order to invade a foreign nation? Is that somehow less reprehensible?


It's certainly no less reprehensible, but committing acts of aggression overseas and lying about them systematically at home is fairly normal behaviour for the British establishment. Murder on UK soil, strangely less so. Assassination is just so Continental. Which isn't to say that the British security apparatus didn't kill Dr Kelly, or step aside so that the Americans could do the dirty work.
posted by WPW at 9:44 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


David Kelly... another in a long line of dead microbiologists.

Who Is Killing Off The Microbiologists?

It does seem a bit suspicious, doesn't it?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:46 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get how people can say there's no conspiracy when crap like this goes down. The Warren Commission Report is a perfect example. "Nothing to see here, but you can't see it for another 80 years, though."

Someone's getting protected from the consequences of their actions. Count on it.
posted by Aquaman at 9:48 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The British government doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.
Still can't see why they'd have wanted to murder Dr Kelly, though Christ knows what goes on in the murky world of intelligence. His wife and family accepted the suicide verdict, albeit unhappy with the way the Hutton conducted the inquiry, and I'd imagine they'd be better positioned than most to know his state of mind.
posted by Abiezer at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2010


Coroners' records in England and Wales are normally closed for 75 years, so it's not particularly surprising that the medical records relating to Dr Kelly's death should be closed for a similar period. The Evening Standard article claims that this is 'highly unusual' (it isn't), and implies that the records would have normally have been made public (they wouldn't), in order to suggest that there was some sort of cover-up (there wasn't).

As for the Daily Mail .. well, as other UK MeFites have already pointed out, the Daily Mail is not a trustworthy source. (One of the 'six top doctors' quoted in the Mail article is David Halpin, a crank who refers to the BBC as the 'Zionist Broadcasting Corporation' and believes that 9/11 was a 'false flag' operation.) The death of David Kelly was explored in exhaustive detail by the Hutton Inquiry, and if you believe that Dr Kelly was murdered you also have to believe in a vast conspiracy involving not just Tony Blair and his advisers but also the police, the ambulance services and various independent forensic scientists.

Anyone who wishes to see the records can always submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which has been deemed to cover coroners' records (and by extension the records of the Hutton Inquiry) once they have been transferred to a place of permanent deposit. No doubt someone will. Personally I would like to see the records made public, simply to put these ludicrous conspiracy theories to rest.
posted by verstegan at 9:58 AM on January 24, 2010 [15 favorites]


Have there been any previous examples of incidents investigated and the results sealed for XX years, where the results were eventually released? It might be interesting to look at those. Was there any clear reason for the results to have been suppressed in the first place? Was it just a long wait for a whitewash, and -- oopsie! -- well, we can't go back and look at the evidence again, because it's all gone, and nobody cares anyway!
posted by spacewrench at 10:00 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In The Loop seems to capture the spirit of a lot of what was going on at the time, no particular reference to the Kelly thing though.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


verstegan - I'd read that it was usual for records to be available to 'properly interested parties' and that these doctors (I agree with you about Halpin) had applied to be regarded as such and thus get access. Must admit I've not followed the case in any great detail though.
posted by Abiezer at 10:04 AM on January 24, 2010


Britain wages war on a nation, bringing about the deaths of thousands. Result: disappointed.
Britain kills one man in the woods. Result: shocked.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 10:04 AM on January 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is exactly why Wikileaks need worldwide support.
posted by bhance at 10:13 AM on January 24, 2010


Still can't see why they'd have wanted to murder Dr Kelly, though Christ knows what goes on in the murky world of intelligence. His wife and family accepted the suicide verdict, albeit unhappy with the way the Hutton conducted the inquiry, and I'd imagine they'd be better positioned than most to know his state of mind.

