Bahai News -- Toronto Star - Family buries Brit gov't weapons adviser Aug. 6, 2003. 01:14 PM

Family buries Brit gov't weapons adviser

LONGWORTH, England (AP) Family and friends of government weapons expert David Kelly bade farewell at a private funeral service today, firmly turning away the attention that made Kelly so uncomfortable in his last days.

Kelly, who had been suspected as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that raised questions about the government's case for war in Iraq, killed himself last month at the edge of woodland near his Oxfordshire village.

The BBC subsequently confirmed that Kelly was its main source for the report, which provoked heated denials and an intense "mole hunt" by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government.

AP Photo/Tim Ockenden/pool
Pall bearers carry the coffin of government weapons adviser Dr. David Kelly prior to a funeral service at St Mary's Church in Longworth, England, Wednesday Aug. 6, 2003. Dr. Kelly who apparently committed suicide on July 18, was idntified as the source of a BBC report suggesting the government ignored expert advice on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Police, heeding the Kelly family's wish for a private funeral, turned media away at the edge of the village, and no details of the service were released. However, journalist Tom Mangold, a friend of Kelly, later briefed reporters.

"We are here because of the tragedy that has taken place. We are not here for the media, or to make a political statement, or to apportion blame," Mangold quoted the minister, Rev. Roy Woodhams, as telling the congregation.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott represented the government at the service, and Lord Hutton, the senior judge appointed to investigate Kelly's death, also attended.

Mangold described the service as "quiet," adding: "It was gentle and in every way reflected the man."

Though mainly Christian, there was a prayer from the Baha'i faith which Kelly had embraced in recent years.

The funeral came a day after one of Blair's spokesmen apologized for suggesting that Kelly may have been a "Walter Mitty" fantasist.

The BBC said Kelly was the main source for a May 29 report quoting an unidentified source as suggesting the government had ignored expert advice in claiming that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons on 45 minutes notice.

That claim was included in an intelligence dossier released by the government in September, and formed a key part of Blair's case for military action to deal with Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Pressure on Blair has grown since the fall of Saddam Hussein as occupying forces have found no evidence of such weapons.

Hutton's inquiry formally opened Friday, but gets down to work in earnest next week. The judge said he intends to call Blair and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to testify.

One aspect of Hutton's inquiry is the role played by the government in publicly suggesting that Kelly was the source of the BBC story, which led to Kelly testifying before a House of Commons committee.

Kelly denied being the source, and said he had never suggested - as the BBC reporter later alleged his then-anonymous source had - that Blair's communications director, Alastair Campbell, was including dubious assertions in the dossier.

©Copyright 2003, Toronto Star (Canada)

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