in Blog

Christopher Steele, David Kelly, and the Hutton Inquiry

Not this again: the media have one image of Steele, and yes, he's wearing a tuxedo.

Not this again: the media have one image of Steele, and yes, he’s wearing a tuxedo.

My last post expressed concern about the possibility our intelligence services might seek to unduly influence British elections, and since then it has transpired that a former SIS officer, and a few of his former SIS colleagues, sought to do precisely that to the last US Presidential election. Months before the vote, Christopher Steele was privately touting a now notorious dossier of entirely fictional Trump allegations supplied to him (so Steele claimed) by impeccable sources in Russian intelligence. The finer details of this episode are unclear to me, but what I find particularly interesting is the light it casts on an aspect of the Hutton Inquiry, which was held (14 years ago now) to examine “the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly”.

I have no idea if Christopher Steele and David Kelly ever met, although considering Steele was working under diplomatic cover in Moscow while Kelly toured the country as part of a secret biowarfare inspection team, I think it’s safe to say they may well have done. Although they both relied on obviously unreliable humint to draft dodgy dossiers, no working relationship suggests itself. What I am more interested in is Christopher Steele’s current whereabouts.

After Steele was named as the originator of this dossier the press were at his family home within hours. The exact process by which he was identified, and his home tracked down, is also unclear, but by the time the journalists arrived, he had gone. According to reports, Steele and his family had left the night before. They had dropped their three cats off with a neighbour for safekeeping, and without saying where they were going, they disappeared in such a hurry that they left all their lights on. Where they are now, nobody knows. Every single mainstream media outlet has it that Steele’s family are in a safe house some where, and “security sources” (whoever they might be) are briefing journos to this effect.

When David Kelly first came to the attention of the world’s media, when he was “blown”, he too, together with his wife Janice, very suddenly disappeared from their family home. Nobody knew where they went. To this day, we – the public – do not know where the Kellys were between the 9th and 12th of July 2003. Without providing actual addresses (or being asked for them), Janice Kelly told the Inquiry they stayed at a hotel in Weston-Super-Mare and a friend’s house in Cornwall.  The problem with this is that eyewitnesses saw them at other locations during this period. Rod Godfrey, a fellow weapons inspector living near Swindon, told the Inquiry he was visited by Kelly at his home on the morning of the 10th. And a few locals in Kelly’s village told me (and plenty of other people) that Kelly still attended the cribbage night in the Hind’s Head as usual.

As I maintain in Kelly’s biography, Dark Actors, the couple were almost certainly accommodated in a government safe house during this period. It is, after all, exactly what is happening to the Steeles. It is standard procedure for anyone who maintains and utilises covert human sources for SIS. The holy, unbreakable bond between source and handler can never be broken: this is perhaps the only cardinal rule of intelligence work, and it is obeyed even when the sources feed the handlers nothing but rubbish. Even rubbish has its uses, as long as it’s the right kind of rubbish, and it isn’t hard for sources to guess at what is required. The point is that to keep these relationships secure, both source and handler must be protected.

Now that he has gone to ground, Steele may never publicly surface ever again. Kelly, in comparison, was shoved back into the media limelight by his own government within days. He was never allowed back into Iraq, and shortly after his televised appearance before the Select Committee, he killed himself. Kelly’s sources were rounded up by the Americans, put into orange jump suits, and repatriated into other countries under false identities. Those who are still alive experience very close supervision by their new host governments and by the US. Steele’s sources, on the other hand, are still out there, and still selling. To say this situation opens a can of worms is an understatement. But the point I wanted to raise is this:

Steele’s safe house reminds us that Janice Kelly’s testimony to Hutton was deliberately stripped of any SIS content. The same went for any other “witness” appearing at Hutton who depended in any way on a civil service pension. These witnesses had to secure permission from the government before they appeared, and their testimony was vetted in advance by Treasury solicitors. The late Brian Jones relates all this in his book. Those witnesses who couldn’t be cowed in this way weren’t called. And Hutton, of course, agreed to it all, his deference to national security being absolutely typical of the British judiciary.

Anyone who thinks you can hold a satisfactory inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly while allowing the government to omit any detail its deems pertinent to national security is deeply deluded, or stridently dishonest.

It’s worse than Denning in ’63.

An inquiry into Steele is equally important, given that it would touch not just on the subversion of democratic processes but also, critically, the toxic interplay between private sector money and intelligence community sources. Kelly got crucified, Steele gets to sneak off into the shadows a wealthy man. Why? Both of them peddled rubbish. But only one of them ever briefed truthfully against his own government.

Steele's house in Farnham. Wonder what a land registry search would show. An offshore holding company in the Caribbean, perhaps?

Steele’s house in Farnham. I wonder what a land registry search would show. An offshore holding company in the Caribbean, perhaps?


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Leave a Reply for Peter Beswick Cancel Reply

Write a Comment


  1. Pretty sure the Kelly’s went down to Cornwall on the 10th, stayed as guests of John and Pamela Dabbs (both gave witness statements to the police). Miles Goslett doorstepped them but I don’t think he got very much or if he did it wasn’t printed.

    Funny how the Kelly home was under seige by the press on the 9th and then media interest magnified on the 15th (televised FAC) and then the ISC on the 16th; then on the 17th no press, no Satellite dish broadcasting units. No nothing when David stepped out of his home for a walk except possibly a mass of tumbleweed blowing down the street.
    Even before the 17th Kelly’s daughter had to fight off the hacks when she went to feed the cats. And all that time Kelly’s computers were left unguarded with lots of UK and US Secrets on them. With all the press coverage the local burglars would know the house was empty.

