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British weapons adviser's widow testifies
( 2003-09-02 13:44) (Agencies)

Weapons adviser David Kelly felt betrayed by his bosses at the Ministry of Defense after being caught up in a political storm over the government's case for war in Iraq, his widow testified Monday.

Janice Kelly said that in the days before his apparent suicide, he was distressed over being identified as the possible source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that claimed Prime Minister Tony Blair's office had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons to justify war.

Kelly was unhappy about testifying at a televised parliamentary hearing, she added.

"I had never in all the Russian visits and all the difficulties he had to go through in Iraq, where he had lots of discomforts, lots of horrors, guns pointing at him, munitions left lying around, I had never known him to be as unhappy as he was then," Kelly told a judicial inquiry examining the circumstances of her husband's death.

"I just thought he had a broken heart. He had shrunk into himself, but I had no idea of what he might do later," she added, describing her husband's disconsolate state July 17, the day he disappeared from their rural home in southern England.

Hours later, after a police hunt with tracker dogs and a helicopter, Kelly's body was found in nearby woodland. He apparently had taken painkillers and slashed his left wrist with a pen knife.

His widow described how the microbiologist and specialist in biological weapons had been "withdrawn," "very, very tense" and "exceedingly upset" as he became embroiled in the dispute.

On May 27, BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan, citing an identified source, reported Blair's office had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier about Iraq's weapons programs a charge vehemently rejected by the government.

Kelly, whose job description included briefing journalists, told his bosses at the Defense Ministry he had spoken with Gilligan. But he insisted he did not believe he was the main source of the story.

Kelly, who had been part of a U.S.-British team that inspected facilities in Russia in the early 1990s and worked as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, was reprimanded, and the ministry issued a statement saying one of its employees had come forward as a possible source.

Journalists quickly guessed Kelly's name, which was confirmed by the ministry, and they descended in droves on his home.

The inquiry is, in part, examining how and why Kelly's name became public and whether the resulting media attention and his treatment by government officials contributed in any way to his death.

Janice Kelly described her husband's sense of hurt that his name had become public.

He "said several times over coffee, over lunch, over afternoon tea that he felt totally let down and betrayed," she said via video link to the judicial inquiry in London. "I believe that he meant the M.O.D. because they were the ones that effectively let his name be known in the public domain."

He was angry that his testimony before a House of Commons committee on July 15 would be televised, she added. "He was ballistic, he just did not like that idea at all."

Kelly's 30-year-old daughter, Rachel, said her father was "very, very deeply traumatized" that the hearing was televised and was unhappy at the severity of his questioning by lawmakers.

"He seemed to be under an overwhelming amount of stress," she told the inquiry, also by video link.

Kelly's sister, Sarah Pape, said he understood the case for war and believed weapons of mass destruction were buried in the Iraqi desert. "He was utterly convinced that there was almost certainly no solution other than a regime change, which was unlikely to happen peacefully, and regrettably we required military action to enforce it," she said.

The testimony of all three was calm and reflective, and they did not directly blame anyone for Kelly's death. But ending her testimony, Rachel Kelly spoke of the immeasurable loss to the family.

"My heartfelt wish is that as a result of your inquiry ... that people will learn from the circumstances surrounding my father's death and show more compassion and kindness in the future to those around them," she said, choking back tears.

The inquiry continues Tuesday.

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