THE SPY THEY CALLED THE QUIET MAN: MATHS GENIUS, LONER AND CYCLING FANATIC AT THE CENTRE OF MYSTERY [scroll down]
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 [sic]
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.