A Walter Mitty Fantasist? No One Was More Driven by Integrity and Humanity Thanmy Friend David Kelly

By Hay, Alastair | Daily Mail (London), August 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Walter Mitty Fantasist? No One Was More Driven by Integrity and Humanity Thanmy Friend David Kelly


Hay, Alastair, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: ALASTAIR HAY

DOWNING Street's publicity machine will, it seems, stop at nothing in its ruthless instinct for self-preservation.

Before Dr David Kelly has even been buried, No 10 officials are blackening his name, smearing him as a unreliable fantasist.

Coming just days before his funeral, such vicious allegations are profoundly distasteful, especially to his heartbroken family and shattered friends.

Soon after Dr Kelly's death, the Prime Minister called on everyone to show dignity and restraint in the wake of this tragedy. Yet now, by their cruel, self- serving actions, Tony Blair's very own spin doctors have exposed the hypocrisy of those words.

What is more, I know there is not the smallest shred of truth in their nasty slur against Dr Kelly. I worked in a similar field - arms control - to him for many years and came to know him well through conferences, seminars and meetings.

Through such contacts, I came to regard him as someone of the greatest integrity, honesty and ability, the last person who could be labelled - to use Downing Street's invidious term - as a 'Walter Mitty' character.

Indeed, he was the very opposite. Driven by a profound respect for the truth, as well as his own innate modesty and decency, he would never have dreamt of indulging in any empty boasts about his work.

As others have pointed out, David Kelly was a devoted family man who was never happier than when he was with his beloved wife and children in his rural Oxfordshire home. It was obvious that his family were at the centre of his world.

In fact, on the last occasion we spoke together, he expressed his eager anticipation at the forthcoming wedding of his daughter.

His family will be suffering grievously now, especially on this, the day of his funeral. That is why the behaviour of the Government has been so lacking in any compassion.

I have some understanding of the trauma that Dr Kelly's wife and children are experiencing.

Just 11 months ago my own life was torn apart when my wife committed suicide. We had been married for 32 years and the event was totally unexpected. It left me devastated.

Of all forms of death, suicide is probably the hardest for a family to cope with, as it leaves so many unanswered questions. The gaping sense of loss is compounded by bewilderment.

And for Dr Kelly's circle, the agony must be all the greater because the aftermath of his departure is being played out on a public stage, with controversy raging all around.

This spirit of personal empathy, allied to my deep respect for Dr Kelly, makes me so angry at the campaign of character assassination being waged by Downing Street.

It is bitterly ironic that a Government that saw fit to employ Dr Kelly at the highest level, which trumpeted his expertise and praised his work for the United Nations, should now turn on him so monstrously.

Ministers obviously did not think he was such a deluded fantasist when they sent him to Iraq to carry out the vital, courageous task of assessing Saddam's biological weapons programme.

Nor did they seem to regard him as a 'Walter Mitty' character when he was appointed to lead the British team investigating Russia's illegal biological weapons in the early 1990s.

Similarly, the anti-Kelly propagandists now try to criticise him for allegedly speaking to the BBC. …

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