I remember when it happened, and it didn't seem like they needed an excuse. Kelly was somebody who knew a lot about WMD in Iraq, and had been involved in the making of the infamous dossier. That he was willing to speak to media about the false claims as well, that seemed to me reason enough to get rid of him. Maybe it's wrong to have jumped to this conclusion, but I would prefer somebody to prove the opposite rather than just assert it.
posted by Sova at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2010


David Kelly RIP.


.
posted by fire&wings at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In The Loop is fantastic.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on January 24, 2010


verstegan: thanks for the info about coroner's records. From your first link:

Whether the coroner still has the file, or whether it is still in the hands of the archive service, an applicant will need the current coroner's permission to have access to it, unless it is more than 75 years old. Anyone who is a close relative, or applying on behalf of a close relative, such as a child of the deceased, should not normally encounter any difficulty in obtaining permission. (If there were some problem of national security, for example, that might be different.)

It seems in Dr. Kelly's case, there might indeed be some problem of national security.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:30 AM on January 24, 2010


I think the idea is to keep it secret until the liars are all dead and thus will have gotten away with it.

Maybe the only way to deal with this kind of ridiculous coverup is to pass an equally ridiculous law that holds the perpetrators' family responsible, however many generations as the coverup lasts. Whichever offspring manages to survive down the road who isn't already in jail gets nailed.

Imagine a conspiracy so foul everything gets covered up for 400 years. Then some hapless Lord or Lady Thwipplebottom XIV or Senator HelmsV12.3 four hundred years from now suddenly gets dragged away on conspiracy and murder charges.

Just sayin' we could all be open to ideas on this. Time machines, whatever it takes.

And In The Loop is awesome, as is The Thick Of It, the television show on which the film is based.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


That he was willing to speak to media about the false claims as well, that seemed to me reason enough to get rid of him. Maybe it's wrong to have jumped to this conclusion, but I would prefer somebody to prove the opposite rather than just assert it.

How would someone do so? What would count, to you, as proof?
posted by fatbird at 10:37 AM on January 24, 2010


Get where you're coming from Sova but from my recall the damage was done already at the time of his death. Dr Kelly had played a part in building the case for war himself and, while of course I don't know, could well have had a guilty conscience to go with the harassment that might well have led him to take his own life.
posted by Abiezer at 10:38 AM on January 24, 2010


The death of David Kelly was explored in exhaustive detail by the Hutton Inquiry, and if you believe that Dr Kelly was murdered you also have to believe in a vast conspiracy involving not just Tony Blair and his advisers but also the police, the ambulance services and various independent forensic scientists.

What the Kelly case needed was an independent inquiry. What it got instead was the Hutton Inquiry, which was selective rather than exhaustive.

The Observer (a step up from the Daily Mail) ran a good interview with the paramedics who found Kelly: Kelly death paramedics query verdict.

I'm an EMT. I know what bleeding out looks like. I know which arteries can cause a fatal bleed. The official verdict on David Kelly's death is one of two possibilities: (1) a ridiculous fiction or (2) a unique case in the annals of medicine. Either way, the whole affair should be open to public scrutiny -- in the former, to actually learn the truth of what happened; in the latter, to use the death of David Kelly as a teaching case to prevent other people from dying in the same until-now-considered-impossible way.
posted by grounded at 10:39 AM on January 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


How would someone do so? What would count, to you, as proof?

Well, the post-mortem and medical records, open to independent scrutiny, would go a long way. There are plenty of doctors who can examine those records and agree or disagree with the verdict of suicide. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but nor am I willing to accept the government's word alone.
posted by Sova at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the circumstances are so suspicious because they made the mistake of hiring Hillary Clinton and her gang of lesbian assassins to do the job, didn't they learn anything from Vince Foster's execution?
posted by 445supermag at 11:01 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Broucher had asked Kelly what would happen if Iraq were invaded, and Kelly had replied, "I will probably be found dead in the woods.'

self-full
filling prophet.
posted by clavdivs at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It has been reported that this article appears to be constructed of much hearsay and third party information.

