Bahai News -- The Herald - Hutton Inquiry: The work and the life were indivisible... then everything fell apart

Hutton Inquiry: The work and the life were indivisible... then everything fell apart



IT was not for glory that Dr David Kelly endured guns being pointed him, or tiptoed round live munitions, or lived in vermin-infested hovels in the desert. It was simply to get the job done.

The picture painted by his widow and family at the Hutton inquiry was of a quiet, undemonstrative, "workaholic" scientist who saw it as his duty to rid Iraq and other states of chemical and biological weapons. Work was clearly not just a part of Dr Kelly's life, it was its core.

When it crumbled, the rest of his life crumbled around it.

By the end, lobbed into the spotlight, harried by the press, and unsure if he could carry on with his work, he was ready to snatch a handful of his wife's painkillers and walk to the woods with a pocket knife saved as a memento of a carefree childhood in the Boy Scouts.

It was a sad and lonely exit from a life gone haywire.

After weeks of arcane e-mails, dossier drafts, and narrow lawyerly evasions, the Hutton inquiry recovered its human centre yesterday as it focused on the death of its subject.

What was said by Janice, his widow, Rachel, his daughter, and Sarah Pape, his sister, showed just how far and how precipitous Dr Kelly's fall had been.

He married Janice in 1967 after meeting her while he was studying at Leeds University and she was in teacher training. The pair later studied at Birmingham, before he went on to Oxford and a three-year post-doctoral fellowship at Warwick.

It was during this time that the couple had their eldest daughter, Sian, and twins, Rachel and Ellen.

Despite the extra duties of family life, Dr Kelly's career bloomed and in 1974 he returned to Oxford and the National Environment Research Council's institute of virology, where he became chief scientific officer.

In 1984, Dr Kelly moved to Porton Down, near Salisbury, the government's infamous chemical and biological research centre. He stayed until 1992 and rose to the head of its microbiology department.

Throughout the 1990s, his expertise was increasingly called on for weapons inspections. Between 1991 and 1998, he made 37 visits to Iraq as part of the United Nations Special Commission (Unscom) to help root out its weapons of mass destruction programmes, and from 1994 to 1999 was the senior adviser on biological warfare for the UN in Iraq.

He also led inspections from 1991 to 1994 to Russia's biological warfare facilities.

High regard for Dr Kelly's work was universal among colleagues, perhaps, in part, because work was the one side to his personality he allowed to come through.

He rarely, if ever, socialised with colleagues from the Ministry of Defence, and it took yesterday's evidence to reveal his share of worries and contradictions.

He gave up alcohol six years ago after converting to the Baha'i faith and took to reading the Koran, becoming "gentler" as his faith grew. But he was also concerned about material matters such as his pension rights, and his pride was stung if his status was belittled.

Nor did his pacifist faith stop him arguing that military action against Iraq was entirely justified, given its potential for creating mayhem with WMD. It is clear, too, that he loved and was adored by his family, and was at his best during his daughter's wedding in February.

But the main thing was the work. He would have worked for free, were it not for a family to support, and regretted he would have to retire in a year, at 60, rather than 65, the inquiry heard.

For more than 30 years, the work and the life were indivisible. Then, slowly at first, everything fell apart.

For almost a month after Andrew Gilligan's original May 29 broadcast, Dr Kelly said nothing.

Then, on June 25, Alastair Campbell appeared before the foreign affairs committee and accused the BBC of telling "lies". Two days later, he repeated the charge on Channel 4 News.

Three days after this second escalation, Dr Kelly told his line manager about an unauthorised meeting with Mr Gilligan. He never expected his name to become public and was assured by the MoD it would not.

He did not even tell his wife until, a week later, the two of them watched an evening news report about a possible source for the story coming forward. Never showy, his character crumpled, and he withdrew into himself.

He could not bear to hear the news or read the papers in case he came across his own name. One of his few outbursts was to go "ballistic" on hearing he would have to go before MPs on television.

The rest of the time, he was tense, exhausted and mute. But the outward signs were only a hint at the turmoil within, as his mind ran through what had become of his life.

Tom Mangold, the veteran BBC journalist who counted Dr Kelly as a friend, said the scientist used words with tremendous precision, "like weapons".

One can only guess at the wretchedness of Dr Kelly's last days as he turned those weapons inwards in self-reproach.

©Copyright 2003, The Herals (UK)

Following is the URL to the original story. The site may have removed or archived this story. URL:

Return to: UGA Baha'i Association's Home Page
Baha'i News Archives' Index
This page was designed by Sohayl Moshtael suggestions, and news submissions are welcome, and appreciated.

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.

Page last updated/revised 030901