One July afternoon in 2003, in a quiet part of Oxfordshire, a scientist went out for a walk and never came back.
Dr David Kelly had been all over the news in the preceding days; as an investigator on the team which went into Iraq to check whether they had weapons of mass destruction, he had been accused of anonymously briefing a BBC reporter that the government's case for the Iraq War had been deliberately falsified.
When the news came through that his body had been found in woods near his country home, for the briefest of moments, a stunned Britain held its breath and wondered if this was what it had come to. Our intelligence services were already collaborating in the torture of British citizens for reasons of national security. Had they committed murder too? Tony Blair himself was for once without answer. At a press conference in Japan a reporter stood up and asked him if he had blood on his hands. The Prime Minister stood there blinking behind his mask until he walked, shocked, from the podium.
But Britain kept calm and carried on. Normal service was resumed, and the world began spinning again. David Kelly, we were told, had committed suicide for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Downing Street or the Iraq War. But not all could believe that. For those that couldn't, they too lost a part of themselves that afternoon. Conspiracy theorists, eccentrics, obsessives, lunatics, paranoids, fantasists, zealots: they had been awarded all these sobriquets and more. Yet it was easy enough to see, lurking behind the cracks and gaps in the government's account, the hulk of a great and deliberate dishonesty. Simply to read about what transpired in Longworth, Oxfordshire on the 17thJuly 2003 made it impossible to believe otherwise.
Robert Lewis is from the Black Mountains, in the Brecon Beacons. THE LAST LLANELLI TRAIN, his first novel, was nominated for the 2006 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction; SWANSEA TERMINAL and BANK OF THE BLACK SHEEP completed the critically acclaimed series. DARK ACTORS is his first non-fiction book. It deals with a subject that has haunted him for a decade.