Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Geoff Hoon visits Mrs Kelly

In the week following Dr Kelly's death Mrs Kelly asked Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to visit her at her home.  This is a contemporary report from the Daily Mail to which I have no commentary to add.

Daily Mail, The (London, England) - Thursday, July 24, 2003
GEOFF Hoon was yesterday summoned to explain himself by the widow of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

The Defence Secretary, who has been accused by Gulf veterans of 'moral bankruptcy', made a cap-in-hand visit to the home of Janice Kelly as the crisis threatens to end his career.

He was driven to the home of the woman who has the power to break him to answer for what happened at the Ministry of Defence in the days before Dr Kelly's lonely death last week on an Oxfordshire hillside.

Dr Kelly had faced a brutal grilling by a committee of MPs after being identified by Mr Hoon's chief press aide as the source of a BBC story claiming Downing Street 'sexed up' the dossier used to justify war on Iraq.

Mrs Kelly has not made public her views on the pressures brought to bear on her husband before his apparent suicide.

The family's only observation has been that all involved should reflect 'long and hard'.

Defence officials insisted the visit was akin to those made to the bereaved families of soldiers.

But neither Mr Hoon nor Tony Blair has visited the home of any family who lost a soldier, sailor or airman in the Iraq war.

Mr Hoon has met bereaved families - most recently those of the six military police killed near Basra, when the bodies were flown back to Brize Norton airbase.

Yesterday's extraordinary visit, lasting an hour and 17 minutes, is understood to have involved Mr Hoon answering Mrs Kelly's questions about her husband's treatment by the Ministry of Defence.

He later insisted to colleagues that there had been 'no recriminations' and he had found the family 'incredibly impressive'.

A lawyer by training, Mr Hoon was accompanied by a senior civil servant who took notes of the meeting with Mrs Kelly and her daughters.

The Defence Secretary clearly feels vulnerable as Lord Hutton's inquiry into the circumstances leading to Dr Kelly's death gets under way.

The visit marked an ominous turnaround for Mr Hoon since the weekend, when he felt able to go to the Grand Prix at Silverstone.

He has since faced accusations that he was the man who allowed Dr Kelly's name to become public, piling on unbearable pressure.

On Tuesday, Tony Blair denied that authority to leak Dr Kelly's name came from Downing Street.

That left Mr Hoon looking isolated and vulnerable.

The visit to Dr Kelly's home was an unprecedented humiliation for a senior minister who, a fortnight ago, was writing angry letters to the BBC demanding the Corporation agree the weapons expert was its source.

Over the weekend Mr Hoon was
happily giving assurances that the MoD had used its 'best efforts' to preserve Dr Kelly's anonymity. At that point he felt no need to visit Mrs Kelly to explain.

Yesterday the media was tipped off and he had to brave the cameras as he left his Vauxhall Omega outside the family home in Southmoor, near Abingdon.

Guarded by a dozen uniformed police and one plain clothes man, Mr Hoon adjusted his purple tie as he walked down the drive.

Mrs Kelly's questions are thought to centre on what happened at the Ministry in the five days after her husband volunteered the fact that he had spoken to BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan and before his name became known publicly.

There has been speculation that threats were made against his career and his pension. There have also been questions over when and why he was told he was to be exposed to public scrutiny.

After the meeting Mr Hoon said only: 'I came to see Mrs Kelly.' The MoD said: 'Whatever is discussed is private between them.' Mrs Kelly's daughters Sian, 32, and twins Ellen and Rachel, 30, have been with her since her husband's death last week.

The family released a statement on Saturday that said: 'Events over recent weeks have made David's life intolerable, and all of those involved should reflect long and hard on this fact.' There was no suggestion that Mr Hoon offered any form of apology over Dr Kelly's death.

A war veterans' leader branded Mr Hoon and the MoD 'morally bankrupt' yesterday. Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, said: 'He has not visited a single family of soldiers who died in Iraq, and neither has he met with the relatives of the 574 veterans who have died since the Gulf War in 1991, despite repeated requests.

'We have written letter after letter requesting meetings, and he has not responded favourably to one.' Mr Rusling said the decision to meet Mrs Kelly was politically motivated by the 'mire in which he finds himself'.

Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: 'I think the widows and loved ones of those who were killed in Iraq won't understand why Geoff Hoon made this visit to David Kelly's family and not to them.'

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