The death of Dr David Kelly in 2003 in the UK is perhaps today all but forgotten.
But the reverberations of his mysterious and troubling death – officially ruled a suicide, a verdict that is widely disputed – continue, as Dr Stephen Frost, a former Ministry of Defence medical doctor, is finding out.
Frost was sacked by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), without notice or explanation, in September 2013, after an incident in which a pharmacist wrongly dispensed super-strength morphine to a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
He decided to take the MoD to an industrial tribunal.
Frost says he was sacked because he suggested that the morphine, six times stronger than that prescribed to the patient by another doctor, may have been siphoned off in a potentially criminal operation. Frost says he turned whistleblower after becoming convinced that the patient never took the drugs he was given, and that he was first ignored and then sacked when he suggested police should be called.
The MoD, understandably, denies this. It says Frost never called for a police investigation, and was sacked because he failed to tell the patient he was at risk of an overdose.
What’s emerged from the tribunal is that one of the officers who sacked Frost, Colonel Carson Black, did a bit of background research on Frost, and discovered that he had co-signed a letter to The Guardian in 2013, suggesting that Kelly’s death was not a suicide. The other signatory was Dr David Halpin, a retired surgeon. You can watch a fascinating interview with Halpin here.
Black noted that Frost was a “leading light in the group of doctors who wish to reopen the case of Dr David Kelly, the government scientist whose suicide in 2003 resulted in the Hutton inquiry. He is vociferously critical of government in the press and on social media … a number of tweets refer to the ‘illegal war in Iraq’.”
According to the Blackpool Gazette, Colonel John Burgess, head of clinical operations for the Army, told the tribunal he was sent the emails by Colonel Black, who was at that time the MoD’s regional healthcare director for the north.
One of the emails said: “Having read widely at the weekend, it’s clear to me Dr Frost has an axe to grind and it surprises me that he has chosen to work in the MoD environment when his views are so strong.”
Colonel Burgess told the tribunal: ‘I certainly formed an opinion that if Dr Frost wished to return to the MoD as a locum then, if that were to occur, it might raise extra issues.’
Frost’s barrister, John Hendy QC, accused Black of using tactics reminiscent of the Stasi, the East German secret police. Hendy told Black the emails “were designed to sink [Frost] without a trace”, to which Black replied “No, not at all.”
The tribunal is due to resume in January 2017.
Picture source: Flickr