Telegraph : Murdered British spy: friends describe Gareth Williams as a 'gifted loner'

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Murdered British spy: friends describe Gareth Williams as a 'gifted loner'

Athletic, intelligent and private – the picture emerging of Gareth Williams could be that of a textbook spy.

By Ben Leach | August 26, 2010

As police continued to investigate the events surrounding his death, information about the 31-year-old has begun to emerge.

Friends have described him as a cycling and fitness fanatic who was quiet, gifted, mild-mannered and a “bit of a loner”.

Originally from Wales, he studied at Cambridge University – one of the traditional recruiting grounds for the British secret services.

He excelled at maths, embarking on a postgraduate certificate in advanced studies in mathematics at St Catharine's College in 2000.

The course is described as "demanding" and normally only accepts students with first-class degrees in physics, mathematics or engineering.

But he dropped out after a year and began a career working for the secret services.

Relative William Hughes said he worked for GCHQ, the government's so-called listening post, for "many years".

"He was quiet, unassuming” said Mr Hughes. “When he came home on his weekends and holidays he'd be on his bicycle riding around the lanes of Anglesey.

"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 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 the father and son would often be seen together cycling round the roads of Anglesey.

Mr Hughes added that the family had recognised Gareth was "brilliant" as a child and he had gone to a special primary school.

He said: "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."

While working for GCHQ Mr Williams lived for ten years in the annexe of a house in Cheltenham belonging to Jenny Elliott

She described him as a “lovely guy” who was private and “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.

"You wouldn't really hear a peep from him. Occasionally you could hear tapes whirring from his flat, which must have been audio cassettes he used for work, but he never told me what they were.

"It's all very sad. I could not imagine Gareth ever making enemies who would want to kill him."