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CHAPTER 10

The factors which may have led Dr Kelly to take his own life

  440.  In his evidence on 2 September Professor Hawton, an eminent expert on the subject of suicide, stated the factors which, in his opinion, contributed to Dr Kelly taking his own life. The parts of his evidence which I consider to be of particular relevance are the following:

[2 September, page 98, line 10]

Q …. what styles of thinking are most associated with suicide?

A. Well, the one for which there is most evidence is the tendency to feel hopeless when faced with a difficult circumstance.

Q. Are there any other relevant feelings?

A. Yes, certainly a sense of feeling trapped, being unable to escape from an unbearable situation. Isolation may be another factor, either actual isolation in the sense of not having people around or relative isolation where a person is unable to communicate with those around them because of their particular personality style.

Q. Are there any other additional factors that one might consider here?

A. Well, another important factor is where a person has suffered a severe blow to their self esteem, that is their sense of self worth. Shame can be another factor. Sometimes people appear to engage in a suicidal act, and I am here including attempting suicide to show other people how bad they are feeling, and occasionally there seems to be a desire for revenge, that revenge is a part of the motivation.

..........

[2 September, page 112, line 21]

Q. We have also heard some of Dr Kelly's reaction reported by Mrs Kelly yesterday. Was there anything in that that is relevant?

A. This is his reaction to -

Q. The fact that his name is coming out.

A. It seemed to be extremely painful for him. Being a very private person, I think the idea that he would not only be questioned but this would be in public and televised - this would be on television, was extremely difficult for him.

Q. And the circumstances of his appearance itself before the Foreign Affairs Committee, you have seen the video. Is there anything that you can, from an expert perspective, help us with?

A. Well, I watched part of it before I got involved at all in the Inquiry; and I remember thinking at the time that I was surprised that - not about the questions he was asked but about the style of some of the questions, the questioning of someone who was obviously such a senior and important person in his field; and having watched the full video, I would confirm my - you know, I would agree, if you like, with the impression that I had beforehand.

There were clearly times during the interview when he became uncomfortable and almost seemed a little bit confused, I do not mean in a pathological sense, but he seemed quite uncertain.

Q. What were the indications that you, from an expert point of view, would look at for that?

A. Well, in terms of his - the way he looked, when he looked down and moved in a slightly uncomfortable way and he looked, at times, rather sort of hot and flustered, but there were also, I understand, environmental circumstances which did not help.

Q. Yes, we have heard it was a hot day; and we have heard that the fans were turned off.

A. Hmm.

Q. We have also heard Rachel's description of her father as he returned from that. Was there anything in that description which has assisted you?

A. Yes. I think, again, I am relying, obviously, on the information - the information you heard was very similar to the information I was given. There were no major discrepancies. He seemed to have been very disturbed - distressed, rather, by that hearing. He gave the impression of having felt belittled by some of the questioning; and I gather he expressed, unusually for him, a certain degree of anger about a particular style of particular questioning that he received. She told me that when he came to her house in Oxford where he was staying, he, using her words, appeared to be "shocked, broken and humiliated". This was obviously a very, very, very stressful experience for him.

..........

  441.  Professor Hawton referred to the fact that when Dr Kelly left his daughter Rachel's house in Oxford on the evening of Wednesday 16 July he arranged to meet her the following evening, 17 July, to go for a walk:

[2 September, page 115, line 15]

Q. What significance does that have?

A. Well it suggests to me that it was probably unlikely he was thinking of suicide at that point in time.

Q. Because?

A. I think having become more aware about the nature of the relationship with his daughter, I doubt very much whether he would have arranged to meet her to go for a walk knowing that he was likely not to have been alive when it came to the point.

  442.  Professor Hawton referred to a series of e-mails which Dr Kelly had sent to friends and colleagues around 11.18am on the morning of Thursday 17 July [paragraph 123]:

[2 September, page 116, line 20]

A. Well, I understand that around 11.18 he sent a series of e-mails to friends and colleagues who had sent him messages during the days beforehand. He obviously had not seen these because he had not been at home and he had only gone to his computer that morning. I got the impression he had written a series of e-mails offline and then sent them off all at the same time.

