Scotsman : Inside the secret life of British spook

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside the secret life of British spook


THE Victorian splendour of the Pimlico flat where Gareth Williams' body was found in the most gruesome circumstances is in stark contrast to the spartan digs he inhabited while working in Cheltenham.

The sparse decor and modest kitchen of that Gloucestershire home is far removed from the two-storey flat within a five-storey townhouse in one of the most expensive parts of London.

Alderney Street, Pimlico, is also the home of two former home secretaries Michael Howard and Lord Brittan.

In Cheltenham, Mr Williams' flat with its single bed and small gas fire adjoins a property lived in by his landlady, Jenny Elliott. His bedsit is above the garage of Mrs Elliott's home and is conveniently close to the GCHQ complex.

Bereft of fancy furnishings, family portraits or homely touches, his digs give little clue about Mr Williams' background. Although the flat appears unsophisticated, it looks as if it has been tidied in anticipation of Mr Williams' return.

Yesterday Mrs Elliott said he had lived in a flat for 10 years and was preparing to return on 3 September.

"He phoned me a few weeks ago to say he was coming back," she said.

She described him as "a lovely guy, very friendly, very well-mannered and polite, and no trouble at all".

Mrs Elliott added: "He was often away. He went to America to work a lot and often combined it with a holiday because he hated flying."

Although a former Cambridge student, there was little in his background to suggest that Mr Williams would be a natural entrant into the world of spying.

He was brought up on Anglesey, attending Bodedern secondary school.

A talented pupil, he had extra tuition at both primary and secondary school before studying at Cambridge University.

He went to St Catharine's College to undertake a postgraduate certificate in mathematics in 2000 but dropped out a year later. His parents still live on Anglesey but it is understood they have been taken by police to London.

There have been a number of questions raised over the flat in Pimlico. The property was rented from a company called New Rodina, but details of the company ownership are hidden because it is registered in the British Virgin Islands and not listed with Companies House.

Land registry documents show only that the property was bought in 2000 with a mortgage from RBS.