| David Kelly’s widow Janice (left) and daughter Rachel at the royal courts of justice in London. (Reuters)
London, Sept. 1 (Reuters): The widow of an Iraq weapons expert whose suicide has plunged Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration into crisis blamed the British government today for the despair and betrayal that shaped his final days.
Janice Kelly told of her husband’s distress at being named by the government as the source of an explosive BBC report on Iraq — despite his support for war — and said an apparent bid to undermine his credibility had left him feeling like a “fly”.
“He said he felt totally let down and betrayed,” said Janice Kelly, who remained composed until the final seconds of her testimony, given via video link to avoid the media spotlight.
Asked by whom he had felt betrayed, she said: “I believed he meant the MoD (ministry of defence) because they were the ones who had effectively let his name be known in the public domain.” Her testimony, which was followed by moving words from Kelly’s sister and one of his daughters, was the first personal insight into the scientist’s state of mind before his death.
Over the past three weeks, Blair, top aides and BBC chiefs have given their dry version of the run-up to Kelly’s death.
The inquiry under judge Lord Hutton is a key test for Blair, whose public trust ratings have plunged over the handling of Kelly's death. Kelly had defended the government's decision to wage war on Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, the inquiry heard. But his treatment in the war’s aftermath has raised questions about how far Blair’s team will go to protect its own image.
Kelly killed himself after being exposed as the source for a BBC report which claimed the government had embellished evidence of Iraq’s banned weapons to justify the war.
Furious, the government demanded the BBC reveal its source. The public broadcaster refused but Kelly told his MoD employers he believed he may have provided the information for the report.
As a result, he was dragged into the public eye and grilled by a committee of politicians. The televised committee hearing had driven him to distraction, said Janice Kelly, 58, adding: “I’d never known him to be as unhappy as he was then.”
Two days after the committee hearing, Kelly, 59, slit his wrist by a wood near his home.
Janice Kelly said her husband had received assurances from senior MoD officials that his name would not be made public. But days later, the MoD press office called his home and gave him and his wife a five-minute warning to leave their home to escape the media since his name was about to be revealed. Janice Kelly said her husband, a former UN weapons inspector who had made dozens of trips to Iraq, was also dismayed that government officials described him as a middle ranking official or a junior.
“He was deeply, deeply hurt. He was being treated rather like a fly, I think that was the phrase he used,” she said.
Speaking about the day before he was found dead, she said: “I was physically sick several times at this stage because he looked so desperate. I just thought he had a broken heart.”
Kelly’s sister Sarah Pape said that earlier in the year when the world was at loggerheads over how to deal with Iraq, Kelly had convinced his family that force was the only way to stop Saddam’s weapons programmes.