Not saying that the facts of the situation are in doubt or even that I know much about this, but just reading that first link leaves me pondering whether that reporter saw or verified anything, it's all "it has been reported" and "a doctor saw a report" - nothing first hand.

Fooey.
posted by disclaimer at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2010


litleozy- I think my statement was a little too obscure. It was in reference to a news story a while back where the last opponent to a new building development died by having his head split open with a chainsaw. The news articles kept repeating that it was a "non-suspicious death" when obviously it was incredibly suspicious, and repeating that it was non-suspicious only made it more suspicious.
posted by Jpfed at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


The evidentiary problem here is that Hutton has established himself, right the way through this process, to be someone who believes that government deserves to be protected from the scrutiny of the press — that anything the government does wrong should be interpreted in the best possible light, while anything a broadcaster does wrong should be interpreted in the worst possible light, by default. So his request that the records be kept closed for so long is simply in keeping with his anti-democratic outlook on the media. He'd have done it whether there was a dark secret hidden in the records or not. Thus, this development doesn't really provide more backup for the argument that there was a conspiracy.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2010


(and what everyone else said about how stories in the Mail on Sunday aren't necessarily true, anyhow)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2010


Jesus. And they let his deadbeat brother R. run around free? There is no justice.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on January 24, 2010


RIP, Bruce Ivins.
posted by benzenedream at 12:40 PM on January 24, 2010


I thought unmanned drones were the preferred method for terminating undesirables.
posted by mecran01 at 1:29 PM on January 24, 2010


He'd have done it whether there was a dark secret hidden in the records or not. Thus, this development doesn't really provide more backup for the argument that there was a conspiracy.

If a particular official will close up the records regardless of content, that person would actually be the best pick for the job, from a conspirator's point of view.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


no one should have the power to lock away evidence like this

Indeed. There's something fundamentally undemocratic about a government being able to classify information for the length of a human lifetime, especially when that information could reflect on the government that was in office at the time of the events.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:48 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get how people can say there's no conspiracy when crap like this goes down. The Warren Commission Report is a perfect example. "Nothing to see here, but you can't see it for another 80 years, though."

According to Wikipedia (FWIW), the remaining documents are largely tax returns and will be released in 2017 instead of 2039.
posted by codswallop at 2:02 PM on January 24, 2010


Indeed. There's something fundamentally undemocratic about a government being able to classify information for the length of a human lifetime, especially when that information could reflect on the government that was in office at the time of the events.

Well, it may just be matters of privacy; census data specific to individuals isn't available to the public for 72 years.
posted by codswallop at 2:07 PM on January 24, 2010


Holy shit, a clavdivs sighting.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:37 PM on January 24, 2010


Tag: "WeapinsInspector." Really? ; )
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on January 24, 2010


The news articles kept repeating that it was a "non-suspicious death" when obviously it was incredibly suspicious

Not sure what you mean by suspicious definitionally, but to a coroner it probably means "no evidence of another person's involvement was found". That doesn't mean it wasn't murder, it means no evidence of murder was found. Maybe they were that good, or maybe the blood splatter all over his arm was wholly consistent with suicide.
posted by dhartung at 3:55 PM on January 24, 2010


If a particular official will close up the records regardless of content, that person would actually be the best pick for the job, from a conspirator's point of view.

Yes, but it also makes him the best pick for the job from the point of view of a government that wanted an easy ride at the inquiry, but whose actions stopped short of a conspiracy to murder.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:01 PM on January 24, 2010


"I was young and green and had not yet fully realized that the Official Secrets Act is not to protect secrets but to protect officials. "
-Sir Humphrey Appleby

The British government doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.

They certainly don't.

Not with their history of "public inquiries":
On the 7th of July 2005 London was hit by a series of explosions. You probably think you know what happened that day. But you don’t.

