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Weapons Expert Felt Betrayed, Widow Testifies

Before his suicide, David Kelly was in despair about being caught up in the political storm over Britain's case for war in Iraq.

September 02, 2003|From Associated Press

LONDON — Weapons expert David Kelly felt betrayed by his bosses at Britain's Ministry of Defense after being caught up in a political storm over the government's case for war in Iraq, his widow testified Monday.

Janice Kelly said that in the days before her husband's apparent suicide, he was distressed about being identified as the possible source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that claimed Prime Minister Tony Blair's office had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons to justify war.

David Kelly, who had been part of a U.S.-British team that inspected facilities in Russia in the early 1990s and worked as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was unhappy about testifying at a televised parliamentary hearing, Janice Kelly added.

"I had never in all the Russian visits and all the difficulties he had to go through in Iraq -- where he had lots of discomforts, lots of horrors, guns pointing at him, munitions left lying around -- I had never known him to be as unhappy as he was then," she told an inquiry examining the circumstances of her husband's death.

"I just thought he had a broken heart. He had shrunk into himself, but I had no idea of what he might do later," she added, describing her husband's disconsolate state on July 17, the day he disappeared from their home in southern England.

Hours later, after a police hunt with tracker dogs and a helicopter, David Kelly's body was found in the woods nearby. He apparently had taken painkillers and slashed his left wrist with a penknife.

His widow described how the microbiologist and bioweapons specialist had been "withdrawn," "very, very tense" and "exceedingly upset" as he became embroiled in the dispute.

On May 29, BBC radio reporter Andrew Gilligan, citing a source, reported that Blair's office had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier about Iraq's weapons programs, a charge the government vehemently rejected.

Kelly, part of whose job included briefing journalists, told his bosses at the Defense Ministry that he had spoken with Gilligan. But he insisted he did not believe that he was the main source for the story.

Kelly was reprimanded, and the ministry issued a statement saying one of its employees had come forward as a possible source.

Journalists quickly guessed Kelly's name, which was confirmed by the ministry, and they descended on his home in droves.

The inquiry is, in part, examining how and why Kelly's name became public and if the resulting media attention and his treatment by government officials contributed to his death.

Janice Kelly described her husband's pain over the public revelations. He "said several times over coffee, over lunch, over afternoon tea that he felt totally let down and betrayed," she said via video link to the inquiry in London. "I believe that he meant the [Ministry of Defense], because they were the ones that effectively let his name be known in the public domain."

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