    Was David due to be whacked on the 9th? Why did the police interview each member of the crib team twice? And ignore the player who had a message from David? Why did the Dental records go missing on the 9th? Did the foreign assassins not trust Mi5 to deliver the real David Kelly.

    Such fun being a conspiracy theorist.

  2. I have to admit to not being sure Kelly was home on the 17th, an email ostensibly sent from his home or from a computer accessing his email account from Timbuktu has a problem attached. There was a mistake on the email Kelly sent that morning to his friends in Whitehall that Kelly couldn’t have made. He had been asked to compile a list of journalists he had had contact with. So Kelly wrote the names down in his notebook but his handwriting isn’t easy to read in his notebook the name Susan Watts looks like Susan Wells. And that is what was transcribed into the email that we are meant to believe came from Kelly. Susan Watts was a big part of Kelly’s problems he would not have misread his hand writing or if he did he would have wondered who the hell is Susan Wells.

    Journalists names in Kelly’s notebook page 10

    Jorno list emails from Kelly’s email account

    Jorno list received at MoD

    Note on emailed copies time on Kelly machine 10.22, time on MoD machine 9.02, probably just a GMT / BST mismatch but it does put into question what time it was actually sent. Also good mate Julie Fint doesn’t appear on list – don’t know what that means really.

    It also makes no sense to have Kelly wandering around with his mad up, he may well have been offered a Safe House accommodation for the 17th onwards but he told them to stick their offer up their arses for obvious reasons and went home.

    So for this thought process lets assume he is at home on the 17th and manages to avoid the all the people looking for him and sneak out;

    1) The CIA, they wanted any US secrets removed from Kelly’s custody. From Robert’s Gudjonsson revelation we have to conclude the US had revoked his Security Clearance, MoD bosses at the Hutton i assured Hutton (for what that was worth) that they had not revoked his clearance but the emails link below shows Kelly was not a suspected OSA offender on the 16th, it also shows that the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, SO12 were very keen to have a word.

    2) SO12 Kelly was under suspicion of possibly being involved in other leaks other than the 45 minute one (which wasn’t a leak because I knew it to be bollocks when Blair announced it in the Commons)

    3) Kelly’s bosses, they were under pressure from their political bosses to clear the matter up quickly, they wanted to see him

    4) Britain’s wonderful press. A week of avid publicity but not one journo in site?

    But the point I want to make is this, I have recently come across a blog

    And the author theorises that Kelly was picked up by a car that day (17th) and details a possible chronology, I can’t comment on the veracity because I’ve not seen the evidence.

    But at Hutton Mrs K says this

    “Q. So he had gone?
    A. He had gone by 3.20.
    Q. So between 3 and 3.20 he had gone for a walk?
    A. That is right, yes.
    Q. And what were you doing for the rest of the day?
    A. I was still feeling extremely ill so I went to sit in the sitting room. I could not settle, I put the TV on, which is unheard of for me at that time of the day. There were a few callers at the front door. I answered those and had a short chat with each of them. Then I began to get rather worried because normally if David was going for a longer walk, he would say. It was a kind of family tradition, if you were going for a longer walk you would say where you were going and what time you would be back.”

    “There were a few callers at the front door. I answered those and had a short chat with each of them”!!!

    Hutton being Hutton the questions that weren’t asked; Who were they? What did they want? Did they want to see your husband?

    There were gangs of people after him and if Norman Baker is to be believed an ugly crew of Iraqi assassins were waiting to pounce.

    That was rather long winded for what I wanted to say;

    “Anyone who thinks you can hold a satisfactory inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly while allowing the government to omit any detail its deems pertinent to national security is deeply deluded, or stridently dishonest.”

    You are absolutely right Robert and also there wouldn’t be the public mistrust in government, politicians, the civil service, the police, the Justice system ….. and there wouldn’t be people like us that refuse to let it go.



    • Sorry for the delay in your comment appearing on this site Peter. I have been deluged with Russian spam since early January. It has caused some delay in the comments process. I have done some background checking since your earlier post and if nothing else I have verified the connection of Mr and Mrs Dabbs with the Cornwall area. My (speculative) understanding is that Kelly was offered and encouraged to go to a safe house, went there with Jan and possibly stayed one night, and then went down to Cornwall. I understand Tom Mangold has been led to believe something similar. Kelly would have retained the use of any safe house, however, and kept the keys. In this case the safe house would be somewhere that fits in with the Rod Godfrey visit. Possibly the safe house may have been somewhere very near Kelly’s home. It would be advantageous for the UK IC to have a property or two near Porton Down and Oxford. Several lengthy debriefings have occurred around there. The omission of the safe house from the chronology is something tantamount to an obstruction of justice because the search for Kelly would, rationally, have had to include a visit to the safe house. It may very well configure somehow with his movements on his final day, but of course we cannot know.

      EDIT TO ADD: Oh, and by way of further reply, thank you for reminding me of the DIS emails concerning the MPSB investigation. I think it can be fairly inferred from the inter-DIS emails of 15 and 16 July that while the DIS may have no belief that Kelly committed an OSA offence, this can’t have cut any mustard with Branch, who, after all, have their own investigatory remit. DIS cannot set limits to a Branch investigation any more than the MOD can. Branch is answerable to Home Sec and PM only. That exchange reveals senior DIS officials under the erroneous belief that they can tell Branch what it may and may not investigate. That is either ignorance, or a standpoint displayed for purely political reasons.