Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Death of David Kelly - Spinning a suicide tale too early on 18th July 2003

This post consists largely of the text of a communication sent earlier today to Mr. Kevin McGinty of the Attorney General's Office.

Important questions are raised in the email about the political motivation for a cover-up of the murder of Dr. David Kelly. However, the email majors on the evidence that there was "spin" of a "suicide tale" from Thames Valley Police before the Police could legitimately have had the relevant information to hand.

The title of the email was:

David Kelly - Spinning a suicide tale too early on 18th July 2003

The text of the email was:

[Additional copies are being sent to the Correspondence Unit and Private Office, for forwarding, given the ongoing problems with Mr. McGinty's mailbox.]

Mr McGinty,

This email is intended for the attention of the Attorney General in connection with a possible application to the High Court for an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.

The matter described in this email indicates, I submit, "insufficiency of inquiry" in the meaning of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988. It may also satisfy other Section 13 criteria including "fraud" and "irregularity of proceedings".

In summary, it appears that Thames Valley Police were spreading a tale that David Kelly had committed suicide at a time on 18th July 2003 when they had no legitimate basis for doing so.

Towards the end of this communication I briefly consider why the Police might have done so.

I'll summarise four pieces of evidence that relate to this premature spinning of "suicide" and then briefly consider its effect and purpose:

1. Evidence given by Dr. Sarah Pape to the Hutton Inquiry
2. A contemporary statement of Janice Kelly
3. A contemporary statement of Derek Vawdrey, brother of Janice Kelly
4. The autobiography of Tony Blair
5. The effect and purpose of the spinning of the suicide story

1. Evidence given by Dr. Sarah Pape to the Hutton Inquiry

The following evidence was given by Dr. Sarah Pape (half-sister of David Kelly) at the Hutton Inquiry and relates to the morning of 18th July 2003:

23 Between operations I went back to my office and
24 checked to see whether there were messages on my mobile
25 phone and I picked up a message from Janice, my

1 sister-in-law, shortly before 10 o'clock and the message
2 that she left was to say that there was going to be
3 a press release and that I might hear something about my
4 brother having disappeared, but I knew that already so
5 I was not too concerned.
6 I returned to my office between the next two
7 operations, which would have been some time after
8 10 o'clock, and there was a message from my husband
9 asking me to ring home. I initially thought he was just
10 going to give me the same information, that the press
11 would by now know. In fact when I rang him he told me
12 that the police had found my brother's body and that it
13 looked as though he had committed suicide.
14 I decided that I was not going to be able to stay at
15 work, so I decided that I should come home at that
16 point.

See page pages 92 and 93 of Dr. Pape's evidence at

One has to estimate the precise time at which Sarah Pape received the telephone message from her husband and rang him back. I suggest that the most credible estimate is of the order of 10.30 to 11.00.

However, the timing is not critical to the cause for concern expressed in this communication. It was not until 14.00 that the pathologist Dr. Nicholas Hunt started to examine the body (other than to confirm death). Therefore, in my opinion, at no time in the morning of 18th July 2003 was there a legitimate basis to consider that David Kelly had committed suicide.

The body was found a little before 09.20, the latter being the time when Paul Chapman's 999 call was logged.

Death was confirmed by the ambulance staff at 10.07.

Officially, no identification had taken place.

And the only observations about possible cause of death made until 10.07 indicated some blood around the left wrist.

The body had neither been seen by the Home Office pathologist nor examined by him at the time Dr. Pape was informed that David Kelly was dead and that it looked as if he'd committed suicide.

It seems likely that it was Janice Kelly who told Mr. Pape that David Kelly's body had been found and that it looked as if it was suicide.

The question arises as to who told Janice Kelly that David Kelly had (or appeared to have) killed himself?

It seems likely that Janice Kelly left her message with Mr. Pape shortly after 10.00.

Given the estimated timing of the message from Janice Kelly to Mr Pape the only person who had contact with Janice Kelly and who knew that a body had been found was Detective Sergeant Geoffrey Webb. At least that is what the evidence to the Hutton Inquiry leads one to assume.

In all likelihood at the time DS Webb spoke to Janice Kelly he knew only that a body had been found. At least that's the case if one assumes that the evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry about the discovery of the body is accurate. It is conceivable that DC Coe had in the interim radioed information to Thames Valley Police but, in any case, DC Coe had no expertise to allow him to draw a conclusion as to cause of death.

It seems to me that DS Webb had no legitimate basis at the time period in question either to state that the body was Dr. Kelly's or to state that he had (or appeared to have) committed suicide.

If DS Webb made such statements did he do so on his own authority or did someone in a more senior position cause him to do so? If the latter, what motivation might a more senior officer have had?

