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David Kelly: Death of WMD mole

Dr. David Kelly
Kelly: Gave evidence to a panel investigating UK's decision to go to war.

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LONDON, England -- The political storm over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction thrust David Kelly, a leading microbiologist and former U.N. weapons inspector, into the media spotlight and subjected him to pressures he could not stand.

Working for the UK Ministry of Defence, the 59-year-old family man advised British ministers on WMD, visiting Saddam Hussein's regime dozens of times.

But when he was revealed as the possible source of a BBC report that said the government had exaggerated evidence to justify war on Iraq, Kelly was subjected to intense questioning from the media and a committee of politicians.

On July 15 he appeared before a parliamentary inquiry and was accused of being a "fall guy." Two days later he left his home, telling his family he was going for a walk. His body was found the next day, his wrist slashed.

Hours before his death he sent an e-mail to a journalist friend referring to "many dark actors playing games," according to media reports.

Although regarded highly within his field, until his final days Kelly had been a low-profile figure.

Between 1991 and 1998, he took a key role in inspecting Iraqi weapons after the 1991 Gulf War.

"When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, little did I realize that Saddam Hussein would dictate the next 10 years of my life," Kelly once said during a lecture.

Garth Whitty, a defense expert at the Royal United Services Institute who worked with Kelly for the Unscom weapons inspection team in Iraq, told CNN the MoD scientist was a "focused, experienced and expert scientist."

He said Kelly, who was married with three daughters, was known worldwide for his "excellence."

Whitty added that Kelly had withstood pressure from the Iraqi regime, but "nothing in his career prepared him" for the events of the past few weeks.

Kelly led all the visits and inspections of Russian biological warfare facilities from 1991 to 1994, before becoming in that year senior adviser on biological warfare for the United Nations in Iraq, holding the post until 1999.

In September 2002, he gave evidence to a House of Commons committee probing the war on terrorism.

At the time, he spoke in his role as chief scientific officer and senior adviser to the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat of the Ministry of Defence, and the Non-proliferation Department of the Foreign Office.

Angry reaction

But when he spoke to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, days before his death, he found himself in the center of a bitter row between the British government and the BBC.

The government was angry over a story by BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan -- based on information from an unnamed source -- that government communications chief Alastair Campbell had made a crucial intelligence dossier on Iraq "sexier."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) named Kelly as a contact who it believed briefed Gilligan about Iraq's weapons program. Kelly admitted to the committee he had met Gilligan a week before he broadcast his story on the BBC's Today program.

But he denied he was the main source for the story.

He told the committee that Gilligan's account of his conversation with his source was so different from their conversation he did not believe he could be the source.

His disclosure prompted an angry reaction from MPs on the committee, who claimed he had been set up by the MoD.

Opposition Conservative MP Sir John Stanley said Kelly had acted in a "proper and honorable manner" in coming forward to suggest that he may have been Gilligan's source but had been "thrown to the wolves" by the MoD.

"You were being exploited to rubbish Mr. Gilligan and his source," he said. Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay said he believed Kelly was "chaff," thrown up by the MoD to divert attention.

"Have you ever felt like the fall guy? You have been set up, haven't you?" he told him. Kelly replied: "I accept the process."

On July 20, two days after Kelly's body was found, the BBC issued a statement saying Kelly was the main source of its story.

A public inquiry under Lord Hutton, a leading judge, was set up to examine the events surrounding Kelly's death.

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