This Is London : Spy in bag: Police seek mystery couple, MI6 man used bondage websites

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spy in bag: Police seek mystery couple, MI6 man used bondage websites

Justin Davenport, Crime Editor | December 22, 2010

Police revealed dramatic details today about the bizarre death of an MI6 spy found in a sports bag - and appealed for help to find a mystery couple who may hold vital clues.

Scotland Yard issued the first images of a man and woman who could make clear how Gareth Williams died.

The couple visited the spy's Pimlico flat several weeks before his decomposing body was found, on August 23, in the bath inside a zipped and padlocked North Face bag. Detectives also revealed:

* The 31-year-old codebreaker had a collection of designer dresses and shoes worth £15,000 in his flat. The clothes by Stella McCartney and Christopher Kane, and Louboutin shoes, appeared unworn, with many still in wrappings.

* He was almost certainly not alone when he died and had bruised elbows, possibly as he tried to escape from the bag. A pair of keys to the padlock were inside under his body.

* He had visited five bondage websites since last year. No pornography was found in the flat. He visited a comedy drag night at a club called Bistrotheque in Mile End on August 13.

* He had passed two fashion design courses at Central Saint Martins.

* He had four mobile phones including some that were pay-as-you-go.

Tests have been unable to explain how Mr Williams died. One theory is that he may have been the victim of a sex game that went wrong.

Police told how they employed a specialist to climb into the North Face holdall and re-enact events that might have led to his death. He found it was impossible to shut the bag and padlock it from inside without help. It was also impossible to unlock the bag from inside on his own.

The mystery couple called at the flat in Alderney Street in June or July. They buzzed the outside door and were let in by a woman on the ground floor. They told her they were visiting flat 4 — Mr Williams's — and had their own key, given to them by someone called “Pier Paulo”, or a similar name.

The couple went upstairs and did not come down, suggesting they entered the flat. They were aged in their twenties or thirties, possibly of Mediterranean or east European appearance.

Despite a number of previous appeals the pair have not come forward and detectives increasingly believe they could hold vital clues.

Detective Chief Inspector Jacqueline Sebire, leading the inquiry, said: “Gareth was a very private individual. We know he would not have given his keys to anyone other than close family. I am asking this man or woman or anyone who recognises them to encourage them to come forward and assist us.”

In a statement, Mr Williams's family said: “We are still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their son and brother, we urge anybody to come forward with any information that can assist the police investigation.”

At the time of the visit, Mr Williams is believed to have been away and detectives say it is highly unlikely he gave his keys to anyone. Tests on his body show he was not poisoned, drugged or under the influence of alcohol at the time of his death. There were no injuries to suggest a struggle and an examination of his computers showed he had a secret fetish for bondage and being confined in enclosed spaces.

There was no evidence of anything missing from his flat and no signs of a disturbance. Detectives have discounted one rumour that the flat was locked from the outside.

Mr Williams, a keen cyclist, was in London on a year's secondment and was due to return to the GCHQ government listening post in Cheltenham. He is known to have made trips on business to the US but he was not a field agent and his spy bosses can find no reason for him to have been killed.

He was last seen eight days before his body was found. CCTV showed him at Harrods and Holland Park Tube.

Anyone with information can call 020 8358 0200 or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

The unanswered questions

How did he die?

A post mortem has proved inconclusive. But experts can say he was not stabbed or shot, there are no obvious injuries to his body and tests found no trace of alcohol, drugs or poison. It is possible he suffocated inside the North Face bag. Experts say that because of the heat in the flat he could have died within minutes if he could not escape.

Was he alone and why did he not escape from the bag?

Police now believe he was almost certainly not alone. Intriguingly, there is no sign of anyone else being in the flat, but tests have shown that Mr Williams could not have locked himself into the bag on his own. He must have had help and either climbed into the bag as part of a sex game — or, in some way, was forced in. The real question is why he was unable to escape and why the second party did not help him. One possibility is the second man — or woman — left the scene planning to return but when they did the spy was already dead. The second person then panicked and fled. The puzzle is why he or she did not leave any clues. And why, if the explanation was innocent, they have not come forward.

What about his private life?

This remains a mystery. Inquiries have found the spy to be an intensely private individual. He was spotted in a gay bar near the MI6 HQ in Vauxhall and visited a transvestite bar in the weeks before he died but there is no other obvious reference to his sexuality. His computers revealed a interest in bondage and a colourful wig was found in his flat along with £15,000 of high fashion women's dresses and shoes, all of which seem to be still in their wrappers. But there were few, if any, friends who knew him personally.

What was he doing before he died?

His body was found on August 23. It is known he returned from a trip to the US on August 11 and was last seen alive at Holland Park Tube station on August 14 and shopping in Harrods the following day. The post mortem results suggest he died soon afterwards but his body was not found until eight days later.

Who are the mystery couple? 

This is one of the most tantalising questions in the inquiry. No one — including MI6 or his family — can explain why Mr Williams would have given his keys to anyone. They were specific about visiting Flat 4 though they are not thought to have mentioned the spy by name. The codebreaker is not believed to have been in the flat at the time — and the possibility remains the couple could be a red herring.