The police have, from the onset of their investigation, chosen to withold from the public almost every bit of evidence they claim to have and have provably lied about several aspects of the London Bombings. The mainstream news has wilfully spread false, unsubstantiated and unverifiable information, while choosing to completely ignore the numerous inconsistencies and discrepancies in the official story.

The government has finally, after a year, presented us with their official ‘narrative’ concerning the event. Within hours it was shown to contain numerous errors, a fact since admitted by the Home Secretary John Reid. They have continuously rejected calls for a full, independent public inquiry. Tony Blair himself described such an inquiry as a ‘ludicrous diversion’.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:27 PM on January 24, 2010


In The Loop seems to capture the spirit of a lot of what was going on at the time, no particular reference to the Kelly thing though.

Yes there is: Peter Capaldi's character threatens that if another character stops playing along, Capaldi will "marshal all the forces of darkness" to "hound [him] to an assisted suicide".
posted by stammer at 11:29 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not familiar with the British justice system, but isn't there some way to challenge this legally?
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:15 AM on January 25, 2010


My parents are so tucked into a pro government (UK), nothing could be wrong here, the establishment operates for the good of all, world view that I always assume they will default to the governmental position on all matters of controversy (there is always a difference of opinion of some matters of party policticals lines, but when there is controversy they back the old guard). If a policeman is filmed assaulting a citizen they will assume there is good reason until proved otherwise.

They are also, both, now retired, doctors. I was visiting when a documentary was broadcast examining Kelly's death (I can't recall which channel was broadcasting), it was the highlight of their TV week. Not in an entertainment way, but because they, as Doctors, had found the information indicating suicide to be very much less than acceptable.

The documentary did placate them and they were made more comfortable and able to accept the Hutton view.

However, the only piece of information that enabled this comfort, was the statement / position that the missing blood had soaked into the ground. It was never proved, of course, that this is where the blood was. There was no proof that explained why there was no spray. These are matters that seemingly are easy to establish ? If there is that much blood it can be found.

That my parents retired comfortably to their world view should not be an indication that I suggest Hutton was not a clean up job.

I was gobsmacked in the first instance that "pro-Hutton" was not the original default, and only slightly surprised that only a fairly flimsy piece of information was required to restore the status quo (flimsy because it could have been proved but never was, I recall it was anecdotal evidence, but am happy to be shown otherwise if that was the case).

But nonetheless, because I know my parents, I do trust that there was a suspicious lack of blood if we want accept suicide by blood loss.

Me ? I think the, "it must have soaked into the ground" line, stinks. But do I have visions of ninja assassins, no just lots of questions that could have been answered put to an inquiry run by a "safe pair of hands" and effectively ignored. Now they are locking the data away I can't say my concerns are lessened any.

Assuming the govt would like to be believed (maybe that is my naivety) then they are either being incredibly stupid to behave like this, or there is something to hide.
posted by Boslowski at 6:15 AM on January 25, 2010


The thesis in the Norman Baker book Postroad linked way up thread is IIRC that Kelly was done in by agents of Chalabi because Kelly's work in Iraq had harmed the interests of the one-time potential post-war leader. So the cover-up would not be of UK wrongdoing per se but of a murder by a foreign power whose exposure would highlight numerous UK failings and so was better swept under the carpet. Plausible enough I suppose but still a remarkably cack-handed way of going about it - though that little more believable if indeed the situation was one that landed in the laps of the security services rather than was initiated by them from the outset.
posted by Abiezer at 6:29 AM on January 25, 2010


Hutton responds to the criticism:
In a U-turn, Hutton said the information could be released to five doctors who are seeking to reopen the inquest into Kelly's death.

"I requested that the postmortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years as I was concerned that the publication of that report would cause [Kelly's] daughters and his wife further and unnecessary distress," Hutton said.

"I consider that the disclosure of the report to doctors and their legal advisers for the purposes of legal proceedings would not undermine the protection which I wished to give."
posted by Abiezer at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2010


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