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Kelly emails open fresh mystery

London Guardian

David Kelly complained about his telephone calls mysteriously "dying" when he tried to answer calls in May 2003, the month that the weapons dossier affair began.
In an email that will add fuel to conspiracy theorists' views on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly, the scientist said he had been experiencing "curious" problems with his phone.

At 11pm on May 9 - three days after Dr Kelly told Newsnight reporter Susan Watts over the phone that the September dossier presented facts "in a very black and white way" - he received an email from someone who had been trying to call him.

"I tried several times but the phone connected then went dead. I wasn't sure if you were having problems with the phone," said Dr Kelly's unnamed correspondent in an email exchange revealed in a new batch of evidence published by the Hutton inquiry.

The emails, retrieved from Dr Kelly's home computer, reveal a snapshot of the extensive contact the weapons expert had with journalists, colleagues and friends in the months and weeks before his death. All the names of Dr Kelly's correspondents have been blacked out by the inquiry.

One correspondent complained the Ministry of Defence thwarted their attempts to call Dr Kelly by cutting off his call the day before the scientist faced the foreign affairs select committee and just three days before his apparent suicide.

Sent on July 14, the email to Dr Kelly said: "Having tried to reach you by phone, but unsuccessfully because the MoD will not enable it, I am using the only email address I have."

Dr Kelly's response, if he made one, has not been published.

Another mystery comes in the form of an email exchange on April 27 about scientists' contact with journalists, entitled "Scientists' Gut Spilling".

In the aftermath of the Iraq war, as the coalition continued its search for weapons of mass destruction, a colleague expressed concern about information "leaking out" to journalists.

Dr Kelly wrote: "Did you notice in [blanked out] that 3 of the top 25 scientists have spoken to journalists - [blanked out]."

His contact replied: "It is a little disturbing that this information is leaking out in this arbitrary and piecemeal fashion. I hope someone is getting chapter and verse reporting direct from the theatre. Do you see the stuff, if it is not an indelicate question?"

Dr Kelly then replied: "Compiling the "dossier" will be an achievement not that journalists are getting to sources [blanked out] and [blanked out] now talking." His reference to the "dossier" is not the now infamous government document, but another file of information on Iraq's weapons.

The fresh evidence published by the Hutton inquiry also reveals more of the disquiet felt by the BBC board of governors over the naming in its July 7 statement, of Andrew Gilligan's contact as "a senior intelligence source", which sparked accusations of the board misleading the public.

One governor, Dame Ruth Deech - a pro-vice chancellor of Oxford University - said the description had been the BBC's "weak spot" and suggested to the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, that the corporation review editorial guidelines.

"Emails revealed telephone description of Kelly as 'intelligence' and the origin of that should be looked at as part, perhaps, of an examination of editorial control," she wrote on July 21, the day after the BBC named Dr Kelly as Gilligan's source after his death.

And Baroness Sarah Hogg - chairwoman of 3i and a former journalist - emailed Mr Davies on the same day saying "the key question is, in disguising its source, did the BBC mislead by giving him a descriptor that implied knowledge or status he did not have?"

Mr Davies replied: "From what I know, Dr Kelly did indeed have considerable access to intelligence in the relevant area, and I do not think there was any material misleading of the public on that score."

The conversations came as the BBC governors began going over everything they had done in the days and weeks before, following the death of Dr Kelly.

One governor, Fabian Monds, a professor at the University of Ulster and the governor for Northern Ireland, wrote to Mr Davies to say: "We are all troubled by the thought that our actions may have contributed, however indirectly, to this tragedy."

However, he went on to add that "Dr Kelly is one victim of this situation, there are others" without expanding on his opinion.

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