U.K. Weapons Adviser Feared Dead

2003/7/15 David Kelly, British Ministry of Defence weapons advisor is questioned by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, London, Britain, video still
AP
In the English countryside the discovery of a body that police said matches the appearance of a missing scientist has deepened a shadow of suspicion on the whole British government over how it led the nation into war.

David Kelly, 59, was an expert on Iraqi weapons at Britain's Ministry of Defense.

Facing a parliamentary hearing this week looking for the source of a report that the government hyped intelligence before the war, Kelly was a private man pushed uncomfortably into prominence, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth.

Kelly acknowledged he'd met a reporter -- a violation of defense ministry rules -- but said he couldn't have been the source of the critical report.

The question now: has a ruthless process of claim and counter claim that politicians take for granted - taken an unexpected, tragic toll?

Kelly's wife reportedly said he was stressed and "very, very angry" about being caught up in a public controversy.

As the prime minister flew to Tokyo to begin an Asian tour, his office announced there would be an independent inquiry if the dead man is positively identified as Kelly.

Opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith urged Blair to cancel his tour and return to London. "There are very many questions that will need to be asked over the coming days," Duncan Smith said.

The death was a sensational development in a long-running controversy on two fronts: the big issue of whether Blair misled the country about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and a highly personal feud between Blair's communications chief and a journalist about a government dossier released in September.

The government had suggested Kelly could have been the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that quoted an intelligence source as saying the government had ignored experts' doubts in claiming that Iraq could deploy some chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes.

The BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan, subsequently said that his source had accused Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell of insisting that the claim be included.

Campbell denied that in testimony to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Kelly told the committee that he had met Gilligan, but did not believe he was the source of the report.

Asked if he believed Campbell had interfered in drafting the dossier, Kelly responded: "I do not believe that at all."

"I think he's been under enormous pressure. I'm not in a position to say where all that came from but it's not the sort of thing civil servants are trained for or indeed anticipate," said former UN inspector Garth Whitley.

Kelly, 59, was reported missing late Thursday, some eight hours after he failed to return from a walk. The body was found Friday morning on the edge of a clump of woods within a mile of Kelly's home in the village of Southmoor about 20 miles southwest of Oxford.

"What we can say is that the description of the man found there matches the description of Dr. David Kelly," said acting Superintendent Dave Purnell of Thames Valley police. There was no word on the cause of what Purnell termed "an unexplained death."

Kelly, a former U.N. weapons inspector and Oxford-educated microbiologist, has been the senior adviser to the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat in the Ministry of Defense for more than three years.

Television journalist Tom Mangold said Kelly had been a source for many reporters, because he was eager to help them understand a complex topic.

Mangold said he spoke Friday with Janice Kelly, who said her husband had been upset.

"She didn't use the word depressed, but she said he was very, very stressed and unhappy about what had happened," Mangold said.

Several police stood guard Friday outside Kelley's neat brick and brownstone home, which sits across the street from an old-fashioned country pub and next to an open field, on Friday afternoon.

"He was just a perfectly straightforward family man, just Mr. Kelly in the village — that's how everyone knew him," said Ann Lewis, a neighbor for 20 years.