2. A contemporary statement of Janice Kelly

Confirmation that it was Thames Valley Police who told Janice Kelly that the body was David Kelly's and that he'd committed suicide is to be found in an article dated 18th July 2003 in the New York Times, co-authored by Judith Miller.

It appears that Judith Miller or her co-author rang Janice Kelly on the 18th July 2003.

The article has Janice Kelly communicate the following:

Mrs. Kelly said the police had confirmed that the body was her husband's, and that the cause of death was suicide. She declined to say what led the police to that conclusion, saying they had asked her not to discuss details of his death.

See for the source of the quoted material.

The time on 18th July 2003 when Janice Kelly spoke to the New York Times journalists is undefined, so far as I'm aware.

However, given that the pathologist did not complete his postmortem examination until a little after midnight on 18th July 2003, one can conclude that the Police statements are not based on the postmortem examination.

Further, identification of the body did not take place until 19th July.

3. A contemporary statement of Derek Vawdrey, brother of Janice Kelly

On the morning of 18th July 2003 Janice Kelly is reported to have told her brother Derek Vawdrey that David Kelly had committed suicide.

The statement was made by Mr. Vawdrey to the Sunday Mirror and was published on 20th July 2003:

He told how his sister Janice Kelly rang him on Friday morning. "Her first words were 'Are you sitting down? She then just blurted it out. She could hardly speak for the shock of being told herself. She said he'd committed suicide."

The Friday referred to is 18th July 2003.

The article is no longer online on the Mirror site but can be found here:;col1.

Just as Janice Kelly had told Mr Pape on the morning of 18th July 2003 that David Kelly had (or appeared to have) committed suicide so she told her brother, Derek Vawdrey, on the morning of 18th July 2003 that David Kelly had committed suicide.

As discussed earlier, the Police had no legitimate evidence during the morning of 18th July to give such information to Janice Kelly.

4. The autobiography of Tony Blair

Did the Police tell Janice Kelly that the body was David Kelly's and that he had (or appreared to have) committed suicide?

Or did she misunderstand or misinterpret something that the Police told her?

The evidence presented in points 1. to 3. leaves open the possibility of some misunderstanding on the part of Janice Kelly. However, I think one can safely exclude that possibility.

Tony Blair's autobiography contains these words:

In the middle of the night Sir David Manning woke me. 'Very bad news,' he said....'David Kelly has been found dead,' he said, 'suspected suicide.' It was a truly ghastly moment.

The words attributed by Mr. Blair to Sir David Manning are almost identical in their substance to those used by Mrs. Pape in her evidence to Lord Hutton.

At what time did Sir David Manning tell Mr. Blair?

It is not immediately clear what time zone "middle of the night" in the quoted material refers to since Mr. Blair was in flight from Washington to Tokyo.

ITV News at 12.30 (BST) on 18th July 2003 reported that Tony Blair had been informed. His flight was due to land in Tokyo at 15.00 BST.

Janice Kelly was not an intermediary in respect of the information communicated to Sir David Manning so one can conclude that no later than around lunchtime (UK time) on 18th July 2003 Thames Valley Police had informed the Prime Minister's staff (directly or indirectly) that the body was David Kelly's and that it appeared he had committed suicide.

Thames Valley Police could have had no sound basis for such a conclusion at that time on 18th July 2003.

Unless, that is, an unofficial identification of the body had taken place, a matter to which I will return in a future communication. Of course any unofficial identification of the body that may have taken place was not disclosed to the Hutton Inquiry. Additionally any secret, unofficial identification of the body is itself llegitimate.

5. The effect and purpose of the spinning of the suicide story

The effect of Thames Valley Police spinning a suicide story on the morning of 18th July 2003 when there was no legitimate basis to do so is to create in the media and in the public mind the assumption that David Kelly committed suicide.

That has the consequence that objective consideration of other possible causes of death, including murder, is inappropriately and illegitimately inhibited.

The effect of the too-early spinning of the suicide story by Thames Valley Police was to conceal the murder of Dr. David Kelly. A concealment that has been effective for almost 8 years.

It seems entirely reasonable to me, given the totality of the evidence about the death of Dr. Kelly, to draw the inference that the purpose of the spin was to conceal the murder of Dr. Kelly.

The supposed suicide of Dr. Kelly was a major embarrassment to Tony Blair's Government. Disclosure of the murder of Dr. Kelly would have been politically poisonous in the extreme.

The Blair Government had a powerful motive to seek to plant in the public mind the notion that David Kelly had committed suicide, whether or not they had specific knowledge that David Kelly had been murdered.

