Thursday, August 26, 2010



By Jon Clements and Richard Smith | August 26, 2010

The MI6 spy found murdered in his home was a quiet and modest man who never broke espionage protocol by talking about his job, his friends revealed yesterday.

Gareth Williams, 31, gave nothing away about himself and no one saw him come and go from his top floor flat.

But the avid cyclist's stealthy lifestyle gives detectives few clues as to why he was brutally targeted by his attacker.

His decomposed remains lay undiscovered in a large bag in his bathtub for up to two weeks after he was killed. He is thought to have been strangled.

Officers are investigating whether his gruesome death could be linked to his top secret codebreaker's job. They are also looking at his personal life as he is thought to have let his attacker into the five-storey house.


Dismissing suggestions of an assassination by foreign agents as fantasy yesterday, security sources said it was possible he may have been attacked by a friend or casual acquaintance.

They have also not ruled out the possibility another intelligence officer could be involved and plan to interview MI6 staff and Mr Williams' colleagues.

Yesterday officers were quizzing sister Ceri in Chester, where neighbours recalled Mr Williams as "the perfect spy". Ex-police officer Cathy Stanley said: "He was quiet, kept to himself and gave nothing away about himself. Classic spy profile, I suppose." His uncle William Hughes added: "He worked for GCHQ for years. He'd never talk about his work and it felt rude to ask."

Devastated former landlady Jenny Elliott, who rented him a flat above her garage in Cheltenham when he worked at GCHQ, said he was "like a mouse".

The 71-year-old added: "I came to regard him almost like a son. I used to say 'Oh go on, tell me what you do' but I didn't badger him because they weren't allowed to say. He would just give me a cheeky chuckle and one of his beautiful smiles which lit up the room." Police broke into the flat in Pimlico, Central London, after colleagues grew concerned when he did not show up for work.

Mr Williams had been living there for a year during a secondment to MI6 from the Government's listening post in Cheltenham. He was due to return to GCHQ next week.

A postmortem failed to establish how Mr Williams was killed but it is thought he was strangled or suffocated.

Detectives found his mobile phone and several SIM cards strewn around the floor. The £1 million house is owned by a company registered in British Virgin Islands.

But insiders said it was routine practice for the UK intelligence services to use foreign firms to purchase accommodation for its staff. It is understood at least three previous residents have links to GCHQ and other agencies.

Neighbours had no idea Mr Williams was a spy and were shocked when police sealed off the street on Monday.

Secretary Laura Houghton, 30, said: "His curtains were often closed. I could never tell if anyone was in. We never saw him come and go."


Other neighbours include former home secretaries Michael Howard and Lord Brittan.

Mr Williams excelled at maths and was talent-spotted at Cambridge University. He cycled up to 200 miles a week competing in races for a club in Cheltenham.

Devastated parents Ian and Ellen returned from holiday abroad to help formally identify their son.

It is the first murder on British soil of someone linked to secret services since Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. He drank radioactive polonium-210 in tea.

A gchq spokesman said: "We do not comment on individual members of staff or whether they are staff."

Did you know Gareth Williams or do you have any photos of him. Ring the newsdesk free on 0800 282 591.