Q. At 11.18.

A. Yes. And these were to colleagues, ex colleagues and professional acquaintances; and the striking thing in those messages is that he talked, briefly - he mentioned, briefly, the difficulties that he was facing, but he also talked about how he hoped to get back to Iraq and continue his work there. So there was also a sense of optimism at the same time.

Q. Can I take you to an illustration of that, at COM/1/10? If you look towards the bottom of the screen you can see:

"Dear David

"Sorry about your latest run in with the media. I hope you are not getting too much flack. As we both know only too well dealing with the media is always a balancing act and its always impossible to predict which way it will go. When you get it right everybody is in favour but when you get it wrong you don't see their feet for dust."

We can see the response: "Many thanks for your thoughts. It has been difficult. Hopefully it will all blow over by the end of the week and I can travel to Baghdad and get on with the real work."

Is that the type of e-mail you are referring to?

A. Absolutely.

Q. What does that illustrate for you?

A. Well, it would suggest - one cannot be definite about this - that at that stage he still had optimism for the future and that it was probably unlikely that he had ideas or certainly definite ideas of suicide at that point in time. Obviously it is conceivable that he was presenting a different light in those e-mails but I think a logical conclusion would be that he was not thinking of suicide at that time.

..........

  443.  Professor Hawton was then asked about the e-mails which Dr Kelly received on the morning of Thursday 17 July which set out Parliamentary Questions including the Question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what (a) Civil Service and (b) MoD rules and regulations may have been infringed by Dr David Kelly in talking to BBC Radio 4 Defence Correspondent Andrew Gilligan.

and the Question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what disciplinary measures his department will take against Dr David Kelly.

Professor Hawton was asked:

[2 September, page 120, line 15]

Do you think any of those might have been relevant?

A. Well, I think it is likely that he would have begun to perceive that the problem was escalating, the difficulties for him were escalating and that the prospects for an early resolution of his difficulties were diminishing.

..........

[2 September, page 122, line 15]

Q. So when do you believe that Dr Kelly is likely to have formed the intention?

A. Well, it is my opinion that it is likely that he formed the opinion either during the morning, probably later in the morning or during the early part of the afternoon, before he went on that walk.

  444.  I think it probable that one of the concerns which must have been weighing heavily on Dr Kelly's mind during the last few days of his life was the knowledge that there appeared to be in existence, known to members of the FAC, a full note of his conversation with Ms Susan Watts on 30 May. This concern would have included the knowledge that he had denied (question 132 in his evidence to the FAC) that the words which he had spoken to Ms Watts in his telephone conversation with her on 30 May and which she had quoted on the Newsnight programme were his words. Dr Kelly had told the MoD at the meeting on 14 July that he had not spoken to Ms Watts about the September dossier (see paragraph 97) and he must also have been worried that it would emerge and would become known to the MoD that he had had a lengthy discussion with Ms Watts about intelligence matters in relation to the 45 minutes claim and that he had had a similar but shorter conversation with Mr Gavin Hewitt.

  445.  In their evidence both Ms Rachel Kelly and Dr Pape suggested that when giving evidence to the FAC Dr Kelly was probably misled because Mr Chidgey suggested that the words which he quoted to Dr Kelly were said by him in a meeting with Ms Watts, whereas they were said in a telephone conversation. This may be so, but after the hearing before the FAC I think that Dr Kelly must have been concerned by his express denial that the words quoted on the Newsnight programme by Ms Watts came from him.

  446.  The Parliamentary Question, which was an entirely proper one, sent to him on the morning of 17 July asking what Civil Service and MoD rules and regulations had been infringed by him talking to Mr Gilligan and the Parliamentary Question, which was also an entirely proper one, asking the Secretary of State for Defence what disciplinary measures his Department would take against him, would have made it appear likely to him that his discussions with journalists were going to come under investigation. As Professor Hawton stated, the difficulties for him were escalating and the prospect for an early resolution of his difficulties were diminishing.

  447.  Later in his evidence Professor Hawton gave the following evidence:

[2 September, page 124, line 6]

MR DINGEMANS: Do you consider Dr Kelly had developed any sort of psychiatric disorder before his death?

A. I have thought very carefully about this; and my conclusion is that he was not suffering from a severe psychiatric disorder.

Q. We have heard of his weight loss; and we have also heard about some of the sparkle going out of his eyes. Are those features relevant?

