MoD tried to burn Kelly 'media plan'
By Michael Smith, Sandra Laville and Neil Tweedie
Ministry of Defence officials were preparing to destroy a "media plan" about Dr David Kelly three days after his death, The Telegraph learned yesterday.
The latest twist in the affair came on the day Lord Hutton opened his inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the MoD scientist's death by announcing that Tony Blair would be publicly held to account in the witness box.
Dr David Kelly
The Prime Minister's appearance, under the scrutiny of the dead man's family, is likely to be one of the most crucial tests of his premiership.
A key part of Lord Hutton's inquiry is the way in which Dr Kelly's name was leaked to the media, and the attempt to destroy documents will raise suspicions of a cover-up.
It is not clear whether the papers were burned, but MoD officials admitted last night that ministry security guards called the police after finding the "media plan" relating to the Kelly affair in a sack of classified waste being prepared for incineration.
Officially, the MoD continued to insist last night that it was an insignificant document that had no importance for the inquiry and that security guards had "over-reacted" in calling the police.
Dr Kelly apparently took his own life nine days after being exposed as the source behind a controversial BBC report alleging the Government "sexed up" its September dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Four electrocardiogram pads, used to monitor the heart, were found on his chest when his body was discovered in woodland a few miles from his home in Oxfordshire on July 18.
Lord Hutton held a minute's silence yesterday to reflect on Dr Kelly's "very tragic death". His investigation, which begins in earnest on Monday Aug 11, will reach into the highest ranks of government.
As well as Mr Blair, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, and Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications, will be called into the witness box.
From the outset, Lord Hutton stamped his authority on the proceedings: "This is an inquiry conducted by me," he said. "It is not a trial conducted between interested parties who have conflicting cases to advance."
He demanded disclosure of all documents and discussions relating to Dr Kelly, promising that the public would hear "every word" spoken by a witness and see the contents of every document, except where national security issues were involved.
Lawyers sat three rows deep in Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice in central London yesterday as more details of Dr Kelly's final moments were laid bare in a pathologist's report released to the inquiry.
The 59-year-old father of three, who bled to death from slash wounds to his wrist, was said to have removed his watch "to facilitate access to the wrist" as blood was flowing from the first wound.
"The removal of the watch in this way and indeed the removal of the spectacles are features pointing towards this being an act of self-harm," said Dr Nicholas Hunt, the Home Office pathologist.
Lord Hutton said he intended to find out "how and why" Dr Kelly's name came out into the public domain as the mole behind Andrew Gilligan's report on Radio 4's Today programme.
The judge said he had a "large quantity of material" which showed that Government ministers were briefed by officials almost immediately after Dr Kelly acknowledged to his manager in the MoD that he had met Mr Gilligan.
Crucially, he will examine what arrangements were made by ministers for the health and well-being of a man who was suffering from a serious heart complaint at the time he was unmasked.
The BBC will also come under pressure in the inquiry after the disclosure by Lord Hutton of a previously unpublished letter from Dr Kelly to his line manager at the MoD 18 days before he died.
In it, Dr Kelly accused Mr Gilligan of having "considerably embellished" information given by him at their meeting.
The excerpts from Dr Kelly's letter came as a well-timed leak to The Guardian yesterday which increased pressure on the reporter. It revealed that MPs on the Commons foreign affairs committee had accused him of "leading the public up the garden path in a most staggering way".
Mr Gilligan will be one of the first witnesses called when the inquiry resumes after Dr Kelly's funeral next week.
Dr Kelly's widow, Janice, made an appeal through her counsel that television cameras should be kept out of the courtroom in order not to turn her "private loss" into "the nation's entertainment".