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on 30 March 2016
As others have posted, this book should be read in conjunction with Norman Baker’s ‘The Strange Death of David Kelly’. Whilst the circumstances detailed in that book are indeed strange – particularly to somebody who knows some of the people named in the book and what in a normal course of events should happen – this book is more of a biography of David Kelly. What may or may not have happened on Harrowdown Hill only make cameo appearances in the first and last chapters. What seems clear is that something strange appears to have happened in Kuwait on 19 May 2003 – which led to Kelly’s death two months later.

A feature which seems apparent from reading this book – and none of the other reviewers have mentioned this, is the suspicion that Iraq was effectively ‘set up’ both prior to the first Gulf War, and before the 2003 invasion.

After the Iraq / Iran war, Saddam Hussein would appear to have outlived his usefulness. Iraq was also suffering from crippling debts. Kuwait appears to have been attempting to engineer some sort of ‘incident’, and having previously loaned Iraq billions of dollars to fund the war, demanded immediate payment in full. Kuwait also began slant-drilling into the Iraqi portion of the Rumaila oil field. Saddam fell for it and massed a military presence on the Kuwait border. Days before the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, US Ambassador April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein & Tariq Aziz, telling them that “We have no opinion of Arab – Arab conflicts like your dispute with Kuwait. There is no issue with America”. Saddam took this as a green light.

After the war, UNSCOM was set up in search of the fabled WMD. The numerous searches failed to turn up anything – anything at all – unless you count an ancient cache of chemical munitions unearthed on the old Iran war front lines stamped with American serial numbers. It was apparent that any research into pathogens etc had had been stopped and equipment voluntarily destroyed or put to other uses both before the Gulf War and afterwards. (The famous ‘so called’ baby milk factory producing chemical weapons which was bombed in great fanfare during the war turned out to be – yes, a baby milk factory. The stories of Kuwaiti babies being tossed out of incubators was also later shown to be completely fabricated). Ironically, much of the materials used in prior Iraqi research had come from Kelly’s own Porton Down labs. Kelly was also familiar with many of the Iraqi scientists; them have either studied in the UK or been to his labs. The only BW agents or VX ever found in the years when UNSCOM had been in Iraq, was when it was later found in their offices having been covertly brought into the country by them. This being the same labs through which every bomb or missile fragment the inspectors sent back for testing had passed through.

A terrible sequence of events then unfolded whereby Iraq was subject to the most terrible sanctions which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths– even eggs and fermenters for producing bread yeast were on the list – as they were deemed to be of potential ‘dual use’, given that they could be used to incubate pathogens or growth mediums….

UNSCOM also became effectively taken over by the US & UK intelligence arms, and inspections were accompanied by undercover intelligence officers and special forces troops, conducted ever more provocative ‘inspections’ and demands – including blatant thefts and damage caused, in the hope of provoking an Iraqi response which could be used to ‘justify’ military action. The truth was, Iraq had nothing to declare beyond what already had been - and had been destroyed. The rule of UNSCOM was “When it proved the Iraqis right, you never mention it, and when you think that it might prove them right, you do not do it in the first place”.

Politics also played an even more sinister part, with these provocations intended to create military justifications timed to forthcoming events such as elections during the tenure of George Bush snr, or the impeachment of Bill Clinton – indeed prior to Clinton being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, Richard Butler showed Scot Ritter (the most hardline inspector) a calendar for the month of March highlighted between the 1st and the 15th, with the 8th circled. Ritter was told “We need to have a crisis by this date (8th), so that bombing can be completed before the 15th (a muslim holiday).

In conclusion, this book is very well researched. It does not answer any questions about how or why Dr David Kelly died, or the unusual events before and after it. It does however, like many other books in the period, lead to yet more very serious questions being raised as to American & British involvement in the region, and the subsequent shameful & scandalous events which sadly will define both countries and indeed the entire Middle East for a very long time – if not forever. As a post script, a quote which should be right up there with “we will fight them on the beaches” came from Brigadier Hossam Mohammed Amin after his ‘enhanced interrogation’ at Camp Cropper . He said “Alas, you don’t see that one day you destroyed your life in this place”.
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on 13 October 2017
This book explains in great detail the run up to Dr Kelly's death, including in great detail his role as a WMD inspector and his work at Porton Down. The scientific details were to me as a non-scientist difficult at times to grasp but this did not deter me. It also includes some aspects regarding the aftermath of Dr Kelly's death. I strongly recommend this book.
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on 20 April 2014
We never know what goes on in our name but having read this book and the one by Norman Baker the one thing that the government line doesn't give us is why should David Kelly go to a wood, use a little know artery that generally self seals as it is too small to create major blood loss, and kill himself? The motive is just not there for him.

