Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2003 08:28 UK

Kelly revelation shocks press bench


By Jackie Storer
BBC News Online political staff

It takes a lot to shock journalists, but a UK diplomat's revelation that Dr David Kelly had told him he would probably be "found dead in the woods" if the UK invaded Iraq did just that.

An audible gasp went up as David Broucher told the Hutton inquiry how the weapons expert had made what he thought at the time was a "throwaway" remark during a meeting in Geneva.

David Broucher
Broucher's comments set the inquiry alight
This low-voiced former British ambassador to Prague - now a permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva - had until Thursday morning not even been expected to give evidence.

Indeed, the stenographer's note had prepared us for another witness - Ben Bradshaw, the government minister.

Until this mystery man's appearance it had been a fairly pedestrian day. Donald Anderson, the doughty chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, trotted in, followed by a series of reporters who were asked about how they came across Dr Kelly's name.

Then it was the turn of Mr Broucher - allocated the after-lunch slot at the end of the Hutton inquiry week - not a good time to grab the attention of the press.

Suddenly the press bench in the court jumped back into action. Journalists gasped. Pens scribbled furiously

Journalists' shorthand in Court 73, and in the overflow, air-conditioned "press tent", was slowing. The forthcoming weekend was being planned.

Mr Broucher detailed how he had arranged to meet Dr Kelly to "pick his brains" about weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Kelly told him how he had tried to persuade the Iraqis to cooperate with the United Nations' weapons inspectors.

But Iraqi officials had told him that if they revealed too much about their state of readiness, this might increase the risk that they would be attacked.

'Bombshell'

Mr Broucher said Dr Kelly had "tried to reassure them that if they cooperate with the weapons inspectors, they had nothing to fear".

The diplomat's impression was that Dr Kelly had felt "some personal difficulty or embarrassment over this because he believed the invasion might go ahead anyway and that some how it was putting him in a morally ambiguous position".

And then it happened. The bombshell. Mr Broucher's own weapon of mass destruction.

As Dr Kelly was leaving their rendez-vous, he asked him what would happen if Iraq is invaded.

"He said: 'I will probably be found dead in the woods'," recalled Mr Broucher.

Nick Rufford
Rufford: Kelly said he had been 'through the wringer'
"He said what?," came the whispered cry from the back of the court. Suddenly the press bench jumped back into action. Journalists gasped. Pens scribbled furiously. Those who hadn't been listening closely turned their attention to the stenographer's note as it tickered away on screen.

"Dead in the woods!" was muttered as pages turned on notebooks.

Mr Broucher said, quite calmly, that he hadn't realised the significance of these comments until weeks after Dr Kelly's body was found in woods at Harrowdown Hill, an Oxfordshire beauty spot.

Once it dawned on him this was important, he contacted Patrick Lamb, the desk officer for biological weapons in the Foreign Office, to say he had found something from a "very deep memory hole".

Rush for the door

In an e-mail to Mr Lamb, he said Dr Kelly had believed that if there was actually an invasion "that would make him a liar and he would have betrayed his contacts" and some "might be killed as a direct result of his actions".

With that flurry of information, Lord Hutton said, with perfect understatement, that this might be the perfect time for a break.

Journalists almost fell over each other to reach for the door to file the immortal words to news desks across the world.

In another part of the Royal Courts of Justice complex, as Mr Broucher's remarks were fed through to the marquee where more journalists watched via video link, there was a stunned silence followed by a rush by some reporters for the tent flaps.

The area outside was filled with hacks. Phones were clasped to ears.

It was an astonishing development.



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