Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Fifteen years of doubts: Miles Goslett on the death of Dr David Kelly


It is 15 years to the day since Dr David Kelly’s body was found by two volunteer searchers in a wood at Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire. Kelly was the government scientist caught up in the post-mortem on the Iraq War calamity; and his death might have been forgotten – as no doubt Tony Blair’s government hoped it would be – but for the vigilance of award-winning investigative journalist MILES GOSLETT.


Goslett has a track record in pursuing and bringing such stories into the open. He helped break the Jimmy Savile sex abuse story which the BBC had suppressed; he also exposed the corruption at the heart of the venerated Camila Batmanghelidjh’s Kids Company. He has won Scoop of the Year four times.

While most journalists either accepted or did not notice that Dr Kelly was deprived of a full coroner’s inquest Miles set out to find out why this was. The investigation took him several years. Here I ask him about the case, what motivated him, what was involved in researching his recently published account of what can only be described as a mysterious and disturbing cover up, An Inconvenient Death

Kathy Gyngell: A body matching a description of the British research scientist and distinguished Iraq weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, was found on the morning of July 18, 2003. This was the man who’d been ‘hounded’ both by the Government machine and by the press following his ‘outing’ as the source for Andrew Gilligan’s BBC report on the ‘sexed up’ Iraq dossier. The public as well as the official verdict which has been broadly accepted was that this led him to take his own life. Yet it never quite added up to me – and clearly not to you. What made you or led you to decide that Dr Kelly’s death needed re-investigation?

Miles Goslett: I developed an interest in the Kelly affair in about 2006. I read Norman Baker’s book on the subject when it was published in 2007 and from 2008, in my capacity as a journalist, began writing newspaper stories about Dr Kelly myself. These stories either asked or answered questions which had not been dealt with satisfactorily. Through this work I came into contact with many members of the legal and medical professions who also had longstanding concerns about the case. Who would have thought that there are senior judges who believe Dr Kelly was murdered? There are also highly respected surgeons who say it would be impossible to die in the manner officially ascribed to Dr Kelly. So it is not as though this subject is of interest solely to a minority of ill-informed pub bores. By 2014 there had been so many developments in the story since Baker’s book was published that I was encouraged to write my own book.

K G: How difficult has it been to pursue, what was involved and how long did it take you?

M G: It has been difficult to pursue for a variety of reasons. There is a huge degree of reluctance among those who know Dr Kelly’s family to talk about this affair because, I think, they do not want to cause offence or upset. I expect some also believe that since this story’s origins lie in a complication involving a journalist, Andrew Gilligan, it would be unwise to talk to another journalist (me) about it. At the same time, and to my surprise, many of the official channels I have used to extract information – for example the Freedom of Information unit at Thames Valley Police – have been very helpful. In terms of what was involved, it has been a question or researching, reading, tracing those who might know something, persuading them not to put the phone down when ringing them out of the blue, talking to people, visiting places of relevance – all the usual things you’d expect when putting together a large and complicated jigsaw. I have spent many hundreds of hours over a period of years doing this jigsaw and have done so with the help of many kind people. Having published the book in April, I feel that it was worth it.

K G: Since publication, you’ve been accused by David Aaronovitch of being ‘blinded by his desire to get another publication and another payday out of the Kelly affair’. Reading for myself your dispassionate and measured presentation of the facts as you have uncovered them, his comments are nigh on defamatory. Peter Oborne has leapt to your defence whilst describing An Inconvenient Death as an inconvenient book. Do you think that is why no newspaper came forward to serialise it? Exactly what do they fear? For it could not be a lack of readership interest!

M G: In fact, The Sun published a double-page spread on the Kelly affair written by me on the eve of the book’s publication as a way of publicising it. The spread they published consisted of a series of questions/points of interest. Taking this approach was The Sun’s idea and it was a clever way of condensing the large amount of material in the book into a digestible form. I don’t think a straight serialisation – literally reproducing the book in the pages of a newspaper – would have worked as well unless it had run over several days. Not many papers are prepared to commit that level of coverage to any book these days unless the author is very well known or there is some truly devastating revelation in the book which means the paper has to buy it exclusively. My book does contain a lot new material about the Dr Kelly affair, but its central focus is probably on exposing the holes in the official story. To that end it’s perhaps slightly more nuanced. The vast majority of people who have read the book – including several national newspaper critics – have been very positive about it.