The motive[s] are there for government[s] to want him dead without question. Hindsight tells us there were no WMDs and hadn't been for some time and that government knew this. Sadly David Kelly didn't need hindsight he knew at the time, and was also instrumental in perpetuating the myth. If it had come out then it would have been catastrophic for the US and UK governments.

Did they think he looked too shaky in the Select Committee hearings? That's a good reason for wanting him dead.

Tony Blair's reaction when asked if he 'had blood on hands' showed tremendous shock. Did he think dark forces were at work and he might be next!

We'll never know the truth in my lifetime but I was in a restaurant in Grange Over Sands just after his death and at the next table was a guy with his very old and hard of hearing father who he then went on to tell how he worked with David Kelly and used to have lunch with him once a week.

He was telling his father he was convinced he had been murdered and there was no way the David Kelly he knew would have committed suicide. By this stage the whole restaurant was hanging on his every word.

David Kelly was the man who knew too much and as such he had to go.

Read this book as it really helps you understand what David Kelly was involved with and hence what he knew and when and certainly shows motive for government to want him silenced.

Great read.
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on 23 July 2013
Robert Lewis has clearly spent a great deal of effort researching the facts surrounding the tragic death of Dr David Kelly. He has shone some much needed light on what can only be described as one of the most shameful periods in the history of Whitehall. He has laid out the facts in a readable and sensitive way, while exposing the shameful duplicity of senior officials who bullied Dr Kelly and consistently misled government departments and the public. It is a long overdue analytical work that shows how superficial both the Hutton and Butler inquiries really were. It would be comforting to know that HMG has learned some serious lessons from the way in which the public have been misled during Dr Kelly's life as a weapons inspector. But personally I very much doubt they have.
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on 7 July 2013
It's ten years since David Kelly's body was found near his home in Oxfordshire. He wrote wrote in an e-mail before his death, that there were 'dark actors' playing games in his life. The person who received this e-mail, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, won't discuss it. Dr Kelly died just three days after his televised appearance before the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee. He had been summoned to give evidence by the MoD and Downing Street as the source of the controversial story by BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan.

The story claimed the Government had deliberately 'sexed up' a document, giving its justification for invading Iraq by claiming Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in just 45 minutes.

This formed a backdrop to Kelly's death, and a potential motive for Intelligence Services faking a suicide. From a forensic point of view, creating a true suicide from a faked suicide is difficult. Some believe this aspect wasn't fully explored by the Hutton Inquiry. in addition the Attorney Genera, Dominic Grieve, failed to consider this fundamental question in his "investigation" leading up to his statement to the House of Commons in June 2011.

One of the questions that possibly can never answered definitively is why were there no fingerprints on the knife, next to the body? Accordingly there is no evidence that Dr. Kelly had ever held the knife. The absence of fingerprints may have been be due to the presence of blood on the knife handle, and nothing relating to conspiracy. The same can relate to the lack of of evidence of third party being at Harrowdown Hill.

The alleged absence of any third party presence might suggest that no third parties were present. If you go down the conspiracy route it might suggest that any third parties present were very careful and wore forensic suits....

So the book explores all this and more, including Kelly's Welsh social and educational background. It asks new questions too. One being the allegation that David Kelly's security clearance had been withdrawn before his death. Janice Kelly wrote widely to friends and relatives of David Kelly asking them not to mention him again. Wasn't that unusual behaviour for a widow, or was she just asking for closure. I guess we'll never know what was going through David Kelly's head during his last days, because interpreting behaviour is full of ambiguity and rife with error.

