In the UK this story of death and suspicion was first, Blair's appearance before the American Congress and his Congressional Medal of Honor second. What more did the now dead man know?
WMD Scientist's Death Rocks British Government
Friday, July 18, 2003; 1:37 PM
By Gideon Long
LONGWORTH, England (Reuters) - A mild-mannered British scientist was found dead in the woods Friday after being unwittingly dragged into a fierce political dispute about intelligence used to justify war on Iraq.
British police said they had found a body matching that of soft-spoken defense ministry biologist David Kelly, a former U.N. weapons inspector, who had been grilled in parliament over allegations the government hyped intelligence to justify war.
The political fallout was immediate. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who learned about the discovery of the body while flying from Washington to Tokyo, promised an independent judicial inquiry into the death if the body was confirmed to be Kelly's.
But opponents called for Blair to return and face a broader probe into the case he made for war. The shock even sent Britain's pound tumbling half a percent on currency markets as traders weighed the severity of the crisis for Blair.
Kelly's family reported him missing overnight after he went for a walk in the Oxfordshire countryside Thursday with no coat and stayed out despite a rainstorm.
He had denied being the source for BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, who said in May a senior intelligence source had told him the government had "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq.
That report sparked parliamentary hearings into how the government made the case for war, forced Blair onto the defensive and pitted government officials against the BBC.
News of Kelly's death completely overshadowed Blair's rapturous reception by the U.S. Congress Thursday, although there was no indication the prime minister would turn back from a scheduled week-long trip to Asia.
"The prime minister is obviously very distressed for the family of Dr Kelly," a spokesman said aboard the flight.
Opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said Blair should return from abroad and any inquiry should cover the entire issue of intelligence used to justify the war.
"If I was the prime minister, I would cut short this visit and return home. There are very many questions that will need to be asked over the coming days," he said.
Kelly had clearly been reluctant to enter the public debate over Iraq intelligence.
Speaking so softly he could barely be heard, he admitted to parliament's foreign affairs committee he had met Gilligan, but denied telling him that Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell had ordered intelligence to be hyped.
Kelly appeared shell-shocked when parliamentarians at the hearing described him as "chaff" and a government "fall guy" put forward to shield top officials from blame.
Kelly's wife Jane described Kelly as deeply upset, family friend Tom Mangold, a television journalist, told ITV News.
"She told me he had been under considerable stress, that he was very, very angry about what had happened at the committee, that he wasn't well," Mangold said.
The government said that if Kelly was Gilligan's source, their differing accounts proved the BBC story was wrong. Gilligan, who never named his source, was questioned at a closed-door hearing around the time Kelly vanished Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Peter Graff and Dominic Evans in London, and Katherine Baldwin in Tokyo)