Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Death of David Kelly - His attitude to suicide

This post consists largely of the content of a communication sent to the Attorney General yesterday evening.

The title of the email was:

David Kelly - Dr. Kelly's attitude to suicide

The text of the email was:

Mr. McGinty,

This communication is intended for the attention of the Attorney General in connection with his consideration of whether or not an application should be made to the High Court for an order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.

In this email I draw to the Attorney General's attention an issue which I believe to constitute "insufficiency of inquiry" in the meaning of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988.

Lord Hutton concluded that David Kelly had committed suicide.

For a full assessment of the credibility of an alleged suicide an examination of the deceased's attitude to suicide is self-evidently potentially relevant, if such evidence is likely to be available.

Lord Hutton appears to have failed adequately to inquire into Dr. Kelly's attitude to suicide and failed to take oral evidence from two individuals who, arguably, potentially had unique insights into Dr. Kelly's attitude to suicide:

1. Professor Alistair Hay
2. An unnamed character referee for Dr. Kelly in 1985

Professor Hay was a friend of Dr. Kelly. Wendy Hay, Professor Hay's wife committed suicide in September 2002. See, for example, "Prozac blamed for woman's death" at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2962654.stm .

The inquest on Wendy Hay took place on or around 5th June 2003.

Given Dr. Kelly's friendship with Professor Hay and their respective losses of a mother and a wife by suicide it is highly likely that they would have talked about Wendy Hay's suicide and it is entirely possible that Dr. Kelly may have expressed his attitude to suicide and, for example, its effect on a spouse and other family members.

Such quasi-contemporary evidence, had Lord Hutton made the effort to take it, would, I suggest, have been powerful evidence of Dr. Kelly's current views on suicide.

Professor Hay contacted Thames Valley Police to offer his assistance. See Professor Hay's email to Keith Jones of Thames Valley Police at http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/tvp/tvp_2_0002to0007.pdf .

Although Professor Hay provided emails to Thames Valley Police no witness statement from him is visible on the Hutton Inquiry web site, so far as I can ascertain.

Nor did Lord Hutton take oral evidence from Professor Hay.

It seems to me that there is transparently an insufficiency of inquiry by Lord Hutton on a directly relevant issue.

Whether the "insufficiency of inquiry" primarily is attributable to a failure on the part of Thames Valley Police and/or a failure on the part of Lord Hutton is a matter which remains to be explored.

Equally of interest, is the evidence of a longstanding friendship between Dr. Kelly and an unnamed individual whose mother committed suicide around the same time as Dr. Kelly's mother.

This individual's identity was concealed at the Hutton Inquiry on the instruction of Lord Hutton. See the following extract of the oral evidence of Professor Hawton on 24th September 2003 at pages 162 and 163 here:
http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/transcripts/hearing-trans44.htm .

2 Q. Turning first to the letter from the legal adviser to
3 the Ministry of Defence. What relevant information does
4 that disclose?
5 A. I will read what it says. It says:
6 "I enclose two extracts from Dr Kelly's vetting file
7 which were prepared based on a report prepared by the
8 investigating officer handling his initial positive
9 vetting clearance in 1985. The first records an
10 interview on 20th November 1985 with Dr Kelly in which
11 he referred to his mother's death."
12 The relevant passage, quoting from the letter,
13 reads:
14 "'Dr Kelly said his mother died by her own hand in
15 1964, never having remarried. For many years prior to
16 her death she suffered from depression and he has little
17 doubt that the verdict of the coroner at the inquest
18 into her death that the balance of her mind was
19 disturbed was correct.'"
20 Q. Was there any other information in the letter?
21 A. Yes, there is a -- as follows:
22 "The second extract --
23 LORD HUTTON: I think there should be no reference to
24 anyone's name, Professor Hawton, or to any particular
25 locality.

