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Amazingly, 12 other well-known micro-biologists linked with germ warfare research have died in the past decade, five of them Russians investigating claims that the Israelis were working on viruses to target Arabs. |
The Russian plane in which they were travelling from Tel Aviv to Siberia was shot down on October 2001 over the Black Sea by an 'off-course' Ukrainian surface-to-air missile.
Dr Kelly knew the victims and asked MI6 to find out more details. However, they drew a blank.
Five weeks later, Dr Benito Que, a cell biologist known to Dr Kelly, was found in a coma near his Miami laboratory.
The infectious diseases expert had been investigating how a virus like HIV could be genetically engineered into a biological weapon.
Dr Que, 52, was found unconscious outside in the car park of his lab and died in hospital. Officially, he suffered a heart attack - although his family say he was struck on the head. Police refused to re-open the case.
Ten days after Dr Que's death, another friend of Dr Kelly died. Dr Don Wiley, 57, one of America's foremost microbiologists, had a U.S. Government contract to create a vaccine against the killer Ebola fever and other so-called doomsday germs.
His rental car was found abandoned on a bridge across the Mississippi. The keys were in the ignition and the petrol tank full. There had been no crash, but Dr Wiley had disappeared.
The FBI visited Wiley's laboratory and removed most of his work. A month later his body was found 300 miles downstream, with evidence of severe head injuries. No forensic examination was performed and his death was ruled 'accidental'.
Little wonder, then, that Dr Kelly had begun talking about his body being 'found in the woods'.
And there is more. The most mysterious death of them all happened to Dr Vladimir Pasechnik - a Soviet defector Dr Kelly knew well.
The biochemist had left a drugs industry fair in Paris in 1989, just before the collapse of Communism, saying he wanted to buy souvenirs for family. Instead, he went to the British Embassy where he announced to a startled receptionist that he was a Russian scientist who wanted to defect.
Pasechnik was whisked secretly back to Britain, and Dr Kelly was brought in to verify his claims that the Soviets were adapting cruise missiles armed with germs to help spread killer diseases such as plague and smallpox.
As chief director of the Institute for Ultra-Pure Biological preparations in St Petersburg, Pasechnik had developed killer germs. 'I want the West to know of this. There must be a way to stop this madness,' he told Dr Kelly in a safe house.
Dr Kelly later told the author Gordon Thomas that he believed Pasechnik. 'I knew that he was telling the truth. There was no waffle. It was truly horrifying.'
The two scientists became friends. And soon Vladimir had set up the Regma Biotechnologies laboratory, near Porton Down. He seemed healthy when he left work on the night of November 21, 2001.
Returning home, the 64-year-old cooked supper and went to sleep. He was found dead in bed the next day.
Officially, the reason given was a stroke. However the Wiltshire police later said his demise was 'inexplicable'.
It is against this extraordinary background of highly suspicious deaths that Dr Kelly's own death occurred.
As we know, an inquest on his body was ruled out by Oxfordshire's coroner, a highly unusual move.
Instead, Tony Blair ordered an inquiry by Lord Hutton. It heard evidence from 74 witnesses and concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by slashing the ulnar artery of his left wrist with a garden knife after swallowing painkillers - although none had been prescribed by his GP.
A detailed medical dossier by the 13 British doctors, however, rejects the Hutton conclusion on the grounds that a cut to the small ulnar artery is not deadly.
The dossier is being used by lawyers to demand a proper inquest and the release of Dr Kelly's autopsy report, which has never been made public. Their evidence will be sent to Sir John Chilcot's forthcoming Iraq War inquiry.
One of the doctors, David Halpin, former consultant in trauma at Torbay Hospital, Devon, told me: ' Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss.'
He and the other doctors say: 'To die from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood.
It is unlikely from his stated injury that he would have lost more than a pint.' A lack of blood at the death scene was also confirmed by the search team who found Dr Kelly and the paramedics who tried to treat him.
One of the country's most respected vascular surgeons, Martin Birnstingl, also says that it would be virtually impossible for Dr Kelly to have died by severing the ulnar artery on the little finger side of his inner wrist.
'I have never, in my experience, heard of a case where someone has died after cutting their ulnar artery.
The minute the blood pressure falls, after a few minutes, this artery would stop bleeding. It would spray blood about and make a mess but it would soon stop.'
He believes that if Dr Kelly was really intent on suicide he would have cut the artery in his groin.
Dr Kelly was also right-handed - which meant he would have to slash awkwardly from left to right on his opposite wrist to have cut into the ulnar artery to any depth.
And what of the tablets? The almost empty packet of Co-Proxamol found by the dead scientist's side suggested he had taken 29.
But he had vomited and only a fragment of one remained in his stomach. The level of painkillers in his blood was a third of what is required to cause death.
As David Halpin says: 'The idea that a man like Dr Kelly would choose to end his life like that is preposterous. This was a scientist, an expert on drugs.'
So what really happened to Dr Kelly? The gardening knife that Lord Hutton said killed him was blunt and - although the scientist was not wearing gloves - had no fingerprints on it.
Which brings us back to that unopened letter found on Dr Kelly's desk, which had been sent to him at his home by MoD bosses and signed by Richard Hatfield, the ministry's personnel chief.
It emerged at the Hutton inquiry into Dr Kelly's death that it contained threats demanding his future silence.
At the time, Dr Kelly had received a number of warning phone calls at his home from the MoD about his indiscreet behaviour - and he will have been in no doubt that the official letter was written confirmation of these admonishments.
But he would not be put off. He saw his book as a guarantee of his financial future, which he often worried about.
On what he felt was a lowly £58,000 a year, the scientist fretted that his Government pension (based on his final salary) would not finance a decent retirement for him and his wife.
On the day he died, Janice has confirmed her husband was a distressed man. Dr Kelly lunched with her, before going out for a walk on Harrowdown Hill at 3.30pm.
It was a walk he made regularly at the same time of day - something anyone watching his movements would have been well aware of.
That day, events were already in motion elsewhere. An hour before, at 2.30pm, a senior policeman sat down at his computer at Thames Valley Police headquarters in Oxfordshire.
He began to create a restricted file on his secure computer. Across the top he typed a code name: Operation Mason. Although its contents have never been made public, it would detail the overnight search for Dr Kelly.
Incredibly, he created this file an hour before the scientist even left home.
After Dr Kelly's corpse was found at 8.30am by the volunteer searchers, the senior policeman made his last Operation Mason entry. It simply states: '9.00am. 18.07.03. Body recovered'.
Most intriguingly, at 8am, half an hour before Dr Kelly's body was discovered under the tree, three officers in dark suits from MI5's Technical Assessment Unit were at his house.
The computers and the hard-disk containing the 40,000 words of the explosive book were carried away. They have never been seen since.
Global Research Articles by Sue Reid