What is it about scientists working at Porton Down that make them want to commit suicide?
Just recently, the body of Dr Richard Holmes, 48, was found in a field only 4 miles away, and in very similar circumstances to the now infamous “suicide” of UK weapons inspector to Iraq, Dr David Kelly back in 2003. Holmes too, was a weapons scientist working at the government’s secret chemical warfare laboratory, until he resigned a few weeks ago.
Porton Down in Wiltshire, England, is situated on some 7,000 acres and is home to the UK’s CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) defence establishment. Porton Down has always been a highly secretive facility, with much of the work that goes on there protected from oversight. Controversy continually surrounds Porton Down ; Monkeys and other animals were routinely tested, but more alarmingly, it emerged some three years ago that hundreds of ex-servicemen were used as chemical warfare guinea pigs there between 1939 and 1989. A group of 369 servicemen affected launched legal action against the MoD last March, arguing that tests – including being sent to gas chambers and being exposed to nerve gas, mustard gas and teargas – had left them with health problems ranging from respiratory and skin diseases to cancer and psychological problems. They were later given a paltry £8,000 compensation and an apology from the Ministry of Defence.∗
According to local police there were no unusual circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Holmes but they did say that he had ‘recently been under a great deal of stress’. Similarly, this was also one of the reasons fed to the public for Dr David Kelly’s apparent suicide in 2003.
Dr Holmes, like Dr Kelly, also told his wife that he was ‘going out for a walk’ before later being found dead. Holmes had recently resigned from his job at the facility and was said to be under some considerable stress. Dr Kelly was found dead only days after appearing in front of a parliamentary hearing. Kelly was outed as the source of a leak which exposed the then Blair government as having “sexed up” a dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction which ultimately led to the invasion of Irag. The dossier claimed that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and that it had even reconstituted it’s nuclear weapons programme. No “weapons of mass destruction” were ever found and Iraq’s capability to deliver the non existent weapons was also outrageously overstated. All of the allegations contained within the dossier have since been proven completely false.
The Hutton Inquiry reached the conclusion that Dr Kelly had taken his own life by slitting his left wrist and overdosing on Coproxamol tablets despite much of the crime scene evidence to the contrary. In his 2007 book The Strange Death of David Kelly, Norman Baker MP argued that Kelly was almost certainly murdered. He described the police investigation and Hutton Inquiry as a ‘farce’, which failed to investigate numerous discrepancies and anomalies in the physical, medical and witness evidence. On publication of the report of the Hutton enquiry, many UK newspapers accused the government of a “whitewash”. Not surprisingly, Lord Hutton (appointed by the then Labour government), unsurprisingly cleared the government of any wrongdoing.
A British ambassador called David Broucher reported a conversation with Dr Kelly at a Geneva meeting in February 2003. Broucher related that Kelly said he had assured his Iraqi sources that there would be no war if they co-operated, and that a war would put him in an ‘ambiguous’ moral position.
Broucher had asked Kelly what would happen if Iraq were invaded, and Kelly had replied, ‘I will probably be found dead in the woods.‘