The Australian : Security breach probe after British spy is found dead, stuffed in a bag

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Security breach probe after British spy is found dead, stuffed in a bag

Adam Fresco, Fiona Hamilton | From: The Times | August 26, 2010

DETECTIVES investigating the murder of a British spy found stuffed into a sports bag are focusing on his private life in search of a motive.

Potential national security breaches are also being examined after Gareth Williams, 30, lay dead in his London flat, close to MI6 headquarters, for up to a fortnight.

The Home Secretary and the heads of MI5, MI6 as well as anti-terror chiefs at Scotland Yard, are being kept informed of developments.

The spy's family spoke last night of a solitary figure who would not discuss his work with them. William Hughes, a close relative, said: “I knew he was working in London doing something. He would never talk about his work and it felt rude to ask really.”

Mr Williams, who was single, had been on secondment to MI6 from GCHQ, the government's top-secret listening post in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, for the past year.

A post-mortem examination yesterday was inconclusive, although it is understood that there were no stab wounds on the body. Sources said that a “national security” motivation for the murder was unlikely.

Mr Williams's body was discovered when police broke into his Pimlico flat on Monday night. He had moved to London in 2009 after living in Cheltenham while working at GCHQ, where he was due return next month.

It is believed that his decomposed body, found in a bag in the bath, could have been there for two weeks.

It is understood that Mr Williams, a bright student who took university courses at secondary school, was recruited while taking an MA in the advanced study in mathematics at Cambridge University in 2000. He dropped out of the year-long course.

He lodged in a self-contained granny flat in Cheltenham for almost a decade and had recently made arrangements to return. Jenny Elliott, 71, his former landlady, said that the intelligence analyst rarely entertained and did not appear to have a girlfriend during his time in Cheltenham.

She said: “Gareth was a really nice guy who was polite and mild-mannered and wouldn't hurt a fly. But he didn't really seem to have much of a circle of friends. As far as I'm aware, he never bought a girl back in the 10 years I knew him, although that's not to say he didn't meet girls.

“He was an extremely intelligent person but would not talk about his job as it was a secret, on account of working for GCHQ. All he told me was it was something to do with codes.”

A keen cyclist and runner, Mr Williams was a member of the Cheltenham and County Cycle Club. A fellow cyclist told The Times: “He turned up at events, rode very well and then went on his way. He never took part in any of our more social rides.”

The spy's family - Ian, his father, Ellen, his mother, and Ceri, his sister - were told of his death at their home in Holyhead, North Wales.

The company that owned the flat that Mr Williams lived in is called New Rodina, which means “new home” or “new homeland” in Russian. Details of its ownership are not available because it is registered in the British Virgin Islands and not listed with Companies House. Neighbours include the former home secretaries Michael Howard and Lord Brittan.

Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died in a London hospital after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 in 2006.

GCHQ declined to comment. It is believed that Mr Williams had been seconded to MI6 to provide specialist electronic intelligence assistance.

The Times