A. Those are certainly relevant; but other features which suggest that he did not have a psychiatric disorder, and I am particularly thinking here of depression, is that his mood was predominantly reported as being quite upbeat in spite of all his difficulties, except at certain times. There was not a sense of a persistent depressive mood. His sleep, as far as we can gather from the family accounts, was not disturbed and his appetite was good.

Q. And those are contra-indicators are they?

A. They are.

..........

[2 September, page 126, line 10]

Q. We have heard that he was a weapons inspector, it must have put him in all sorts of difficult situations. Was that similar to the situation that he found himself in towards the end of his life?

A. No, I think there was an important difference. One has heard about the situations he faced, for example, in Iraq, while cross-examining people, which sounded to me quite terrifying situations. I gather he could cope with those extremely well. I think the importance about the problems he was facing shortly before his death was that these really challenged his identity of himself, his self esteem, his self worth, his image of himself as a valued and loyal employee and as a significant scientist.

Q. And in that respect some of the comments reported of him being middle level, et cetera, how are they likely to have affected him?

A. Well, I can only really go on particularly his wife's account that these were really very upsetting for him.

..........

  448.   At the conclusion of his evidence on 2 September Professor Hawton was asked:

[2 September, page 132, line 2]

Q. Have you considered, now, with the benefit of hindsight that we all have, what factors did contribute to Dr Kelly's death?

A. I think that as far as one can deduce, the major factor was the severe loss of self esteem, resulting from his feeling that people had lost trust in him and from his dismay at being exposed to the media.

Q. And why have you singled that out as a major factor?

A. Well, he talked a lot about it; and I think being such a private man, I think this was anathema to him to be exposed, you know, publicly in this way. In a sense, I think he would have seen it as being publicly disgraced.

Q. What other factors do you think were relevant?

A. Well, I think that carrying on that theme, I think he must have begun - he is likely to have begun to think that, first of all, the prospects for continuing in his previous work role were diminishing very markedly and, indeed, my conjecture that he had begun to fear he would lose his job altogether.

Q. What effect is that likely to have had on him?

A. Well, I think that would have filled him with a profound sense of hopelessness; and that, in a sense, his life's work had been not wasted but that had been totally undermined.

LORD HUTTON: Could you just elaborate a little on that, Professor, again? As sometimes is the case in this Inquiry, witnesses give answers and further explanation is obvious, but nonetheless I think it is helpful just to have matters fully spelt out. What do you think would have caused Dr Kelly to think that the prospects of continuing in his work were becoming uncertain?

A. Well, I think, my Lord, that first of all, there had been the letter from Mr Hatfield which had laid out the difficulties that Dr Kelly, you know, is alleged to have got into.

LORD HUTTON: Yes.

A. And in that letter there was also talk that should further matters come to light then disciplinary proceedings would need to be instigated.

LORD HUTTON: Yes.

A. And then of course there were the Parliamentary Questions which we have heard about, which suggested that questions were going to be asked about discipline in Parliament.

LORD HUTTON: Yes. Thank you.

MR DINGEMANS: Were there any other relevant factors?

A. I think the fact that he could not share his problems and feelings with other people, and the fact that he, according to the accounts I have been given, actually increasingly withdrew into himself. So in a sense he was getting further and further from being able to share the problems with other people, that is extremely important.

Q. Were there any other factors which you considered relevant?

A. Those are the main factors that I consider relevant.

..........

[2 September, page 134, line 23]

Q. …you have had the benefit of judging everything with hindsight. You have had the benefit of exploring Dr Kelly's psychology and his make up in a way that no-one could have done at the time.

A. Hmm.

Q. If I was a lay person before Dr Kelly's death, would I have had any chance of knowing the possible outcomes?

A. I think for a lay person then certainly not. I think it would not have been an outcome one would have predicted.

In those answers Professor Hawton referred to the letter which Mr Hatfield had sent to Dr Kelly dated 9 July 2003. It appears from the evidence of the police that Dr Kelly had not opened the letter, but Mr Hatfield had already told Dr Kelly of the matters set out in the letter at the conclusion of the interview on 7 July.

