19 July 2003

MoD to hold inquiry into Kelly death

The Ministry of Defence is to hold an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the death of David Kelly, the prime minister's official spokesman said today.

The move has yet to be confirmed by the MoD itself, although a judge is expected to be appointed as early as this afternoon.

Mr Blair's spokesman, speaking as the prime minister arrived in Tokyo on the latest leg of his marathon diplomatic mission, said: "We have indicated that if this is Dr Kelly's body, then the government intends to hold an independent judicial enquiry.

"In these circumstances, people should not jump to conclusions and they should exercise restraint."

He said: "The prime minister is obviously very distressed for the family.

Mr Blair's official spokesman added: "The prime minister has been speaking for a fair amount of time on the phone in recent hours to the permanent secretary at the ministry of defence, Sir Kevin Tebbitt and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, and [the] constitutional affairs secretary, Charles Falconer."

The discovery of the body in the Oxfordshire beauty spot -now presumed to be the missing defence scientist - will also require a coroner's inquest. The remains are expected to be identified formally tomorrow.

David Kelly appeared before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee and was said to be the source who briefed Andrew Gilligan about the sexing up of the September dossier.

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