This Is London : Mystery over couple who visited ‘spy in bag’ case flat

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mystery over couple who visited ‘spy in bag’ case flat

Justin Davenport, Crime Editor | September 13, 2010

A COUPLE appear to have vanished after calling at the flat of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams whose body was found locked inside a bag in his bath, police said today.

Detectives say they have failed to trace the “Mediterranean couple” who visited the flat — owned by the intelligence services — in June or July despite appeals for them to come forward.

They believe the couple, in their thirties, were known to Mr Williams as neighbours do not recall buzzing them into the address. Detectives believe they could be significant to the inquiry.

The body of the GCHQ codebreaker and maths genius was found inside a zipped and padlocked North Face hold-all three weeks ago today.

The bag had been placed inside the flat's ensuite bath and may have been there for up to eight days. Police have been baffled by the death because there were no signs of violence, and toxicology tests showed Mr Williams had not taken drugs or alcohol. There were also no signs of a struggle or a forced entry at the flat in Alderney Street and nothing appeared to have been stolen.

Tests are unable to suggest if Mr Williams was dead or alive when he entered the bag. Reports that the 5ft 8in Mr Williams could have closed the padlock around the two zip handles from inside the bag have been played down by detectives, who have been unable to find a method for doing it.

They view it as extremely unlikely that he padlocked the bag himself.

That suggests Mr Williams was either forced into it against his ill, co-operated with a second party in a possible sex game or was already dead when he was placed inside the holdall.

The results of further tests for the possible presence of a rare toxin are being awaited. Police do not believe the mystery couple is the same as one Mr Williams met regularly at Patisserie Valerie in Holland Park, who were not Mediterranean in appearance.

Anyone with information should call 020 8358 0200, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

MercatorNet : Lonely life, lonely death

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lonely life, lonely death

The mysterious death of a British spy in the heart of London shows the hazards of the profession.

by Michael Coren | September 13, 2010

The British have a dark, sardonic sense of humour. It’s what got them through depressions, Nazi bombing raids and even socialist governments! So it took only a day or two late last month for the joke to circulate that the British intelligence services were so clever that their agents could commit the most extraordinary suicides in the world. The reference was to Gareth Williams, a young man seconded to MI6, whose body was found in a padlocked and sealed sports bag in the bath of his apartment.

Not funny for his friends and family of course. The 31-year-old was actually an employee of GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters based in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. It is part of three main branches of British intelligence along with MI5 (domestic intelligence) and MI6, also known as the SIS or Secret Intelligence Service (foreign intelligence). GCHG is, as it were, the least glamorous of the trio and most of its work involves listening to and monitoring communications and – vital work – deciphering what potential threat targets are saying to each other.

Williams had been seconded to MI6 in London, based on the south bank of the River Thames just down the road from the Houses of Parliament and from MI5, both establishments across the river over Lambeth Bridge. He lived nearby in Pimlico, which is where his body was found. It’s likely that he wasn’t a field agent but a mathematical genius recruited from university and employed to work on codes. He was an isolated figure, a passionate cyclist, quiet, reliable and with few if any friends. It is also claimed that his body was found two weeks after he was killed, that there were no signs of struggle or even of how he died and that various identity cards were arranged in his home as if to leave some sort of signal.

I say “claimed” because there is no way to know if any of this is true. Would even a low-level member of the intelligence community not be searched for by colleagues if he had not checked in for work for two weeks? Front-line agents have to call in under a secret code at regular, usually daily intervals but even ordinary staff members are scrutinized. The police still claim to have no leads and the story is no longer receiving much coverage in the British press but all sorts of questions remain unanswered.

One being why there were suggestions of sexual violence – the implication being of a homosexual variety – made within 24 hours of the story breaking. There was never any evidence of this but some newspapers ran with the report that bondage equipment was founded in Williams’ home. According to local police officers who later spoke to the press this was utter nonsense. As was the idea that the poor man cruised gay bars – there is a gay bathhouse directly across the road from the MI6 offices – or that he had some sort of guilty and clandestine double life.

This is British intelligence for goodness sake. They know about double lives and investigate every person who works for them. Gay men and women are openly employed by MI6 and MI5 – it is the possibility of blackmail and not sexual preference that determines the suitability of an applicant. In other words, as long as there is nothing to hide there is nothing to worry about. in any case, his relatives have furiously denied that he was a homosexual and say that he is being smeared by the government.

