Previously secret medical evidence into the death of Iraq weapons expert Dr David Kelly has revealed his wounds were “typical of self-inflicted injury”.
Lord Hutton, who conducted the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s 2003 death, had requested the files remain secret for 70 years for the sake of Mr Kelly’s family.
But the Ministry of Justice has published details of Dr David Kelly’s 2003 death for the first time in a bid to “maintain public confidence public confidence in the inquiry into how Dr Kelly came by his death”.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said he was publishing the documents for public scrutiny in the interests of transparency.
Dr Kelly’s body was found in woods near his Oxfordshire home, after he was identified as the source of a BBC story claiming the Government “sexed up” its dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
The files stated that wounds to Dr Kelly’s body were “typical” of suicide and consistent with Lord Hutton’s findings:
“The removal of the watch in this way and the removal of the spectacles are features pointing towards this being an act of self-harm.” Post-mortem report
“The orientation and arrangement of the wounds over the left wrist are typical of self-inflicted injury.
“The removal of the watch in this way and the removal of the spectacles are features pointing towards this being an act of self-harm.
“There is a total lack of classical ‘defence’ wounds against a sharp weapon attack.”
The toxicology report found that Mr Kelly had consumed “a significant quantity” of co-proxamol tablets, a painkiller commonly used for arthritis.
“It is likely the ingestion of an excess number of co-proxamol tablets coupled with apparently silent coronary artery disease would both have played a part in bringing about death more certainly and more rapidly”.
Lord Hutton has released a statement, denying the report had been concealed.
“There was no secrecy surrounding the post mortem report because it had always been available for examination and questioning by counsel representing the interested parties during the inquiry.”
“The inquiry which I conducted was open and public,” he said in a statement.
“The inquiry which I conducted was open and public… I requested -not ‘ordered’- that the post mortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years.” Lord Hutton
In his statement following the files’ release, Lord Hutton said:
“The post mortem report was available for inspection by those counsel.
“At the conclusion of the inquiry I requested -not ‘ordered’- that the post mortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years.”
Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, who wrote about Dr Kelly’s death, told Channel 4 News today’s publication did not reveal any new evidence.
“As I understand I…there are eminent doctors and eminent legal experts who believe that the process followed was not satisfactory,” he said.
He added: “What’s published today only reiterates what we already knew. I imagine that the doctors and the lawyers…will continue to argue for an inquest.”
One of the the signatories to a letter earlier this year calling for a full inquest into Dr Kelly’s death told Channel 4 News he is now satisfied that Dr Kelly’s death was suicide.
Professor Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, was one of six experts who wrote to The Times in August questioning the cause of death.
But he said today: “The information provided satisfies me that this was suicide.”
He added: “Any one of the injuries or disease processes identified – had it existed by itself – would not have been sufficient in itself to cause death.
“When you assemble it together, you get a different picture: the information on the nature of the injury, the extent of coronary artery disease, and the rather modest levels of dextropropoxyphene and paracetemol, together with exposure during the night. “So I would concur with the pathologist’s opinion.”
Professor Bion told Channel 4 News that his main concern was that due process was not followed.
“The information provided at the Hutton Inquiry was not provided in a way that allowed for expert examination,” he said.
“That left questions in people’s minds, including mine. But I’m satisfied with the report I’ve seen.
“The last thing we wanted to do was to add to the distress of the family.
“It just confirms what I thought in the first place, which is that the original investigation was inadequate.” Dr Neville Davis
“But that’s a separate issue from being confident about the cause of death. It doesn’t matter who it is – whether somebody famous or a member of the public – due process needs to be followed,” he said.
But other campaigners said the new publication had provided little new information.
Consultant forensic physician Dr Neville Davis told Channel 4 News:
“The fact that they’ve made this additional material available to the public just confirms what I thought in the first place, which is that the original investigation was inadequate,” Dr Davis said.
“There’s nothing particularly new in this. Once again, it’s not open to question. It can’t be discussed in a legal atmosphere, under oath. I think that due process of law should have been followed. There should have been an inquest.”
Tony Blair announced a public inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, instead of a coroner’s inquest.
In the 2004 inquest, Lord Hutton ruled that Dr Kelly ruling the cause of death as “bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”.
Michael Powers QC, one of the doctors campaigning to overturn Lord Hutton’s findings, said there was still a “major conflict” over the amount of blood at the scene.
“These are all components which don’t change things, there’s nothing new in it.” Michael Powers QC
Dr Kelly may also have taken “far less than 29 tablets” and, if he had only taken six or eight, “one might draw completely different conclusions”, he said.
“I don’t believe any of the evidence that we have seen or heard to date can answer those questions.”
“These are all components which don’t change things, there’s nothing new in it,” Mr Powers said.