Couple sought as police say bondage websites could hold key to spy's death
December 22, 2010
• Gareth Williams's death not linked to job say detectives
• Women's designer clothes found in dead man's flat
Senior detectives believe the mystery death of the spy Gareth Williams will be solved by getting an insight into his private life after they revealed he had visited bondage websites and a drag club and had £15,000-worth of unworn designer womenswear in his wardrobe.
Williams's decomposed body was discovered in a padlocked holdall in his flat, less than a mile from MI6 headquarters in London where he was a senior analyst.
Police believe he died a week earlier, in the early hours of 16 August, and that someone else was present. For months they have struggled to answer basic questions about the death. Tests have shown no signs of a struggle or forced entry into the flat, and no sign that he was drugged.
Yesterday, Scotland Yard's detectives gave their best account of Williams's death. They revealed:
• He used his iPhone to visit websites on bondage and escape from bondage in the months before his death.
• He must have been padlocked into the red North Face holdall by someone else as it was impossible for him to have locked himself inside.
• Once padlocked in the bag, with the keys inside, he could only have survived for 30 minutes before suffocating.
• Police are desperate to talk to a couple of Mediterranean appearance who visited his block and claimed to have a key to his flat weeks before Williams's death.
• Four days before his death, he went to a drag club called Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green, east London, to see an act called Jimmy Woo, and had tickets for two similar performances at a pub in Vauxhall, close to MI6 headquarters.
• A witness told police that Williams had been seen at a well-known gay bar in Vauxhall months before his death.
When Williams's decomposing body was found by police on 23 August, they also discovered £15,000 of unworn women's clothing, wigs and shoes in his wardrobe. The labels included Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane, and Louboutin and were in their original boxes or wrapping paper. Williams had enrolled in two fashion design courses at Central Saint Martins College, in Clerkenwell, London, in 2009 and 2010.
Speculation has been rife that Williams' highly secretive work might explain his death. He worked as an expert on codes at the government's GCHQ eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham before moving to MI6 on a secondment.
But Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, head of Scotland Yard's homicide command, said: "This is not linked to his work – it's his private life."
He said police had been reluctant to make public details of Williams's private life, knowing it could prove distressing to his family, but were doing so now because his lifestyle could be key to solving whether his death was a sex game gone wrong, manslaughter or murder.
Police needed information from "a small subset of people" who were into alternative lifestyles and pursuits. "We want to speak to individuals who use these websites about bondage, tying up, linking into the drag world."
Police called in an expert in surviving in confined spaces, who concluded there was no way Williams could have padlocked himself into the bag. That means that someone must have been present to lock him in. The keys to the ordinary Yale padlock were found inside the holdall.
Campbell said: "Somebody must have been there to secure him in the bag on a voluntary or involuntary basis. If someone was there and it was a voluntary activity gone wrong, why not cut him free or call an ambulance?
"The alternative scenario is there is maybe something more sinister to it. We just don't know."
The dead man's body showed only two small bruises on his elbows, probably from him struggling and rubbing against the inside of the bag as he began to run out of oxygen.
Toxicology tests show no signs of drugs, although Campbell said it remained possible he had been stunned by something like a karate chop, which could have left no visible trace by the time the corpse was found. Otherwise any blow heavy enough to render Williams unconscious would have been picked up by tests.
"There is no sign of a struggle, no outward signs of anyone inflicting physical violence, no poisoning," said Campbell, who added: "The absence of violence to the body suggests he placed himself in the bag, unless he was stunned or unconscious. If that was done, it was not through drugs or super-secret injections."
The official cause of death is still inconclusive, but Campbell said: "It is most likely suffocation, but we can't be certain."
He said that Williams was a deeply private man and neither his employers nor his family knew he had enrolled into a course at a fashion college. There was no evidence that he was gay.
Police yesterday released efit images of a man and woman who visited the flats where Williams lived weeks before his death. The Mediterranean couple, who were in their 20s and dressed casually, were buzzed through the communal entrance at the flats in Alderney Street by another resident in late June or July. They said they had been given a key and were on their way to flat four, the property Williams lived in.
Williams, from Anglesey, north Wales, was last seen alive on 15 August, eight days before he was found dead.
An inquest will be held at Westminster coroner's court on 15 February.
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