Was it MI6 who discredited Williams or was it a foreign agency? Was his death political and if so was he killed by a friend or an enemy? We may know eventually but likely not for some time. There is and always has been a reciprocal if not symbiotic relationship between the intelligence services and the media in Britain – less a case of the “spooks”, as they are known, exploiting the press than the intelligence people letting it be known that if journalists want good stories and leaked information they need to do what they’re told at other times.

When I was at university in England one of my professors, an avuncular and kindly man, told me that I was “Intelligent and lazy. You’ll make a good journalist or a good spy.” I laughed, went on my way and eventually became a journalist. I realize now that he was probably making preliminary recruitment inquiries. A talent spotter. Not that I was very talented. A fellow student who was studying Russian did eventually join the MI5 – something he did not tell his friends until he had left. He refused to say very much about what went on – “boring really, just lots of listening to the radio and reading Soviet newspapers” – but did tell us that what surprised him was how untidy the offices always were.

“Thing is, you see, it’s quite difficult to do thorough security checks on people who clean offices and empty the bins. So the cleaning up is left to the people who work there and we resented doing it. Always argued about whose turn it was to do it. So most days it was a mess. Not as glamorous as I’d hoped.”

Not glamorous at all for the unfortunate Gareth Williams but British intelligence still enjoys a fine reputation and, apart from a bad period during the cold war, has performed its tasks extremely well. The problems of double-agents working for Moscow in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s was that many of the men and women who has done such excellent work spying on and monitoring the Nazis and their supporters during the 30s and the Second World War had a sympathy for Communism based on their hatred of fascism. Thus their loyalties became clouded once the war was over. It led to betrayal and to lack of faith on the part of the always more bellicose CIA.

The intelligence war against Irish extremism, the modern hard left and small far right was and is far more successful but today an estimated 70 percent of the efforts, energy and finance of the security services is devoted to Islamic fundamentalism. Mosques are certainly infiltrated, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu speakers recruited and trained and a whole network of informants and intelligence-gatherers maintained. The country is on a permanent “high alert” level and it’s estimated that more than a dozen serious and up to a hundred potential Islamic terror attacks have been prevented by MI5, MI6 and their support group within the police – Special Branch.

So whatever happened to the unfortunate Mr Williams – may he rest in peace – is fascinating but has no effect on the work of a constantly challenged and, apparently, untidy British intelligence service. Will all of the secrets eventually be revealed? Don’t bet on it. The river Thames that back on to MI6 hides its treasures darkly and deeply; so do the spies who work next to it.

Las Vegas Sun : Police hunt for 2 people in slain UK spy case

Monday, September 13, 2010

Police hunt for 2 people in slain UK spy case

The Associated Press | September 13, 2010

Police investigating the mystery death of a British spy say they are hunting for two people seen entering his apartment block.

Gareth Williams was discovered dead at his home on Aug. 23. Officers said he had been dead for some time, and his naked remains were found inside a locked sports bag. No cause of death has been established.

The 30-year-old worked for GCHQ, Britain's eavesdropping service, and had been on assignment with the MI6 spy agency.

Detective Chief Inspector Jacqueline Sebire said on Monday that police are searching for a man and a woman seen entering the apartment block one night in June or July.

Police said there was no sign of forced entry, and no property was stolen.

Sun : Dead holdall spy 'zipped himself in'

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dead holdall spy 'zipped himself in'

By CHRIS POLLARD | September 13, 2010

A SPY found dead inside a padlocked holdall may have zipped HIMSELF in for sexual kicks, it emerged yesterday.

Police are still trying to explain how MI6 code-breaker Gareth Williams came to his end.

According to Met sources, a female officer climbed into the £150 North Face bag to re-enact possible events leading to his death. She zipped it up and padlocked it from the inside.

Cops now think the fitness fanatic, 31, may have done the same for sexual gratification and suffocated when he could not reopen it.

A padlock key was alongside his naked body inside the bag, which was found lying in his bathtub last month.

Erotic asphyxiation is the deliberate restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal.

Gareth had a small frame and fitted easily in the 32 x 19ins bag. Tests showed last week there was no trace of alcohol or drugs in his system.

His flat, in Pimlico, central London, did not appear to have been disturbed prior to his discovery.

Officers are still trying to trace a couple who visited the spy's flat weeks before he died.

