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Kelly's widow faces Hutton inquiry

Sep 01, 2003

The widow of British weapons expert David Kelly began her evidence at the inquiry into her husband's death.

Janice Kelly, 58, spoke via a video link to the courtroom - the first time she had broken her silence since a brief statement speaking of the "intolerable" pressures placed on her husband.

Kelly was given the option of giving her evidence via video link to spare her the ordeal of facing the packed courtroom.

A still photograph of her appeared on the video link screen and her location was not revealed, although it was widely expected that the link would be set up from within the Royal Courts of Justice.

She described how she married Dr Kelly in 1967 after meeting while he was studying at Leeds University and she was at training college. They both studied later at Birmingham University before he went on to study at Oxford.

When asked by counsel to the inquiry James Dingemans QC, Kelly said her husband then went on to take a fellowship at Warwick University for three years before returning to Oxford and the Institute of Virology.

Kelly said she was a teacher at the time and in 1974 Dr Kelly moved to the NERC Institute of Virology where he was doing a lot of teaching and training.

In 1984 he moved to Porton Down, Salisbury, where he was working in the microbiology department and had taken some colleagues from Oxford with him, she said.

Kelly said that towards the end of the 1980s - about 1987 - her husband was involved in some work in Russia where he seemed to establish a quite good reputation and was asked back several times.

In Russia he interrogated a defector but his work was mainly weapons monitoring. He was away for anything up to three weeks.

Dr Kelly had described it as very exciting work. Kelly said: "He became extremely dedicated to his work. He became a workaholic. He really did get involved in that."

She said that after his work in Russia, he was asked to get involved in the UN weapon monitoring commission, UNSCOM. After the Gulf War he went to Iraq nearly 40 times.

Kelly said her husband was well used to briefing journalists and that she heard him speaking on the phone from home. "He was never very long on the phone to these journalists," she said.

The weapons expert's widow said he felt there was unfinished business in Iraq after the UNSCOM inspectors were thrown out of the country.

"He felt that his job there wasn't finished. That Iraq did indeed have plenty of weapons ... it was quite a frustrating time, I think, after 1998 when they were effectively thrown out of Iraq," she said.

Kelly said her husband had run the family finances and that she had never been sure if his salary was paid by the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office or the UN.

She said: "It was always a bit unclear as to who he was working for." She said he was on secondment but that she was never clear who his employer was at any time.

The inquiry has previously heard that Dr Kelly had written to express frustrations about his pay and grading structure, as he had fallen into "a hole" because of his secondment.

Kelly said she was aware of "frustrations" but added: "He was content in some ways and I think he would have done the whole job for nothing, had he not had to support a wife and family."

She was asked about Dr Kelly's conversion to the Bahai faith and said: "He kept it very private to himself." She said he converted five or six years ago, adding: "He was reading the Koran and perhaps becoming gentler in his ways. It really was a spiritual revelation for him."

She said her husband's involvement with the Bahai faith dropped off in the last two years or so but only in terms of meetings. She said: "His faith did not drop off. Right to the very end it was important to him."

Dingemans asked what Dr Kelly's mood was like in January/February when the family were preparing for their daughter's wedding.

Kelly said: "He was a bit more tired than he had been. But he was upbeat, looking forward to the wedding.

"There was some trepidation for the war. He believed in it but was sad that we seemed to be moving towards that position."

Kelly also revealed that her husband had been musing about retirement and was thinking about 2005 although he was worried about pension requirements. Following the wedding, the inquiry heard, Dr Kelly went to America briefly before returning and then twice visited the Middle East, once to Kuwait and then to Baghdad.

Kelly told the inquiry they had found a document in her husband's filing cabinet "a couple of weeks or so ago". She said the document was dated May 2003.

It related to people to be put on the New Year's Honours List for 2004. She said that scribbled in the top right hand corner of the document was: "How about David Kelly? Iraq is topical."

Kelly said that her husband did not discuss the document and that it was headed Confidential. She also said she remembered Dr Kelly leaving for London, who broadcast the "sexed up" report in May.

"It was unusual for him to go and meet somebody in London," she said. Kelly said she was aware that her husband planned to meet Gilligan on May 22.

She added: "He would never tell me about the nature of his meetings. Generally it was for briefings." Dr Kelly was interested in learning about the reporter's travels in Iraq, she said.

She said she did not know about her husband's letter to his line manager at the Ministry of Defence, in which he put himself forward as the possible source for Gilligan's report, at the end of June.

But she said her whole family had noticed a change in him. She said: "He became very much more taciturn, more difficult to talk to, more tense, more withdrawn."

She said it was particularly noticeable at the end of June but added: "We were worried about him before then. He seemed to be under a little bit of strain in terms of travelling.

"He was tired and looking his age, he seemed to have aged quite a bit."

She said her husband had looked forward to his trip to Iraq but had realised he was not as young as during the previous Unscom inspections.

©Copyright 2003, nzoom.com (New Zealand)

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