K G: Mrs Kelly’s apparently determined decision to co-operate with Hutton’s suicide narrative [Lord Hutton headed the inquiry set up by Tony Blair into Dr Kelly’s death] is to me one of the more curious aspects of the case. How difficult were such areas to investigate? Did you seek the co-operation of the family?

M G: It goes without saying that I feel desperately sad for the Kelly family but I did not seek their co-operation. Any time I have tried to contact them in the past I have had to go through a firm of solicitors – oddly, the same firm used by Tony Blair – and their comment has always been ‘No comment’. I can think of several reasons why Janice Kelly, Dr Kelly’s widow, does not want to discuss this matter publicly but the book does not speculate on this because to do so would be unhelpful to all concerned. With all of that said, we live in a country where laws regarding the proper, independent investigation of a sudden or unnatural death exist for a reason. I don’t think those laws have been obeyed when it comes to the Dr Kelly case and the public interest in it is therefore enormous.

K G: The overwhelming conclusion from your account of the period leading up to Kelly’s death (from the premature if not uncanny response to it by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, to Hutton’s secret recommendation that all scientific and medical records relating to Kelly’s death should be classified for 70 years) and then by the Shadow Attorney General to 2010, Dominic Grieve, is that there was something that government needed to hide. If so, what was it in your view? If not, what were they up to?

M G: I do believe that there some things about Dr Kelly’s death that we have not been told. Having raised so many questions in the book, I don’t think it’s helpful to speculate about what has been hidden. I don’t believe Dr Kelly intended to kill himself and then did so. I do have my own theories. But the only way this matter will ever be dealt with properly is via a full coroner’s inquest held in public where – in contrast to the Hutton inquiry – all relevant witnesses are compelled to attend and swear an oath before giving evidence. Successive governments have gone out of their way to ensure there is no coroner’s inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. You have to wonder why that is.

As for your mention of Dominic Grieve, he claimed when in opposition in early 2010 to be in favour of investigating the Dr Kelly affair properly. He duly launched his own inquiry into the matter in late 2010 a few months after becoming attorney general; and yet his findings are riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies. Arguably, Grieve has muddied the waters further, as my book clearly shows. For a man who considers himself to be a serious intellect, Grieve should be ashamed of his incompetent handling of the Dr Kelly case. He is now chairman of the intelligence and security committee – a uniquely powerful position for a backbench MP to hold given he is privy to a large range of deeply sensitive information concerning national security matter – so he could and should be forced to account for himself.

K G: Most people would want to believe that we no longer live in John le Carré spy land where the establishment (in this case including the Shadow Attorney General who held this post until 2010, Dominic Grieve) closes ranks to cover up political embarrassments or worse, criminality. Would this investigation suggest we still do?

M G: However unpalatable it may be to hear, I think things go on in this country which, if known about, would shock and appal most people. I’m not saying that the British state routinely goes around murdering its own citizens. I am saying that anything inconvenient which gets in the way of the British state might be taken care of in a brutal fashion. No country is immune from this pragmatism, of course, but I think a surprising number of people are prepared to accept the state’s version of events and are under the impression that bad things don’t happen in Britain. I’m not sure that opinion holds as much water these days.

K G: Can a coroner’s inquest be called now? How could that happen? Public pressure?

M G: A coroner’s inquest could be held, though it would require a certain number of legal hurdles to be cleared. Public pressure would help. It would also help if anyone in a position of influence who has studied the case properly spoke out about it. Likewise anyone who has been sitting on information about the Dr Kelly affair, no matter how trivial they might believe it to be.

K G: Do you fear your years of work on this unresolved case will be buried alongside Dr Kelly because no one wants to face knowing the truth? Have we become a conscienceless society that does not care whether we pursue the truth or not? Does the response to your book bode badly for the future of investigative journalism?

M G: I don’t regard anything I’ve done in relation to this case as a waste of time. I do think that it has been important to piece the jigsaw together so that anyone who is interested in the case – and who might therefore be able to help force an inquest – can read about it in one place. I think people really want to know the truth about this case. You ask if society is without a conscience. My answer to that is no, far from it. The book has been received positively by those who have read it – including 99 per cent of newspaper critics who have read it objectively and with an open mind rather than ‘reviewing’ the book to launch an ill-informed rant about conspiracy theories and their own weird hang-ups. If this book helps in any way to encourage more investigative journalism, whether in newspapers, books, on radio or on TV, that would be a bonus. The greatest bonus of all would be to know the truth about what happened to Dr Kelly.

K G: Thank you.

Miles Goslett’s book “An Inconvenient Death” is available on Amazon.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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