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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Inquiry has a fitting end

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Counsel for the Hutton inquiry James Dingemans summed it up best as the month-long inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly drew to a close.

He said: "Somewhere along the way we have lost a summer. I hope we can exchange that for understanding."

It is now up to Lord Hutton to attempt to offer a possible understanding of the forces that drove Dr Kelly apparently to take his own life that warm July evening.

The sense of a rapidly escalating crisis for both the government and the BBC was impossible to avoid.
It has been a long, sometimes tortuous inquiry and it has seen any number of firsts.

It has lifted the lid on the workings of the government machine and the intelligence services like never before.

It dominated the headlines throughout what is normally branded the silly season.

And it provided the extraordinary sight of a British prime minister giving evidence in a public courtroom.

Finally, it fell to Mr Dingemans to try and pull together all the strands into a coherent whole.

Calm analysis

As he told Lord Hutton: "My only aim is to attempt to assist your Lordship in determining the truth relating to the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly."

Then, in his usual calm and analytical manner, he ran through the chronology of the events.

After all the conflicting accounts, often taken out of context and their original time line, here was a relatively straightforward narrative. And, despite his undramatic courtroom language, the sense of a rapidly escalating crisis for both the government and the BBC was impossible to avoid.

Few hints

Occasionally reaching for his glass of water, though not always drinking from it, Mr Dingemans explained how certain things had happened on a particular day, in this particular order - and this is what those involved said about them.

Anyone looking for signs of any conclusions he may have drawn were offered few clues.

Now and again he would suggest: "in your Lordship's view perhaps", or: "your Lordship may or may not conclude that."

There were some facts established that were previously contentious.

For example, he said it was the case that Dr Kelly was involved in the final stages of producing the Iraq dossier.

Poignant judgment

And there had indeed been unhappiness with parts of that dossier - notably the wording of the 45-minute claim - amongst members of the defence intelligence staff.

He was particularly concerned to stress that Dr Kelly's actions could not have been foreseen by any of the parties involved in the affair.

And he said the evidence pointed "overwhelmingly" to Dr Kelly taking his own life.

And one remark had particular poignancy when set against the political background to this inquiry.

"A supreme irony of all this is that one man, Dr Kelly, who was very skilled at finding weapons of mass destruction is no longer able to assist."

It was a fitting end to these proceedings.


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