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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Kelly's talk of death in the woods
David Kelly
Dr Kelly being grilled by MPs

Dr David Kelly told a UK diplomat he would probably be "found dead in the woods" if the UK invaded Iraq, the Hutton inquiry has heard.

David Broucher, the UK's permanent representative on the disarmament conference in Geneva, said the scientist made what at the time he regarded as a "throwaway remark" in February.

It was only when he heard that Dr Kelly had been found dead in Oxfordshire woodland last month that Mr Broucher thought the comment might be more significant.

Set up after apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly in July
Dr Kelly was government expert in Iraq weapons programmes
He was named as source of controversial BBC report
Report alleged government had 'sexed up' a dossier on Iraq's weapons capability
Government denies the allegations

Mr Broucher said the remark was made after Dr Kelly had explained to him that he had assured senior Iraqi officials that if they cooperated with United Nations weapons inspections they would have nothing to fear.

"The implication was that if the invasion went ahead, that would make him a liar and he would have betrayed his contacts, some of whom might be killed as a direct result of his actions," he said.

"I asked him what would happen then. He replied, in a throwaway line, he would probably be found dead in the woods."

Mr Broucher said he had thought Dr Kelly was talking about possible Iraqi vengeance.

"I now see that he may have been thinking on rather different lines," he added.

Dr Kelly, the source for the BBC story that the Iraq dossier was "sexed up" by Downing Street, had also told the diplomat that every line of the document was fought over before its publication last September.

Inquiry chairman Lord Hutton has announced that Tony Blair will give evidence next Thursday, with Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon taking the stand on Wednesday.

26 August: Andrew Mackinlay MP; Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett; Cabinet Office intelligence co-ordinator Sir David Omand
27 August: Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon; two MoD officials who knew him well; Commons intelligence committee chairman Ann Taylor
28 August: Tony Blair, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies; Journalist and friend of Dr Kelly, Tom Mangold
1 September: Dr Kelly's family and friends
2 September: People involved in the search for Dr Kelly; pathologist; Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page, Thames Valley Police
3 September: Psychiatrist; member of the Ba'hai faith
15 September: Statements by counsel to the inquiry and counsel to other parties
25 September: Closing statements

Earlier, the inquiry heard Dr Kelly was shocked to hear newspapers were about to name him as the suspected BBC mole because his bosses had told him it would be kept confidential.

Sunday Times journalist Nick Rufford said the scientist told him he had been "through the wringer" days before his apparent suicide.

Mr Rufford met Dr Kelly on 9 July, minutes after the Ministry of Defence warned him that he would be named in the next day's papers as the official who had come forward admitting meeting BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.

Mr Rufford said that when asked about his name coming out, a pale and tired-looking had Dr Kelly replied: "I am a bit shocked, I was told it would all be confidential."

Questioned about the way the MoD had treated him, Dr Kelly had replied for the record that it had been "pretty good about it" and not reprimanded him.

"Then he said, off the record, 'I have been through the wringer'," said Mr Rufford.

Mr Rufford also said he had asked the scientist if his conversation with the BBC reporter been quoted accurately in the BBC report. Dr Kelly said: "I talked to him about factual stuff, the rest is bullshit."

In other developments:

  • Conservative MP John Maples has called for a Commons inquiry into whether Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell misled MPs by saying he had suggested 11 changes to the draft dossier when documents shown to the inquiry show him asking for 15 changes

  • Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon pressed the foreign affairs committee to question Dr Kelly for only 45 minutes and not on wider weapons issues or the Iraq dossier, the inquiry heard

  • Committee chairman Donald Anderson agreed to limit scope of questioning for fear of losing the chance to interview Dr Kelly - a substantial minority of the committee was unhappy at the deal

  • He was surprised to hear that Mr Gilligan had briefed a Lib Dem MP about what to ask Dr Kelly in an "unprecedented" move

  • Mr Anderson said the scientist had shown no signs of distress during the questioning which he thought "fair and reasonable"

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The circumstances surrounding David Kelly's death remain as tangled as ever"

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