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Pathologist says David Kelly's death 'textbook suicide'

Dr David Kelly in 2003
Image caption Dr Kelly was the source of a BBC report casting doubt on government claims about Iraq's weapons

The death of Iraq weapons expert David Kelly was a "textbook case" of suicide, according to the pathologist who performed the post-mortem examination.

A group of doctors has questioned the suicide verdict by the Hutton Inquiry in 2004 and called for a full inquest.

But Nicholas Hunt said the scientist's death, after he was exposed as the source for a BBC story, was a "classic case of self-inflicted injury".

He told the Sunday Times he would, however, welcome a full inquest.

Dr Kelly's body was found in woods close to his Oxfordshire home in 2003, after it was revealed he provided the information for a story casting doubt on the government's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being fired within 45 minutes.

Instead of a coroner's inquest, then Prime Minister Tony Blair asked Lord Hutton to conduct an investigation, which found Dr Kelly died from blood loss after slashing his wrist with a knife.

'Nothing to hide'

The details of the post-mortem examination are subject to a 70-year gagging order. Lord Hutton has said this was to avoid causing distress to Dr Kelly's family.

Mr Hunt told the Sunday Times that he found no signs of murder.

"I felt very sorry for David Kelly and the way he had been treated by the government... I had every reason to look for something untoward and would dearly love to have found something," the Home Office pathologist said.

"It was an absolute classic case of self-inflicted injury. You could illustrate a textbook with it.

"If it were anyone else and you were to suggest there's something foul about it, you would be referred for additional training. I would welcome an inquest, I've nothing to hide."

Earlier this month, a group of eight doctors who claimed Lord Hutton's conclusions were unproven wrote to the Times calling for the case to be reopened.

They argued the wound to Dr Kelly's wrist was unlikely to have been fatal.

On Sunday one of the eight, Dr Michael Powers QC, told BBC News: "Evidence needs to be tested. So far the only evidence we have heard is from Dr Hunt..

"There's been no evidence from anyone that may take a contrary view and the quality of evidence hasn't been assessed.

"In a case like this it's vitally important that evidence is properly tested."

He added: "The reason we're not satisfied is that the evidence is too thin at present."

'Much blood'

The detective who found his body said he did not see "much blood".

But Mr Hunt said: "There were big, thick clots of blood inside the sleeve, which came down over the wrist, and a lot of blood soaked into the ground.

"It was there and I noted it in my report."

Mr Hunt told the paper that two of Dr Kelly's main coronary arteries were 70-80% narrower than normal, and his heart disease was so severe that he could have "dropped dead" at any minute.

"If you have narrower arteries, your ability to withstand blood loss falls dramatically," he said.

"Your heart also becomes more vulnerable to anything that could cause it to become unstable, such as stress - which I have no doubt he was under massively."

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "There's a lot of concern being expressed and it's for the attorney general to decide what should happen next."

Previously, the attorney general's office said if new evidence was put to him, he would consider whether an application for a new inquest should be made to the High Court.

The Ministry of Justice said it was still considering a request to release documents relating to the post-mortem examination.

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