  449.  Professor Hawton gave further evidence on 24 September in relation to information that the death certificate of Dr Kelly's mother, who had died on 13 May 1964, stated the cause of death as a chest infection due to barbiturate poison and that a coroner had returned an open verdict, and that Dr Kelly believed that his mother had taken her own life after suffering from depression for many years. Professor Hawton stated that there was no evidence that Dr Kelly had suffered significant mental illness before or at the time of his death and Professor Hawton further stated that the fact that his mother appeared to have committed suicide was of no relevance in determining the factors which contributed to Dr Kelly's death. Referring to the facts relating to the death of Dr Kelly's mother, counsel to the Inquiry asked Professor Hawton:

[24 September, page 166, line 22]

Q. So in the light of those matters, can I relate those back to your previous conclusions and ask you now, in the light of all the evidence, to state your conclusions or the summary of factors that you believe may have contributed to Dr Kelly's death?

A. Well, I stick with the conclusions that I presented when I appeared before. Firstly, that I think one major factor was the severe loss of self esteem that he had from feeling that people had lost trust in him and from his "dismay" was the word I used before, maybe that was an understatement, at being exposed in the media. And I think the fact, as I think has now been generally acknowledged, that he was a very private person made his being in the media all the more stressful for him.

The second factor, I believe, was that he probably was coming to fear that the prospects for continuing his previous work were diminishing and it is possible that he feared he would lose his job altogether, perhaps particularly when he saw some of the communications that he had received on the morning of his death.

And thirdly I think the effect of this on him would have been to have filled him with a profound sense of hopelessness. I think another very relevant factor, as I said when I appeared before, was his private nature, his dislike of sharing personal problems and feelings with other people; and according to several accounts, he had become increasingly withdrawn during the - into himself during the period shortly before his death which meant that I think he became even less accessible or less able to discuss his problems with other people.

Q. And those remain your conclusions?

A. They do.

  450.  It is not possible to be certain as to the factors which drove Dr Kelly to commit suicide but in the light of the evidence which I have heard I consider that it is very probable that Professor Hawton's opinion as to the factors which contributed to Dr Kelly taking his own life is correct.

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Conclusion on the factors which may have led Dr Kelly to take his own life

  451.  I consider that it is very probable that Professor Hawton's opinion is correct when he stated:

[2 September, page 132, line 2]

Q. Have you considered, now, with the benefit of hindsight that we all have, what factors did contribute to Dr Kelly's death?

A. I think that as far as one can deduce, the major factor was the severe loss of self esteem, resulting from his feeling that people had lost trust in him and from his dismay at being exposed to the media.

Q. And why have you singled that out as a major factor?

A. Well, he talked a lot about it; and I think being such a private man, I think this was anathema to him to be exposed, you know, publicly in this way. In a sense, I think he would have seen it as being publicly disgraced.

Q. What other factors do you think were relevant?

A. Well, I think that carrying on that theme, I think he must have begun - he is likely to have begun to think that, first of all, the prospects for continuing in his previous work role were diminishing very markedly and, indeed, my conjecture that he had begun to fear he would lose his job altogether.

Q. What effect is that likely to have had on him?

A. Well, I think that would have filled him with a profound sense of hopelessness; and that, in a sense, his life's work had been not wasted but that had been totally undermined.

LORD HUTTON: Could you just elaborate a little on that, Professor, again? As sometimes is the case in this Inquiry, witnesses give answers and further explanation is obvious, but nonetheless I think it is helpful just to have matters fully spelt out. What do you think would have caused Dr Kelly to think that the prospects of continuing in his work were becoming uncertain?

A. Well, I think, my Lord, that first of all, there had been the letter from Mr Hatfield which had laid out the difficulties that Dr Kelly, you know, is alleged to have got into.

LORD HUTTON: Yes.

A. And in that letter there was also talk that should further matters come to light then disciplinary proceedings would need to be instigated.

LORD HUTTON: Yes.

A. And then of course there were the Parliamentary Questions which we have heard about, which suggested that questions were going to be asked about discipline in Parliament.

LORD HUTTON: Yes. Thank you.

MR DINGEMANS: Were there any other relevant factors?

A. I think the fact that he could not share his problems and feelings with other people, and the fact that he, according to the accounts I have been given, actually increasingly withdrew into himself. So in a sense he was getting further and further from being able to share the problems with other people, that is extremely important.

Q. Were there any other factors which you considered relevant?

A. Those are the main factors that I consider relevant.

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