Scientist scathing of original Gilligan story

THE government weapons expert, Dr David Kelly, dismissed as "bull***t" a controversial BBC report which accused the government of making up intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the Hutton Inquiry heard yesterday.

The BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan, has already told the inquiry that Dr Kelly was his source for a story in which he asserted that the government had "sexed up" its document on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

It was Mr Gilligan’s allegation that Alastair Campbell had inserted into the document the claim that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction ready for use within 45 minutes that prompted the government’s row with the BBC, which it is believed led ultimately to the death of Dr Kelly.

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Yesterday, the inquiry was told that Dr Kelly had been unimpressed with Mr Gilligan’s report. Nick Rufford, a journalist who works for the Sunday Times and knew Dr Kelly as a friend, said the weapons expert told him he believed that the government’s position on Iraq was "credible and factual".

He said Dr Kelly told him: "I met Gilligan at the Charing Cross Hotel. I did talk to him about factual stuff, the rest is bull***t."

Further bad news for Mr Gilligan emerged during evidence from Donald Anderson, the chairman of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. He told the inquiry he discovered that Mr Gilligan had passed a list of suggested questions to David Chidgey, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee.

Questioned by James Dingemans, QC, counsel for the inquiry, on whether he thought it was appropriate for Mr Gilligan to have briefed a member of the committee after giving evidence himself, he said he thought Mr Gilligan’s intervention was unprecedented. He said: "I know of no precedent for someone who is a witness, and it is very unusual. It is unprecedented in my view."

Mr Anderson told the inquiry that Mr Chidgey put him in a "dilemma" as the committee took its places for the hearing.

Mr Chidgey had said something to him along the lines of "I have had some briefing from Mr Gilligan".

Mr Anderson told the inquiry: "He said this in confidence, and I like to keep confidences in confidence."