A Met source said: "We remain baffled."

Mr Williams' body is being tested for radioactive poison polonium - used by Russian agents to kill ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

But Whitehall officials insist espionage or terrorism is not yet suspected.

Daily Mail : MI6 spy 'could have died in sex game that went wrong'

Monday, September 13, 2010

MI6 spy 'could have died in sex game that went wrong'

By Charlotte Gill | September 13, 2010

Police investigating the death of an MI6 spy have not ruled out the theory that he may have died in a bizarre sex game gone wrong.

Gareth Williams's naked body was found in a padlocked holdall in the bath of his flat.

And as part of the police investigation, a woman officer similar in size, climbed into a replica bag and managed to zip it up, then squeeze her hand through a small gap and padlock it from the inside.

There is a suggestion Mr Williams may have done something similar - possibly for sexual pleasure - then panicked and suffocated when he could not reopen it.

It has been reported that the key to the padlock on the red North Face bag containing his body, was found alongside him.

Erotic asphyxiation is defined as the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal.

The practice killed Tory MP Stephen Milligan whose body was found in 1994 with a bag over his head and an orange in his mouth.

Detectives remain puzzled over the death of Mr Williams, a cipher and codes expert for GCHQ, on secondment to MI6. His body was found on August 23, in Pimlico, London.

A post-mortem examination failed to reveal a cause of death and officers are awaiting the results of toxicology tests which may offer more information on how he died.

Alcohol and routine or recreational drugs did not contribute to his death. Tests are ongoing to find out if a rare drug or poison were used.

Though murder is highly likely, it remains a possibility the 31-year-old's death was not foul play.

Mr Williams's parents of Anglesey, North Wales, are frustrated the investigation seems no further forward.

They were horrified at claims of their bachelor son's supposedly wild homosexual lifestyle and fear that lurid allegations surrounding his private life - since denied - were part of a 'dirty tricks' campaign.


Monday, September 13, 2010


Detectives are investigating whether spy Gareth Williams died after zipping himself in a sports bag

By Paul Teed | September 13, 2010

DETECTIVES are investigating whether MI6 spy Gareth Williams died after zipping himself in a sports bag in a sex game that went wrong.

A woman police officer climbed into the holdall in which his body was found in a re-enactment exercise – and was able to pull the zip and padlock it once inside.

Detectives believe the code breaker may have done this before panicking and passed out when he realised he could not escape.

Mr Williams’ family will be furious with the revelations, after saying they were distressed by speculation over whether the super-fit 31-year-old was into unusual sexual practices. Police sources close to the investigation said that an officer with a similar build to the spy reenacted the sex game that it is believed could have led to his death.

Mr Williams, whose naked body was discovered inside the bag in the bathroom of his flat in Pimlico, London, on August 23, may have suffocated. The key to the padlock was reportedly found next to him inside the holdall. The petite officer, a similar size to slim and short Mr Williams, crouched in the extra-large North Face bag and was able to put her hand through a tight gap between the padlock and the zip fastener and lock it.

It has apparently led investigators to conclude that Mr Williams may have been taking part in an erotic asphyxiation game – restricting oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. A Scotland Yard spokesman would only say yesterday: “It is an ongoing investigation and various lines of inquiry remain open. We are aware of many speculative stories in the media and we are not commenting on them individually.”

Police insist they remain mystified by the bizarre circumstances surrounding the gifted mathematician’s death. They found no signs of a break-in or disturbance at his converted Georgian town house and nothing appeared to have been stolen.

A leading US pathologist may fly in this week to try and solve the riddle. Mr Williams’ grieving relatives have demanded his body back so they can commission their own post mortem examination. The coroner dealing with the case has repeatedly refused to hand it over while detectives continue their inquiries. The family in North Wales have been unable to hold a funeral and remain frustrated by the lack of progress.

Detectives have said they want to speak to a mystery couple of Mediterranean appearance who called at the code breaker’s home shortly before he died. They entered via the communal front door, but police do not know if they visited the spy’s top-floor flat.

Keen cyclist Mr Williams was days from completing a one-year secondment to MI6 in London. He worked as a codes expert for the Government’s listening centre GCHQ in Cheltenham.

Sydney Morning Herald : Spy sex game may have caused death

Monday, September 13, 2010

Spy sex game may have caused death

September 13, 2010

A British spy may have locked himself inside a sports bag and suffocated during a sex game gone wrong, newspaper reports say.

