Dr Kelly 'may have been murdered'by BEN TAYLOR and BEEZY MARSH
28th January 2004
Three doctors yesterday cast grave doubts on Dr David Kelly's suicide and suggested he may have been murdered.
They wrote an open letter claiming the weapons expert could not have taken his own life in the way that has been suggested.
They alleged that the description outlined to the Hutton Inquiry was "improbable" and insisted Dr Kelly did not die by slashing his wrist and taking an overdose of painkillers.
The 59-year-old's body was found slumped next to a tree in a field near his home in Oxfordshire last July. Police recovered a penknife, his glasses, some painkillers and a bottle of water.
He died at the height of the row over the Government's "sexed up" dossier on the Iraq threat and just days after giving evidence to MPs over his links to BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.
The three doctors - retired surgeon David Halpin, diagnostic radiologist Stephen Frost and Searle Sennett, a retired specialist in anaesthesiology - wrote to yesterday's Guardian newspaper expressing their doubts.
They questioned forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt's view that Dr Kelly bled to death from a self-inflicted wound to the left wrist.
The letter says he could not have died from such a small wound and with such a small amount of painkillers in his bloodstream.
The letter says the artery supposedly severed by Dr Kelly could not have produced enough blood to kill him.
It says: "Arteries on the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss.
"Dr Hunt stated that the only artery cut - the ulnar artery - had been completely transected. Complete transection causes the artery to quickly retract and close down and this promotes clotting of the blood."
Dr Hunt revealed, however, there had been five "incised wounds" including the cut to the "completely severed" ulnar artery. It is also a fact that Dr Kelly's body was not found for several hours after he went missing.
The letter questions how much blood was found. "The ambulance team reported that the quantity of blood at the scene was minimal and surprisingly small," it adds.
"To have died from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood - it is unlikely that he would have lost more than a pint."
Dr Hunt, however, told the Hutton Inquiry that a substantial amount of blood had been found on and around Dr Kelly's body.
In particular, there was a patch of blood stains "two to three feet long" next to his body.
There were also blood patches on his neck, face, trousers, arms, elbows, right hand and fingers.
Dr Hunt told the inquiry: "The most obvious area of bloodstaining was around the left wrist, where it was relatively heavy.
"The arterial injury had resulted in the loss of a significant volume of blood, as noted at the scene."
He later added: "There were no signs of defensive injuries and by that I mean injuries that occur as a result of somebody trying to parry blows from a weapon or trying to grasp a weapon."
The doctors say Dr Kelly could not have died from the painkillers that were thought to be missing from the blister packs found next to his body. The inquiry heard 29 tablets were unaccounted for.
They say: "Although levels of Co-Proxamol (the painkiller) in the blood were higher than therapeutic levels, Allan (the forensic toxicologist) conceded that the blood level of each of the drug's two components was less than a third of what would normally be found in a fatal overdose."
In his evidence to Lord Hutton, Dr Hunt has always accepted that the painkillers alone could not have killed Dr Kelly. He said there was one microgramme of painkiller per millilitre of blood along with a small amount of paracetamol.
Checks on his lungs did not reveal the presence of a volatile chemical such as chloroform. There was also an amount of vomit found around his mouth and on his clothes.
Dr Hunt said an examination of Dr Kelly's arteries revealed a "hardening" - suggesting the onset of coronary heart disease.
"It was noted that he has a significant degree of coronary artery disease and this may have played some small part in the rapidity of death but not the major part in the cause of death," he said.
He was asked: "What is your opinion as to the major factor involved in Dr Kelly's death?" He replied: "It is the haemorrhage as a result of the incised wounds to his left wrist."
He said death would have been "hastened" by the presence of the painkillers and coronary heart disease.
Last night Mr Halpin, 63, of Newton Abbot, Devon, stood by his theory. He said: "When I heard, in the eyes of the toxicologist, he hadn't taken a lethal dose of painkillers I thought I ought to express doubt, as a citizen with some specialist knowledge.
"If someone asked me what happens with a cut ulnar artery, even with a decent scalpel, I don't accept that the majority should die."
Dr Sennett, 70, said: "My argument is that possibly he was alive when he was found but unconscious and someone interfered with him - not in a malicious way, but in a well-meaning way.
"Perhaps someone moved him, and thought they would prop him up by a tree to make him comfortable.
"He would then have choked to death on his own tongue as he was unconscious."
Dr Frost is currently employed as a GP in a medical centre at RAF Cosford in the Midlands. He was unavailable for comment last night.
Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner, who is considering holding a full inquest into the death, said yesterday he had received "numerous" letters questioning the account given to Lord Hutton.
He said he would decide in March if he would hold a full hearing.