Daily Mail : Riddle of the missing two weeks: Why did body of British spy with 'secretive' private life lie undiscovered for so long?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Riddle of the missing two weeks: Why did body of British spy with 'secretive' private life lie undiscovered for so long?

* Police probe claims Gareth Williams had double life outside work
* Shocked family describe him as a 'very, very private person'
* Post-mortem inconclusive: Was spy strangled or poisoned?

By Daily Mail Reporter | August 26, 2010

Detectives investigating the murder of a British spy were picking over his private life today for clues that could identify his killer.

The decomposing body of codes expert Gareth Williams, 30, was found stuffed into a bag in the bath of his London Government flat.

He was days from completing a one-year secondment to the headquarters of MI6 from his job at national 'listening post' GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Further tests were taking place to determine how the cycling and fitness fanatic met his death after a post-mortem examination was inconclusive.

They could reveal if Mr Williams was strangled or asphyxiated, as well as if drugs or alcohol were present in his system.

Police believe Mr Williams's body could have lain undiscovered for up to a fortnight. Mystery still surrounds why no-one raised the alarm sooner.

It is thought he was on holiday at the time of his death. Another explanation may lie in claims that he travelled regularly to the U.S. for his work.

Detectives believe the key to the case could lie in his private life. His family said he was an extremely reserved person who kept himself very much to himself.

But investigators will be attempting to discover if the quietly spoken, mild-mannered codes and ciphers expert was leading a double life which he kept from his colleagues.

There have already been a series of lurid claims about his personal affairs while others have raised the possibility that his death was a sex game gone wrong.

Police sources said the telephone numbers of escort agencies were found on one SIM card while pornographic material had also been discovered in the flat

Detectives are examining his mobile phone and a number of Sim cards found at the address, a top-floor flat at a Georgian townhouse in Pimlico, central London.

Several clues are believed to have emerged from the analysis of telephone numbers called and received on the phone.

Parents Ian and Ellen travelled to London with his sister Ceri today from their home in Anglesey to speak to police and identify his body.

William Hughes, Mrs Williams’s cousin, said the family was deeply shocked. He said: 'The last time I saw Gareth was just a few months ago at a family party and he was fine.'

Mr Hughes said he never knew Mr Williams to bring home a girlfriend or a partner, describing him as a 'very, very private person'.

Scotland Yard detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime unit are investigating the death in liaison with counter terrorism officers and the security services although they have not yet opened a murder inquiry.

There are no obvious signs of a robbery at the flat, believed to be one of several MI6-owned 'safe houses' in the Pimlico area.

However, security sources say they have a problem identifying what Mr Williams had so cannot be sure if anything was taken.

Experts have carried out a fingertip search of the address amid fears that top-secret work material could have gone missing.

Investigators suspect Mr Williams might have known his killer as there was no sign of forced entry at the flat in Alderney Street.

Last night it emerged that Intelligence officers were investigating whether state secrets had been stolen by Mr William's killer.

Security services fear that his murderer could have taken classified material - possibly held on a laptop or MP3 player - which could be sold on to Britain’s enemies.

A security source said: ‘Whatever the motives for this killing, there is the strong likelihood that items will have been taken and that is potentially a real problem because it may be difficult identifying exactly what he had at home.’

With much of the focus of MI6 on the terror threat posed by fanatics linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, one theory was that Mr Williams had been targeted because of his work.

In the flat in Alderney Street, a mobile telephone and a collection of SIM cards had been carefully laid out - in what was described as a bizarre ritualistic scene - and officers are researching each number called.

Tight security controlled the entrance to the flat, which is just a few hundred yards away from the MI6 headquarters across the Thames at Vauxhall.

Such were the precautions, it is believed, that eye scanners could have been used to gain entry.

Eileen Booth, 73, who lives opposite the flat, said detectives had come round and asked neighbours for their eye colour and height.

Mr Williams, a bachelor who had been subjected to security clearance before he was given the job, was described as a mild-mannered fitness and cycling fanatic dedicated to his work.

He was due to leave London and return early next month to his job at Cheltenham.

Finance worker Gemma Wingfield Digby, 26, who moved into the basement flat of Mr Williams’s building three weeks ago, said: ‘I saw him only once but he was such a sweet guy. All I wanted to do was give him a hug.’

Public documents reveal current and former residents of the freehold block where Mr Williams lived have links to London and Cheltenham.

One fear is that an area used by MI6 to house operatives - and where two former senior Tory politicians are neighbours - had now been compromised.

