Experts urge new inquiry into death of British WMD leaker

John Cook

In a new twist to a British scandal that had all the hallmarks of a John le Carre thriller, a group of prominent legal and medical experts are calling for a new inquiry into the 2004 death of David Kelly, the British weapons expert who was at the center of a firestorm over reporting on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that tarnished both the BBC and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In May 2003, as the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was becoming increasingly clear, BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan ran with a blockbuster story accusing the British government of deliberately "sexing up" a crucial dossier in support of the notion that Saddam Hussein had WMDs — including the notorious claim, uttered by Blair, that Hussein was capable of launching WMD missile strikes within 45 minutes. The report caused an uproar,  and was one of the early salvos in the furious debate over the extent to which the U.S. and British governments twisted intelligence in order to make a public case for invasion.

Kelly, a government weapons specialist, soon came forward as Gilligan's source. He turned up dead in the woods near his home not long after. Officials ruled it a suicide at the time, but a panel of experts is now calling for a new inquiry into the death, claiming that it's "extremely unlikely" that Kelly could have died from a hemorrhage on his hand, which the initial investigation listed as the official cause. They offer no theories as to how he did die.