A female police officer climbed into the large bag and locked herself in from the inside during a re-enactment of the events that are believed to have led to the MI6 intelligence officer's death, Britain's Mail on Sunday reported.

Gareth Williams, 31, was found naked inside the $250 North Face bag in the bath in his top-floor Pimlico apartment on August 24.

Police have worked for several weeks to determine the cause of death.

Initial toxicology tests showed no traces of alcohol or drugs in Mr Williams's system.

The results of further tests will not be known for at least a fortnight.

The latest theory is that the fitness fanatic managed to zip up the bag and padlock it from the inside for sexual kicks, the paper reported.

It is believed he might have panicked and suffocated after being unable to re-open the bag.

A key for the padlock was found next to his body, lending weight to speculation his death was an accident, the newspaper reported.

Erotic asphyxiation is defined as the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal.

A police spokesperson told the Mail: "It would be inappropriate to comment at this stage of the investigation. We are keeping an open mind about the case."

Mr Williams's family has accused the government of orchestrating a "dirty tricks" campaign to discredit him after reports that he was gay and a cross-dresser.

Police have denied claims that gay magazines, bondage gear and the phone numbers of gay escort men were found in the apartment near his body.

Investigators have also dismissed allegations of financial irregularities and that a top-secret laptop computer had gone missing from his flat.

Crucially, there was no evidence of violence and no cuts or bruises on his body, nor any sign of a break-in at his flat.

Mr Williams had worked out of the Government Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham, known as Britain's biggest listening post, but was on year-long secondment to MI6.

The 5000-strong GCHQ eavesdrops on global communications and monitors terrorist threats.

Yet during the past year, Mr Williams had moved to London and it was colleagues at MI6, across the Thames from his elegant London flat, who reported him missing.

Nobody knows what he was working on but the city apartment has been described as a far cry from the granny flat he had lived in at Cheltenham and to which he was to return on September 3.

The Cheltenham flat was "floral carpets, silk flowers and potpourri", London's Independent reported.

Mr Williams was from Anglesey in North Wales. He lived on his own and did not have a partner.

He has been described as a child prodigy who had a degree in maths at 17 and went on to obtain a PhD.

He had the highest security clearance available to an intelligence officer and was part of a secretive cell that created devices that could steal data from mobiles and laptops.

Mr Williams returned from a "planned holiday" in the United States on August 11, less than two weeks before his body was found.

Investigators found he had made several shopping trips to London's West End and Knightsbridge on August 14 and 15, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Mr Williams stopped by department store Harrods, then walked towards a nearby Dolce & Gabbana store, although he did not go in.

It was the last time he was seen alive.

New Zealand Herald : Foreign hit on UK spy feared

Monday, September 13, 2010

Foreign hit on UK spy feared

September 13, 2010

Concern is growing within the intelligence community that the MI6 spy found dead in his London flat may have been the victim of a professional hit by a foreign power.

Sources told the Daily Telegraph that intelligence services MI6, MI5 and GCHQ are liaising closely to establish whether Gareth Williams, 31, was targeted by foreign spies.

He was working on systems to defend British banks and transport infrastructure from cyber attack and to eavesdrop on terrorist communications.

He also played an important role creating equipment to listen to Taleban communications in Afghanistan and had helped to fit out three aircraft with the equipment, making them airborne-listening stations.

Herald Sun : 'Sex game went wrong' for dead MI6 man Gareth Williams, police say

Monday, September 13, 2010

'Sex game went wrong' for dead MI6 man Gareth Williams, police say

From: The Daily Telegraph | September 13, 2010

POLICE believe the MI6 spy found dead in a sports bag in a bath inside his flat may have died after a bizarre sex game went wrong.

A woman police officer climbed into the bag in which code breaker Gareth Williams' naked body was found, re-enacting the events that are thought could have led to his death.

She managed to zip up the bag and padlock it from the inside, leading investigators to conclude Mr Williams may have done the same for sexual kicks and suffocated when he could not reopen it during an episode of erotic asphyxiation.

Despite being crouched in the holdall, the officer put her hand through a small gap between the padlock and zip fastener to lock it from the inside.

Police believe Mr Williams may have done the same then passed out, possibly as a result of panic when he was unable to reopen the padlock.