1 A. I understand. The second extract reports an interview
2 on 28th November with a friend of Dr Kelly who had known
3 him for many years, who he had nominated as one of his
4 character referees. I am quoting here. The relevant
5 passage seems to be as follows:
6 "The main incident in their lives that had brought
7 them ..."
8 Sorry:
9 "He thought that the main incident in their lives
10 that had brought them closer friendship was that their
11 mothers each took their own life within a short period
12 of each other. They were in many ways able to give each
13 other encouragement and help following these tragedies,
14 which helped them to develop a closer bond of friendship
15 between them."
16 Then another following extract:
17 "He recalls the death of his mother [here one
18 assumes he is referring to Dr Kelly, Dr Kelly's mother],
19 which occurred at a time during his student days at the
20 University of Leeds and was known to be engrossed in his
21 studies and whilst the tragedy distressed him, he
22 appeared to ride the period well and at no time when
23 [they] were together did he display any mental reaction
24 to this unfortunate matter. In fact, the referee said
25 'he can be considered a well balanced person'."

It is clear that the referee referred to in the above extract had a longstanding close friendship with David Kelly and would likely have had detailed knowledge of David Kelly's attitude to suicide.

Yet, without explanation, no evidence was taken from him by the Hutton Inquiry on this directly relevant issue.

It seems to me that there is strong evidence of insufficiency of inquiry with respect to an issue directly relevant to how David Kelly had viewed and would view suicide.

I, of course, in makeing the preceding point make the assumption that the unidentified referee was alive in August / September 2003 which is unknown.

I would be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt of this email and confirm that it will be considered by the Attorney General.

Thank you.

(Dr) Andrew Watt


  1. My feeling is that they were both students at Leeds University in the same year (or perhaps one year removed) .Professor Roger Avery (born 1944) studied Biochemistry at Leeds , whilst Dr Kelly (born 1944) studied Microbiology.

    I fail to understand why their Undergraduate coincidence was concealed at the Hutton Inquiry.

  2. Felix,

    One possibility is that the Hutton Inquiry didn't think it relevant.

    Another possibility is that Hutton deliberately concealed the fact due, hypothetically, to Roger Avery being the longstanding friend whose mother had committed suicide.

  3. Andrew,
    I think you are right - just an inrrelevant coincidence, but an interesing one.

    Professor Hay also is quoted in the Independent on 27 July 2003 before the Hutton inquiry gets under way.

    His friend and fellow weapons expert Alistair Hay, whose wife committed suicide, believes the scientist felt deeply isolated.

    "It wasn't as if the MoD were saying, 'You're our man, we're supporting you to the hilt'," said Professor Hay. "He was being fed to everyone as being the person probably responsible for the Government's difficulty ... If he felt he had been less than truthful before the committee ... [and] had been caught dissembling and not being absolutely truthful, I would have thought this would create huge conflicts for him."

  4. Andrew, another scientist to doubt strongly that Dr Kelly would commit suicide was Professor Sergei Rybakov, quoted in The Moscow Times.com, 13 August 2003
    Russian Colleague Doubts Kelly Committed Suicide
    by Anna Dolgov.
    But Professor Sergei Rybakov, who served as a UN weapons expert and Kelly's immediate subordinate in Iraq in 1996 and 1998, said the microbiologist was an unlikely person to have killed himself. "Judging by his character ... I was very surprised to hear it was suicide," Rybakov said from the city of Vladimir, where he heads a rare disease laboratory at the Research Institute for Animal Protection. "And what really happened there, the investigation will show."

    Rybakov recalled that Kelly was optimistic and even-tempered, never losing his cool even in the pressure of working on a team that could not always communicate well in the same language.

    "Whatever happened, David always remained an equanimous and friendly person. In my view, such as person is not capable of committing suicide," Rybakov told Izvestia. "I can't imagine what could have happened to him during the past five years, during which time I haven't seen him. But it's unlikely that a person can change so much that he would solve his problems by suicide."

    Rybakov said UN inspectors scrutinized all Iraqi facilities that could have been used for producing biological weapons and searched for any traces of such a program, but found nothing.

    "The checkups of Iraqi objects were particularly thorough," Rybakov told Izvestia. "But we never found any confirmation that Iraq was continuing to make biological weapons or had preserved its arsenal."

    Russia has strongly criticized the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq, and Rybakov said justifying it with fears that Hussein had stocked up on weapons of mass destruction was unfounded.

    "When that war was being prepared -- and there was a big dispute whether it should be started or not -- I was certain, and I told all my friends and relatives, that the war was being started for nothing, that they would not find anything there," Rybakov said on Channel One