THE remains of the former Iraq weapons inspector Dr David Kelly were exhumed earlier this year at the request of his family, the diocese of Oxford, which granted the faculty, has confirmed this week.
Dr Kelly took his own life near his home in Longworth, Oxfordshire, in 2003, two days after being revealed as the source of a BBC report saying that evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been “sexed up” by the Government. His death led to the Hutton inquiry, which concluded that the cause of death was suicide, but no inquest was held.
The Sunday Times journalist Andrew Gilligan, the author of the BBC story, reported this week that sources close to the family of Dr Kelly had been prompted to apply for the faculty after the grave had been “desecrated” by campaigners who did not believe that the scientist took his own life.
One of the 11 members of the group Justice for Kelly, Gerrard Jonas, told the paper that they had placed placards around the grave, but denied that this amounted to desecration. It had also considered requesting a faculty for exhumation. He suggested that the exhumation had been carried out to conceal evidence.
The family source denied that the decision had anything to do with the State, however. “Janice just hated what was happening.”
An application for a faculty for exhumation is submitted to the court by means of a formal petition arguing that the circumstances are exceptional to the presumption that Christian burial is final, and that exhumation is therefore justifiable. The final decision is given by the Chancellor, with guidance from the Court of Arches.
A spokesman for the diocese of Oxford said: “There is a presumption that Christian burial is permanent and that remains should not be portable. Therefore, a faculty for exhumation is granted only in exceptional circumstances. The body of Dr David Kelly was exhumed at the request of his family.
“The court procedure is governed by the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules, and the same procedure applies regardless of the identity of the deceased or those making the application.”