The Blair Government was not without skill in spinning. And had a track record e.g. the February 2003 "dodgy dossier" of doing so patently dishonestly to suit its own political purposes.


As discussed above the evidence indicates that Thames Valley Police, during the morning of 18th July 2003 were spinning "suicide" at a time when they had, in my opinion, no legitimate basis to do so.

The question therefore arises as to whether the spinning of "suicide" originated with Thames Valley Police or was spun from another, more political, source.

The effect of the "suicide" spin has been to conceal the murder of Dr. David Kelly for almost 8 years.

This email is copied, for information, to the Chief Officers of Thames Valley Police.

I would be grateful if you would confirm receipt of this email and that the information contained in it will be drawn to the attention of the Attorney General.

Thank you.

(Dr) Andrew Watt


  1. Sir David Manning at the Hutton Inquiry

    "I was aware of the preparation surrounding the dossier I was not actually involved in drafting it."

    "Q.First of all, before [early July 2003], had you ever heard of Dr Kelly at all?
    A. No, to the best of my knowledge I had never heard of him.

    Q And at this stage do you yet have any knowledge of Dr Kelly's own role in the dossier?
    A. No, nothing very substantive. I have to be careful now because since the Inquiry began I have, of course, seen a lot of witness transcripts."

    "But I personally was not familiar with Dr Kelly's career. I had not heard about him. And I did not know at what meetings he had taken part in the DIS or elsewhere."

    What, no gossip from Ehrman,Straw, Chaplin,Campbell, Blair,Powell,Scarlett, Dearlove etc etc...? And why does he have to be careful if everyone is telling the truth?

  2. Felix,

    I have some sympathy with Sir David Manning.

    I would hate to have to give evidence as to exactly which parts of the evidence about the murder of David Kelly I first knew when.

    I've even occasionally looked at old posts on this blog and realised that I'd completely forgotten that I'd known a certain fact so far back.

  3. Sir David Manning implies he had nothing further to do with Dr Kelly after 8th July when Dr Kelly was "outed"
    "Q. Did you have any further involvement?
    A. No, I did not at that stage."
    "Q.So 9th, 10th, 11th?
    A. No."

    "I only have, I am afraid, a fairly hazy memory of whe he gave that [FAC/ISC] evidence [15/16 July 2003]"

    He was in process of handing over to Sir Nigel Scheinwald at the time. Perhaps the panic, following Dr Kelly's sudden death, during 18th July caused his memory to cloud over from two days previously?

    Is this memory black hole because he had said to Lord Hutton:
    " I had nothing further to do with Dr Kelly, the events around Dr Kelly, after that meeting at lunchtime on Tuesday [8 July 2003]"

    Which wouldn't be strictly true, according to the Blair diaries, would it?

  4. Felix,

    I think we can probably cut Sir David Manning some slack on that one.

  5. Andrew,
    there were apparently two Sunday Mirror articles , by Stephen Martin (cited above) and Alan Rimmer and another which is captured on the web,authored jointly by Stephen Martin and Alan Rimmer. The one captured with the url

    was interesting for the following sentences:
    "It was also thought that on the afternoon of his suicide he made a call from a pay phone to a national newspaper, fearing that his own line was tapped."

    "An intelligence source said: "People are starting to put two and two
    together and they don't like what it is adding up to. There is absolute panic about what Dr Kelly may have left behind. It's a ticking time-bomb...they are desperate to find out what he has done"

  6. The Sun newspaper had quickly tapped up the Vawdrey family for quotes:
    His sister-in-law Sandra Vawdrey, 48, said: “I think the politicians are going to have a lot of questions to answer.

    “We’ve just been watching Tony Blair on the news offering his sympathy to the family ? but it’s a bit late.

    “We weren’t impressed, to say the least. It’s been a traumatic time for all of us.”

    Niece Wendy Vawdrey, in her late 20s, added: “The whole family is deeply distressed. I heard it on the radio and just couldn’t believe it.”

    Dr Kelly’s daughter Ellen, 30, who lives in Scotland, was too upset to comment.

    Torcuil Crighton in The Sunday Herald, 20 July 2003 got a quote from villagers,already softened up by the Saturday media:
    Roger Speed, washing his BMW in the courtyard of modern red brick housing development close to the Kelly home, summed up the feeling. "Here was a good man, did nothing wrong and the papers and the politicians just played him until he was crushed."

    "He was a lovely man, well respected and liked," said local councillor Melinda Tilly. "What did they do to him?"

    "He was a nice man," said his closest neighbour Ada Gunn with a sincere simplicity. "A very kind friend."

  7. Actually it is Tilley, not Tilly.
    Councillor Melinda Tilley, Appleby House, Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire, OX13 5AP 01865 820385,