MP says Kelly's 2003 death not suicide

LONDON (Reuters) - A former U.N. weapons inspector, whose death caused one of the biggest crises of Tony Blair’s premiership, did not commit suicide as official accounts state, an MP claims in a new book.

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David Kelly was found dead in woods near his home in July 2003, just days after it was revealed that he was the source for a BBC report that said Blair’s government had deliberately “sexed-up” intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

News of the death rocked Blair and his government, with critics saying Kelly’s identity had been made public in order to discredit the BBC’s story.

The Ministry of Defence had confirmed to reporters that Kelly was the BBC’s source and the mild-mannered microbiologist was then subjected to a high-profile mauling by a parliamentary committee two days before his death.

Senior judge Lord Hutton carried out an independent inquiry into the circumstances and ruled in January 2004 that Kelly had slit his left wrist after taking painkillers during a walk near his home in Oxfordshire.

He concluded that Kelly ended his life due to a severe loss of self-esteem, his feeling that people had lost trust in him and his dismay at being exposed in the media. Hutton also cleared Blair and his officials of any wrongdoing

However, Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat MP who has spent a year investigating the case for his book “The Strange death of David Kelly”, says he believes the scientist did not kill himself.

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“It became clear to me and others that the suicide verdict that Lord Hutton had reached was unsafe,” he told reporters at the book’s launch as he explained his reasons for writing it.

Baker, who along with his party opposed the war from the outset, said his investigations had uncovered a host of reasons which led to him querying Hutton’s “unreliable” findings.

He said it was virtually impossible to kill yourself in the manner Kelly had, by cutting his ulnar artery, there was a lack of blood at the scene, and no fingerprints were found on the knife used.

Kelly had also booked a flight to Iraq for the following week, his wife was unwell, his daughter was shortly to be married and he left no suicide note, all factors that appeared to contradict the official verdict, Baker argues.

While the MP said such conflicting evidence suggested Kelly was murdered, he isn’t able to pinpoint who was responsible and why, although his top suspects are a group of Iraqis loyal to Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein.

“The key question is whether the actions of the Iraqi group were self-generated, and subsequently covered up by the government, or whether a tiny cabal within the British establishment commissioned the assassins to undertake this,” he wrote in the book.

“Perhaps it was somewhere in between, with a nod and a wink being unofficially offered.”

While Baker is convinced, critics say his book is a far-fetched, conspiracy theory based on speculation.

Kelly’s wife has also publicly stated she believes her husband committed suicide, something the MP acknowledges and police say they have no plans to reopen the case.

Editing by Steve Addison