Former MI6 officer Harry Ferguson said: ‘There are lots of flats in this area owned by MI6 and their big worry will be that a terrorist group or intelligence group was involved.’

As Alderney Street remained cordoned off last night and forensic experts continued to search for clues, police were releasing little about the case.

Land Registry documents reveal that the block at number 36 is owned by a private company, New Rodina, whose details are hidden because it is registered in the British Virgin Islands and is not listed with Companies House.

The word rodina means motherland in Russian and Bulgarian. Several other residents were also linked to Cheltenham leading to suggestions the flats may have been used regularly by MI6.

The property was bought for £675,250 in 2000 with a mortgage from the Royal Bank of Scotland and has been remortgaged twice, in September 2005 and February 2006.

The documents show that the owner operated through a law firm known as Park Nelson, a firm which once occupied a rented office block in Bell Yard, off Fleet Street, but no longer appears to exist.

One Frenchman who lived at the flat between 2005 and 2006 is an expert in global satellite positioning, radio communications and high sensitivity antennae.

Few who crossed Gareth Williams’s path would have been surprised to learn that he was a spy.

A mild-mannered loner, who preferred cycling on gruelling lone runs to the pub or clubs, acquaintances knew him as ‘the quiet man’.

His landlady for a decade, Jenny Elliott, yesterday recalled how the 31-year-old bachelor lived without a TV in the annexe of her home, often hearing him working alone on the tapes she knew were part of his work.

‘There was never noise, never a problem,’ she said. ‘He was the perfect person to have in your home... a genuinely nice, decent man.’

Retired office worker Mrs Elliott, 71, and her husband Brian came to know Mr Williams well during the ten years he spent with them at their £500,000 home in the Prestbury area of Cheltenham, while he worked for GCHQ, the government’s listening centre.

‘It’s a real tragedy,’ she said. ‘Gareth was a really nice guy who was polite and mild-mannered and wouldn’t hurt a fly.

‘When someone has lived with you for ten years you get to know them really well, and Gareth almost became a part of the family.

‘Gareth was a very likeable person but didn’t really have any friends as such. He was a cycling fanatic and was forever off on some bike ride or another but never really had friends round.

'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.’

The last time Mrs Elliott spoke to Mr Williams flat was two weeks ago, when he called to confirm when he would be returning to Cheltenham from London.

He was a keen cyclist with the Cheltenham and County Club and took part in uphill races - coming eighth in a recent event.

Mrs Elliott said she did not remember him ever bringing a girlfriend back to the self-contained flat, comprising a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, above her garage.

’That’s not to say he didn’t meet girls. But if he did, he certainly didn’t talk about them to me.

‘Gareth occasionally said he was meeting some of the guys from work for a quiet drink but he wouldn’t tell me who they were or where they were going and I never pried.

'He never had a television and I never heard music coming from the flat. He was the perfect tenant and I doubt I’ll be able to find one as good as him again.’

Mr Williams had a close friendship with former GCHQ colleague Raphael L’hoste-Morton, who now works for a young people’s charity in Gloucester.

Mr L’hoste-Morton denied having had a relationship with Mr Williams, and his mother Maryse said she would not comment on her son’s private life.

Mr Williams, a Welsh speaker, was raised in Holyhead on Anglesey by his father Ian, who worked at the nuclear power plant, and mother Ellen, together with sister Ceri.

Friends recall how it was his father who led Gareth to a love of cycling and together they were a frequent sight - even recently - pounding the roads of Anglesey.

According to his uncle William Hughes, it was always apparent that Gareth was an outstandingly bright boy.

‘The family knew this from a very, very young age. He was a very clever lad. When he was at secondary school he would go to university one day a week.’

According Mr Hughes, Gareth graduated at the age of only 19 from Bangor University and went on to Cambridge to continue his studies.

‘He was quiet, unassuming. When he came home on his weekends and holidays he’d be on his bicycle riding around the lanes of Anglesey.

‘He worked for GCHQ for many years. We knew he was working in London, but he’d never talk about his work and the family knew not to ask really. We didn’t know what he was doing. He never spoke about it.’

Mr Hughes added that to learn of the murder was a terrible shock.

‘I got a phone call... I couldn’t believe that such a thing had happened.’

John Barnes, who once worked with Gareth Williams’s father and who regularly cycled with the two men, said: ‘Gareth was brilliant at maths - a genius.’

Mr Williams’s parents were abroad on holiday when their son’s death was discovered and were said to be staying last night in London. Scotland

Yard detectives were at the family home in Holyhead, where they were speaking with the dead man’s sister, Ceri Subbe, who lives with her doctor husband, Christian.