10th June 21:18
More on Bahai Spy Pederson (faith religion spiritual assembly area death)
September 01, 2003
American was Kelly's spiritual mentor
From James Bone in Montgomery, Alabama
DAVID KELLY had an American woman spiritual mentor who served with him
as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq and later introduced him
to the Baha'i religion.
The role of Mai Pederson, a US military linguist, in bringing Dr Kelly
to the Baha'i faith was highlighted by Mrs Marilyn VonBerg, who was
secretary of the local Baha'i assembly in Monterey, California, when
Dr Kelly converted there in 1999.
Mrs VonBerg said Sgt Pederson was "very close" to Dr Kelly's family
and had visited them some time before his death. "He and Mai were
friends because she had taught him the faith. She is high security so
we never asked them questions. But I am sure she was his translator at
one point." The VonBerg family received a call from Ms Pederson, an
Arabic-speaker who holds the rank of senior staff sergeant, to inform
them of Dr Kelly's apparent suicide on July 17.
"All she said is: ‘Don't believe what you read in the newspapers,"
John VonBerg said. "I do not know which direction she was coming from.
It's very mysterious to us."
Dr Kelly's friendship with Sgt Pederson has not yet figured in the
Hutton inquiry, but further details of Dr Kelly's faith could surface
today when his widow, Janice, who suffers from arthritis, and one of
his daughters, Rachel, give evidence.
Sgt Pederson, who moved to the Pentagon after working at the Defence
Language Institute in Monterey, left the Washington area after Dr
Kelly's death for Montgomery, Alabama, where she lives not far from
Maxwell Air Force base. She would not comment when contacted through a
friend at the weekend.
A US Air Force spokesman in Washington said that she was still listed
in the Pentagon's internal telephone directory, but that her extension
was not working. Her last known telephone number in the Washington
suburbs has been reassigned, but records suggest that she bought a
house in Fairfax County, Virginia, for $237,000 (£150,000) in 2001.
A source with access to UN records said that Sgt Pederson served under
Dr Kelly on a UN mission to Iraq in December 1998, the last inspection
before the withdrawal of UN inspectors and the US-led bombing
According to Bahai's records Dr Kelly made his declaration of faith on
September 25, 1999, less than a year after the withdrawal of UN
"They were devoted friends," said Noreen Steinmetz, the current
secretary of the Monterey Baha'i assembly, who spoke to Sgt Pedersen
at the weekend to convey an interview request from The Times.
Mrs VonBerg, a former secretary of the local Baha'i spiritual assembly
in Monterey, remembers Sgt Pederson bringing Dr Kelly to Baha'i
meetings before he converted. "Her and David would come to the
meetings, and he became a Baha'i. He was studying the faith," she
Mrs VonBerg does not know how the two first met, but, like many other
Baha'i friends, she assumed that Sgt Pederson helped Dr Kelly to
translate from Arabic for his work on Iraq.
She remembers Dr Kelly filing his declaration of faith, marking his
conversion to the Baha'i religion, with Sgt Pederson: "We gave him a
book and later he bought one in England and sent over to us a book by
a scientist who was a Baha'i, and he said the book really helped him
"He was a very spiritual person."
Kristin Caldwell, who works at the Bosch Baha'i school in Santa Cruz,
California, admired the depth of Sgt Pederson's faith.
"I lived in Monterey county for over 20 years and she was another
Bahai and I truly respected her. I was impressed by somebody who could
be so apolitical and still work within the Defence Department."