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Leigh Day instructed in demand for formal inquest into death of Dr David Kelly

Six doctors want the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly to be reopened

Dr David Kelly

8 December 2009

A group of six doctors specialising in trauma and vascular surgery has instructed Leigh Day partner Frances Swaine to urge the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, to agree that the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly, the UK's former leading weapons inspector expert, be reopened. The doctors argue that Lord Hutton’s conclusion that Dr Kelly committed suicide is flawed. Lord Hutton was appointed by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to investigate Dr Kelly’s death, rather than allowing a coroner’s inquest.

Dr Kelly died in 2003 after being identified as the source for a BBC story on the grounds for war in Iraq. His body was found in woodland near his home in Oxfordshire on 18 July 2003 and the causes of death were given by Lord Hutton as:

‘….and that the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to the left wrist which Dr Kelly inflicted on himself with the knife found by his body. It is probably that the ingestion of an excess amount of Coproxamol tablets coupled with apparently clinically silent coronary artery disease would both have played a part in bringing about death more certainly and more rapidly than would have otherwise have been the case”.

The group of doctors, including trauma, pathology and vascular specialists, has produced a report that rejects haemorrhage caused by incised wounds to his left wrist, as being the main cause of death. One of the group, former assistant coroner Dr Michael Powers QC, said that he cuts would not have caused him [Dr Kelly] to bleed to death and that there was only a normal dose of co-proxamol present in his body. He said there was not enough information to determine whether Dr Kelly was murdered or killed himself.

Norman Baker, the local MP for Dr Kelly’s family, has spent a long time investigating the details surrounding his death and is pressing for a new public inquiry.

Frances Swaine, partner and head of the human rights department, said:

"I have been instructed by six very reputable doctors, to press for a frank and fearless investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly, such as only an Inquest would afford. I am persuaded by the report provided by my clients that the severing of the left ulnar artery in the fashion described by Lord Hutton - with a blunt penknife - would be quite insufficient to cause a man to bleed to death, unless he had problem with his blood clotting. Having alighted on this as a possible cause of death the Hutton Inquiry did not investigate many of the other factors surrounding his death, did not take evidence from many of the potential witnesses who might have thrown light on the true cause of death and has denied the public the opportunity to know what might actually have happened to Dr Kelly. It is not fair to the memory of a long-serving, and senior, civil servant for him to go down in history as having committed suicide if, in fact his death was caused by other means. We are not suggesting that we do know how he died but we are saying it is time an Inquest, held under the Coroner's Rules, with the power to call witnesses, and hear evidence, ought to take place."

For more information please contact Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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Human rights and civil liberties

Who worked on this case

Frances Swaine