Body 'matches' UK Iraq expert
- BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Body 'matches' Iraq expert
Police searching for the weapons expert suggested by the government as the possible source for a BBC story on Iraq say the body they have found matches Dr David Kelly's appearance.
The body was found at 0920 BST by a member of the police team searching for Dr Kelly in a wooded area at Harrowdown Hill, near Faringdon, Oxfordshire.
Government adviser Dr Kelly, 59, went missing from his home in Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, at about 1500 BST on Thursday.
The body was found lying on the ground, a police spokeswoman said.
She said items had been removed from Dr Kelly's house as they would in any missing person's inquiry.
The body was found around five miles from Dr Kelly's home.
Earlier this week, Dr Kelly denied being the BBC's main source for a story claiming Downing Street had "sexed up" a dossier about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
He appeared before the Commons foreign affairs committee on Tuesday.
MPs on the committee reacted with shock and disbelief at news of Dr Kelly's disappearance.
His family had contacted the police when he failed to return home by 2345 BST on Thursday.
Tony Blair, who is heading to Japan after his speech to Congress in Washington, has been informed about the discovery of the body.
Huge media attention has been on Dr Kelly since the Ministry of Defence said he had admitted meeting Andrew Gilligan, the BBC correspondent behind the controversial Iraq story.
Mr Gilligan said a source had told him that the dossier on Iraq had been "sexed up" by Downing Street.
The BBC correspondent has refused to name his source, but the MoD said Dr Kelly had come forward to say it may have been him.
Acting superintendent Dave Purnell, of Thames Valley Police, speaking to reporters in Wantage, Oxfordshire, said: "We haven't ruled anything out yet. Clearly there are people at the scene now and there is no further information as to the body that has been found apart from to say it is a male.
"This is clearly a sensitive inquiry at the moment. The family of Dr David Kelly have been aware of what the police have been doing in relation to the search for him."
Superintendent Purnell said the search for Dr Kelly continued with the police helicopter and around 70 officers.
He said the official's family were aware that a body had been found. A police family liaison officer is with them.
Harrowdown Hill, where the body is found, is an area popular with walkers but "quite off the beaten track", he added.
Graham Atkins, landlord of the Waggon and Horses pub in Southmoor, told BBC News Online: "Everybody at the pub really sends their best to the family. It is shocking news."
Police say Dr Kelly is an avid walker and has good local knowledge of the many footpaths surrounding his home.
His disappearance and failure to make contact with anyone was described by his family as 'out of character'.
Initial searches of the house, outbuildings and grounds of the property were completed in the early hours of Friday.
Checks of local hospitals have also shown no trace of Dr Kelly.
Dr Kelly is 5ft 8ins, of slim build and with grey receding hair and a white well-trimmed beard.
He has green/grey eyes and was last seen wearing an off-white cotton shirt possibly striped, blue jeans, with a brown leather belt and brown shoes.
Anyone who feels they may have information that can help in tracing Dr Kelly should call 08458 505 505.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "We are aware that Dr David Kelly has gone missing and we are obviously concerned."
The ministry said Dr Kelly had at no point been threatened with suspension or dismissal for speaking to Mr Gilligan.
It was made clear to him that he had broken civil service rules by having unauthorised contact with a journalist, but "that was the end of it", said a spokesman.
Downing Street says it is "very concerned about news that David Kelly has gone missing". A spokesman said thoughts were with Dr Kelly's family.
Number 10 says "normal personnel procedures" were followed after Dr Kelly volunteered that he might have been the source of Mr Gilligan's report.
It was made clear to Dr Kelly that his name was likely to become public knowledge because he was one of only a small number of people it could have been about, the spokesman said.
After questioning Dr Kelly earlier this week, the Commons foreign affairs select committee said it was "most unlikely" he was the main source for the BBC story.
And they said Dr Kelly, who has worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq, had been "poorly treated" by the government - a charge strongly rejected by the MoD.
Committee chairman Donald Anderson told the BBC his "heart went out" to Dr Kelly's family as the search for the official went on.
Another member of the committee, Tory John Maples said he was "speechless" after hearing of the discovery of a body.
"If it is (Dr Kelly), it is just awful. What can you say? Nothing," he said.
"There must be more to this than we had thought. I do not know what that means, I just think there is."
Tory MP Richard Ottaway, another committee member, said: "He is not used to the media glare, he is not used to the intense spotlight he has been put under."
The BBC has rejected Mr Anderson's claim that Mr Gilligan was an "unreliable witness" who had changed his story about the Iraq dossier claims when he met the committee in private on Thursday.