If you are looking for an outline of this significant event in the context of the UK going to war with Iraq. On Thursday 18 July 2013 activists plan to gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice to protest the enduring secrecy that surrounds the decade-old death of a retiring civil servant. Dr David Kelly was Britain's foremost authority on biological weapons, and perhaps the UK's leading expert on Iraqi WMD. They've made there minds up.... what do you think?
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on 30 September 2013
Within this book, topping and tailing it, is an excellent meditation on the Dr David Kelly affair. Measured, reflective and restrained in its judgements, it is clearly both a labour of love, derived from nigh obsession with its subject, and finely written to boot.
However, between that beginning and end there is a long (and overlong) general treatment of the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq and elsewhere. That - and even the author's partisan position on Iraq - could be borne, were it not for the consistent use of lofty 20/20 hindsight. The result reads akin to a history of WWII saying, for instance, `of course, the Germans were never going to invade Britain in 1940, and therefore, obviously, the British should have diverted all resources to the North Africa campaign - the idiots.'
Maybe so, but it probably didn't seem that way then - and the present, with all its imperfections of perspective, is where most of us mere mortals have to dwell. Cumulatively therefore, this portion of the book's analysis comes to seem unfair and, at times, arrogant. Ditto the occasional tetchy `just-gagging-to-be-indignant' tone. Indeed, on p289 the author candidly confesses to feeling resentment and even occasional bitterness (`in the early hours') prompted by his commendably exhaustive researches, and I get the impression that much of the author's original sympathy for Dr Kelly evaporated in the heat of commitment to a particular view about sanctions against Iraq and the conduct of the WMD search. Equally disenchanting to me was the author's apparent chagrin about the tormenting of, and lack of absolutely strict fair play towards, Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. For some reason this last mentioned feature signally failed to register on this reader's sympathy-meter. Perhaps the batteries have gone again.
And yet, considering it in its entirety, this is a fine and well-intentioned book, which achieves its purpose despite some self-indulgent (particular in the `Welshness' portions) imperfections. It sensitively incorporates a highly personal view into both the `Dr David Kelly question' and still wider political issues. Some of its assertions also seem admirably fearless. I would therefore definitely recommend it, particularly to readers with some prior knowledge of the events who now wish to read a reflection upon them. It (just) earns its five stars.
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on 25 July 2013
An excellent and well researched portrayal of what really happened in Iraq. This was the part of the book I found the most interesting. I remember the ridiculous sanctions put in place eg no lead pencils for schools, no plasma as these could be turned into WMD. Look at Iraq now, it is in a terrible condition. I certainly will not believe anything coming from governments in the West about WMDs in Syria. I see the UN weapons inspectors have gone there. They should read this book as part of their training.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 July 2014
I very much enjoyed this detailed and painstakingly researched biography of weapons inspector David Kelley, and the examination of his death. Like most of us, I followed the story at the time, but never really understood the ins and outs of the tragedy. I certainly understand a lot more now, but whether I am any nearer the truth or not, I’m still not sure. The question at the heart of the book is whether Kelly committed suicide or whether he was murdered at the instigation of the government to silence him. There was never an inquest, and from the way Robert Lewis describes the discovery of the body and the events surrounding the death, there definitely remain questions that have never been satisfactorily addressed. I am nowhere near knowledgeable enough to judge whether the author has all his facts right or not, or whether his interpretations are always the correct ones, but that doesn’t prevent the book from being a fascinating portrait of a renowned scientist and giving a real insight into the world of weapons inspection. It appears to me that many questions may never be answered, but I do at least feel that I now have a better grasp of the whole sorry affair than I did.
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on 11 December 2015
An excellent book. Fantastic English prose and a balanced realistic account of this sad chapter in the Iraq story. It is so well researched and not in any way biased. The story reads not unlike a thriller / documentary and one is struck by the pathos, objectivity, detailed research and excellent prose throughout. I would highly recommended this book to anyone interested in public affairs. D.Mullins
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on 13 August 2013
Exceedingly interesting and throws light on the many secret and dubious deals between UK and the USA (and also some other countries). It shows that Kelly was engaged in some of these activities and that he was part of the conspiracy to 'reveal' non existent manufacture of WMD by Iraq and that he kept silence on such information being published when was aware that evidence did not exist. Why at his BBC interview he decided to indicate that the reports were false is a mystery
It is suggested that, having done this, he knew that his career was finished and committed suicide; there appears to be the suggestion that his suicide was not entirely "kosher" but this is left hanging.

Well written and absorbing.
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