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Was he assassinated for pulling the plug on Tony Blair in the phony intelligence dossier?
A body found in central England matches the description of a missing Ministry of Defence adviser who had become embroiled in a controversy over the government's intelligence dossiers on Iraqi arms, police said on Friday.
"The body found matches the description of David Kelly, but the body has not yet been formally identified," a spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said.
Officers had earlier reported finding a man's body in a wooded area about 8km from Kelly's home. His family reported him missing late on Thursday when he didn't return to his home in Southmoor, about 30km southwest of Oxford, from an afternoon walk.
Kelly, 59, has acknowledged speaking to a British Broadcasting Corp journalist who reported claims that a key aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair had insisted on including assertions doubted by intelligence experts in a dossier on Iraqi weapons.
The government, which denies the claims, has asked the BBC to say whether Kelly was the unidentified official cited in the story, but the network has refused.
Blair was informed of the discovery of the body as he flew from Washington to Tokyo, his office confirmed.
The ministry of defence said on Friday that Kelly had been told he had violated civil service rules by having unauthorised contact with a journalist, but "that was the end of it". It said Kelly had at no point been threatened with suspension or dismissal after admitting speaking to the BBC reporter.
Went for a walk
Kelly left his home at around 15:00 on Thursday, telling his wife he was going for a walk, and the family called police when he failed to return by 22:45 that night. The body was found at 09:20 on Friday, police said.
Television journalist Tom Mangold said he had spoken to Janice Kelly on Friday morning, and she had said her husband had felt stressed after appearing before a parliamentary committee to face questions about the BBC report.
"She told me he had been under considerable stress, that he was very, very angry about what had happened at the committee, that he wasn't well, that he had been to a safe house, he hadn't liked that, he wanted to come home," Mangold told ITV news.
"She didn't use the word depressed, but she said he was very, very stressed and unhappy about what had happened and this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in." The ministry of defence said it had offered accommodation for Kelly so that he could avoid media attention.
Kelly appeared before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee on Tuesday. The May 29 BBC report had said some intelligence experts thought a government dossier published last September should not have included a claim that Iraq could launch some chemical or biological weapons on 45 minutes' notice.
Denied making claims
BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan subsequently said his source accused Alastair Campbell, Blair's communications director, of insisting on including the 45-minute claim.
Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector, told committee he had spoken to BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan, but didn't believe he was the source for the reporter's story. He denied making the claims included in Gilligan's reports.
"The committee felt pretty confident that he (Kelly) was not in fact the source," the committee's chair, Labour Party lawmaker Donald Anderson, told BBC television on Friday.
Anderson said the weapons expert had appeared "rather relaxed" when he testified to the committee on Tuesday.
The BBC report caused a political storm over the handling of weapons intelligence by Prime Minister Tony Blair's office, helping prompt two parliamentary probes into the issue. In the midst of the controversy, Kelly approached bosses at the ministry of defence to say he had spoken to Gilligan without authorisation. The ministry later named him as a possible source for the report.
The Foreign Affairs Committee, on a party-line vote, cleared Campbell of allegations he "sexed up" the September dossier by inserting the 45-minute claim. - Sapa-AP
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