Dr Kelly 'may have been murdered'
by BEN TAYLOR and BEEZY MARSH, Daily
28th January 2004
hree doctors yesterday cast grave doubts on Dr
David Kelly's suicide and suggested he may have been murdered.
They wrote an open letter claiming the weapons expert could not
have taken his own life in the way that has been suggested.
They alleged that the description outlined to the Hutton Inquiry
was "improbable" and insisted Dr Kelly did not die by slashing his
wrist and taking an overdose of painkillers.
59-year-old's body was found slumped next to a tree in a field near
his home in Oxfordshire last July. Police recovered a penknife, his
glasses, some painkillers and a bottle of water.
He died at the height of the row over the Government's "sexed up"
dossier on the Iraq threat and just days after giving evidence to
MPs over his links to BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.
The three doctors - retired surgeon David Halpin, diagnostic
radiologist Stephen Frost and Searle Sennett, a retired specialist
in anaesthesiology - wrote to yesterday's Guardian newspaper
expressing their doubts.
They questioned forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt's view that
Dr Kelly bled to death from a self-inflicted wound to the left
The letter says he could not have died from such a small wound
and with such a small amount of painkillers in his bloodstream.
The letter says the artery supposedly severed by Dr Kelly could
not have produced enough blood to kill him.
It says: "Arteries on the wrist are of matchstick thickness and
severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss.
"Dr Hunt stated that the only artery cut - the ulnar artery - had
been completely transected. Complete transection causes the artery
to quickly retract and close down and this promotes clotting of the
Dr Hunt revealed, however, there had been five "incised wounds"
including the cut to the "completely severed" ulnar artery. It is
also a fact that Dr Kelly's body was not found for several hours
after he went missing.
The letter questions how much blood was found. "The ambulance
team reported that the quantity of blood at the scene was minimal
and surprisingly small," it adds.
"To have died from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose
about five pints of blood - it is unlikely that he would have lost
more than a pint."
Dr Hunt, however, told the Hutton Inquiry that a substantial
amount of blood had been found on and around Dr Kelly's body.
In particular, there was a patch of blood stains "two to three
feet long" next to his body.
There were also blood patches on his neck, face, trousers, arms,
elbows, right hand and fingers.
Dr Hunt told the inquiry: "The most obvious area of bloodstaining
was around the left wrist, where it was relatively heavy.
"The arterial injury had resulted in the loss of a significant
volume of blood, as noted at the scene."
He later added: "There were no signs of defensive injuries and by
that I mean injuries that occur as a result of somebody trying to
parry blows from a weapon or trying to grasp a weapon."
The doctors say Dr Kelly could not have died from the painkillers
that were thought to be missing from the blister packs found next to
his body. The inquiry heard 29 tablets were unaccounted for.
They say: "Although levels of Co-Proxamol (the painkiller) in the
blood were higher than therapeutic levels, Allan (the forensic
toxicologist) conceded that the blood level of each of the drug's
two components was less than a third of what would normally be found
in a fatal overdose."
In his evidence to Lord Hutton, Dr Hunt has always accepted that
the painkillers alone could not have killed Dr Kelly. He said there
was one microgramme of painkiller per millilitre of blood along with
a small amount of paracetamol.
Checks on his lungs did not reveal the presence of a volatile
chemical such as chloroform. There was also an amount of vomit found
around his mouth and on his clothes.
Dr Hunt said an examination of Dr Kelly's arteries revealed a
"hardening" - suggesting the onset of coronary heart disease.
"It was noted that he has a significant degree of coronary artery
disease and this may have played some small part in the rapidity of
death but not the major part in the cause of death," he said.
He was asked: "What is your opinion as to the major factor
involved in Dr Kelly's death?" He replied: "It is the haemorrhage as
a result of the incised wounds to his left wrist."
He said death would have been "hastened" by the presence of the
painkillers and coronary heart disease.
Last night Mr Halpin, 63, of Newton Abbot, Devon, stood by his
theory. He said: "When I heard, in the eyes of the toxicologist, he
hadn't taken a lethal dose of painkillers I thought I ought to
express doubt, as a citizen with some specialist knowledge.
"If someone asked me what happens with a cut ulnar artery, even
with a decent scalpel, I don't accept that the majority should die."
Dr Sennett, 70, said: "My argument is that possibly he was alive
when he was found but unconscious and someone interfered with him -
not in a malicious way, but in a well-meaning way.
"Perhaps someone moved him, and thought they would prop him up by
a tree to make him comfortable.
"He would then have choked to death on his own tongue as he was
Dr Frost is currently employed as a GP in a medical centre at RAF
Cosford in the Midlands. He was unavailable for comment last night.
Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner, who is considering holding
a full inquest into the death, said yesterday he had received
"numerous" letters questioning the account given to Lord Hutton.
He said he would decide in March if he would hold a full hearing.