David Kelly death reports: Key findings

  • Published

What were the key findings from the post-mortem examination and toxicology reports into the death of Dr David Kelly, the Military of Defence Iraqi weapons expert?

The Ministry of Justice released the two reports, amid claims and speculation that the inquiry into the scientist's death had not reached the correct conclusions about the manner of his death in 2003.

Dr Kelly's body was found in 2003 near his Oxfordshire home after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story on the grounds for going to war in Iraq.


Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist, was called to the scene where Dr Kelly's body was found on 18 July 2003. He observed bloodstaining as follows:

  • On the right-hand side of the shirt beneath the left hand
  • Over the right groin area and over the tops of both thighs
  • A "heavier patch" over the right knee
  • Some over the right elbow
  • A patch over the inner aspect of the right knee
  • "Heavy bloodstaining over the left arm"
  • On the back of the left elbow
  • Lighter bloodstaining over the back of the fingers
  • On the lining and the peak of the Barbour jacket
  • On a digital watch lying near his left hand
  • Adjacent to this, a pruning knife with bloodstaining on handle and blade
  • A pool of blood beneath the knife approximately 8-10cm by 4-5cm

"There was bloodstaining and a pool of blood in an area running from the left arm of the deceased for a total distance of in the order of 2'-3'."

At the post-mortem, Dr Hunt observed the following:

  • A series of incised wounds of varying depths on and around the left wrist
  • The largest wound was 6cm long and penetrated as deep as the tendons
  • The ulnar artery had been "completely severed"
  • Two deep wounds at the crease of the wrist
  • Further multiple, fine, superficial incisions

"There was extensive reddening around the whole injury complex indicating that they had been inflicted while the victim was alive.

"The orientation and arrangement of the wounds over the left wrist are typical of self-inflicted injury.

"There is no positive pathological evidence to indicate that this man has been subjected to a sustained, violent assault prior to his death.

"There is no evidence from the post-mortem or my observations at the scene to indicate that the deceased had been dragged or otherwise transported to the location at which is body was found."

The time of death was estimated to be between 1615 on 17 July and 0115 on 18 July.

Dr Hunt's conclusions:

"In summary, it is my opinion that the main factor involved in bringing about the death of David Kelly is the bleeding from the incised wounds to his left wrist.

"Had this not occurred, he may well not have died at this time.

"Furthermore, on the balance of probability it is likely that the ingestion of an excess number of co-proxamol 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 been the case.

"Therefore I give as the cause of death:

  • 1a Haemorrhage
  • 1b Incised wounds to the left wrist
  • 2 Co-proxamol ingestion and coronary artery disease."

Three blister packets of co-proxamol were found at the scene, but only one tablet remained. Co-proxamol is a mix of the painkillers paracetamol and dextropropoxyphene. It is typically used to ease mild or moderate pain.

The toxicology report was written by forensic scientist Allan Alexander Richard. He found the following:

  • 97 micrograms of paracetamol per millilitre of blood
  • 1 microgram of dextropropoxyphene per millilitre of blood
  • No alcohol

He continued:

  • The concentration of dextropropoxyphene in the blood was "significantly lower than the average level reported in fatal overdoses".
  • The paracetamol concentration was "much higher than would be expected for therapeutic use but lower than would normally be expected in paracetamol fatalities if no other factors or drugs were involved".
  • "It seems very likely that Dr Kelly had died before all the paracetamol was absorbed and therefore higher levels may have been produced if death had not intervened and he had not vomited."

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