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Kelly 'seemed normal self' on last walk

BBC

The last person known to have seen Dr David Kelly alive has told the Hutton inquiry that the government scientist seemed his normal self on his way to his apparent suicide.

Neighbour Ruth Absalom met and briefly chatted to Dr Kelly at the top of Harris' Lane in Longworth, about a mile from her home, as she walked her dog at about 1500 BST on 17 July.

Dr Kelly was found dead just over a week after being named as the suspected source for the BBC report suggesting the government exaggerated the intelligence case against Iraq in last September's dossier.

Describing the meeting, Ms Absalom said: "He said 'Hello Ruth' and I said 'Oh hello David how are things?' He said 'Not too bad.'

"He stood there for a few minutes then Buster my dog was pulling on the lead, he wanted to get going. I said 'I will have to go David', he said 'See you again then Ruth'. And that was it, we parted."

The inquiry, dominated by politics during its first two weeks, is taking on more the format of a typical inquest, hearing from those who searched for the scientist when he went missing and the ambulance crew which recovered his body.

And Professor Keith Hawton, director of the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford University's department of psychiatry, said: "Taking all the evidence together, it is well nigh certain that he committed suicide."

Prof Hawton said the spot Dr Kelly had chosen was peaceful and beautiful and part of the scientist's favourite walk.

His injuries were consistent with somebody cutting themselves. He had also taken about 30 tablets of coproxomol, which was dangerous to take in overdose and would be difficult to force someone to take.

Prof Hawton said that as a private person, Dr Kelly would have found it "extremely painful" to see his name come out as the BBC's possible source, especially when he was questioned by MPs on television.

Dr Kelly looked like he had felt "belittled" by some of the MPs questions, he said.

E-mails sent by the scientist on the day of his death showed the difficulties he was facing, but also his desire to get back to Iraq.

Earlier, the inquiry heard more details of the search for Dr Kelly, which involved an RAF helicopter and tracker dogs.

As the hunt continued early on 18 July, said Detective Sergeant Geoffrey Webb, Dr Kelly's family were very hopeful "no harm had come to him".

"In fact they genuinely believed I think that perhaps he had become ill somewhere," he said.

Louise Holmes, who with her border collie dog Brock was part of search team, found Dr Kelly's body slumped against the bottom of a tree in woods on Harrowdown Hill.

Ms Holmes said there had been a lot of blood on his left arm, which was bent back "in a funny position".

But David Bartlett, one of the ambulance paramedics who pronounced Dr Kelly dead, said he was surprised there was not more blood if it was an "arterial bleed".

Pc Dean Franklin told how a wrist watch was lying on the ground away from Dr Kelly's body, along with a lock knife with a 3-4 inch blade with blood on it. There was also an open bottle of water.

A search of the area had revealed no sign of a struggle.

Among the documents later taken from Dr Kelly's home were a list of journalists' names, a note titled "Gabriel's concerns" apparently about weapons of mass destruction, and MoD documents about his media contacts.

Pc Martyn Sawyer also said he had found a photo of Dr Kelly in Moscow in 1993 with a man bearing a striking resemblance to Andrew Gilligan, the BBC journalist whose story sparked the Iraq dossier row.

Officers had disagreed about whether it was Mr Gilligan, he said. The photo will be presented to the inquiry on Wednesday.

The inquiry also heard from Malcolm Warner, Dr Kelly's GP for 25 years, who said the scientist had never come to him showing signs of depression.

Barney Leith, a member of the Baha'i faith to which he said Dr Kelly had converted in 1999 in America, said the scientist had been treasury to the faith's local spiritual assembly.

Mr Leith said the faith condemned suicide as "an undue curtailment of the life that should be lived to the full" but would have great sympathy for somebody who had killed themselves.