Daily Mail : The woman with THREE identities who could hold key to death of the body-in-the-bag spy

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The woman with THREE identities who could hold key to death of the body-in-the-bag spy [or here]

American Missa Elizabeth Guthrie claims to be an international businesswoman linked to a wealthy American family

By Robert Verkaik, George Arbuthnott and Sharon Churcher | March 31, 2012

The Mail on Sunday can today identify a mysterious new witness who could hold the key to the death of the body-in-a-bag MI6 spy Gareth Williams.

The woman used three different names in statements provided to police for a pre-inquest hearing into the death of code-breaker Mr Williams.

This provoked Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner investigating the case, to declare: ‘There has been some confusion as to who this witness is and I need to know her identity.

‘I expect witnesses to identify who they are, not who they think they are.’

Our investigation has revealed the woman to be 27-year-old American Missa Elizabeth Guthrie, who claims to be an international businesswoman linked to a wealthy American family worth £35 billion.

The full inquest into Mr Williams’s death is due to be held later this month and Westminster coroner Dr Wilcox is now expected to quiz Ms Guthrie about the time she spent with Mr Williams in 2010.

Dr Wilcox said on Friday: ‘She [Ms Guthrie] will be asked to explain who she is and called to give evidence.’

The coroner said that there were a number of questions she wanted to ask Ms Guthrie about her identities, which were previously given as Missa Gunther, Misa Guseiri and Elizabeth Guthrie.

The confusion surrounding Ms Guthrie deepened further on Friday when a senior Scotland Yard press officer contacted The Mail on Sunday on her behalf to say that she had not told her family that she was a close friend of Gareth Williams.

Mr Williams was discovered naked inside a red North Face holdall, which was padlocked on the outside and placed inside his bath

The official said that the family was well known in America, and that it could embarrass them if Ms Guthrie’s previously unknown connection was made public.

However, it is no secret among Ms Guthrie’s friends that she was close to Mr Williams before he died.

A source involved in the case said: ‘She first met Gareth when she shared a flat in Knightsbridge where Gareth frequently came to meet friends from Wales. They struck up a close friendship because they were both interested in politics and history.

‘But in 2009 she moved out and found a top floor-flat in Pimlico which was close to Gareth’s address.’

In the months before he died, Ms Guthrie’s friendship with Mr Williams blossomed. The source said: ‘On election night in May 2010 the two of them stayed up late with another person to see in the new Coalition Government.’

Mr Williams, a maths genius from Anglesey, North Wales, had worked for the Government listening post GCHQ in Cheltenham since leaving university and was on secondment to MI6 when his body was found by police at his top-floor flat in Pimlico, Central London, on August 23, 2010.

He was discovered naked inside a red North Face holdall, which was padlocked on the outside and placed inside his bath.

The Government has refused to disclose what secret operations Mr Williams was working on during the weeks before his death.

Fresh evidence about his state of mind before his death is expected to be aired at the full inquest – adding to speculation that the spy may have been murdered by a foreign agency or a criminal gang.

The source said: ‘Ms Guthrie said Gareth told her he was being followed in the days before his death.

‘She didn’t know who it was, only that she and Gareth were so concerned that they sometimes varied the route they took home.’

Ms Guthrie also told friends after Mr Williams’s body was found that he was planning to leave the Secret Service so that he could set up his own business with her and another MI6 officer.

‘She was very vague about what this would be, only that it would be with another MI6 officer,’ said the source.

Our investigations in the United States have revealed that Missa Elizabeth Guthrie is the daughter of George Gordon Guthrie, a wealthy New York stockbroker.

The 69-year-old, who is known as Jerry, worked for various Wall Street investment firms, including a securities unit of the French bank Caisse des Depots et Consignations, where he was managing director of options trading.

His brother, Randolph Hobson Guthrie, a retired plastic surgeon, is married to a great-granddaughter of the steel magnate Henry Phipps. Phipps was the son of an English shoemaker who went to America in the early part of the 19th Century.

Phipps became the business partner of Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Steel Company and built Carnegie Hall in 1891.

Phipps also founded the Bessemer Trust to manage the family fortune. It now manages funds for more than 2,000 families and has £35 billion in assets. There are about 300 of Phipps’ descendants who benefit from the Trust.

Ms Guthrie’s father was previously married to Laura McCord, who is now the wife of Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg, the multi-billion business news and analysis corporation.

According to US securities records, Ms Guthrie and her mother Donnell, 57, are shareholders in a business and technology consulting firm called Answerthink.

Ms Guthrie grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, a town is known its for great estates and links to famous families such as the Kennedys.

Her childhood homes included a six-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion. The property is currently valued at £5 million.

Ms Guthrie, who it is claimed has given different names to friends and uses pseudonyms on her Facebook site, is described by friends as a flamboyant character who lived a secretive life working for a Middle Eastern oil and minerals trading company.

'She was very secretive about her work'

In New York she is understood to have also worked as an actress, appearing in a low-budget production called In Search Of Myster Ey, taking the part of a ‘mystery-seeking lady’.

The film is an eccentric investigation into the meaning of the ego.

Ms Guthrie is believed to have left New York for London in 2008.

A source told The Mail on Sunday that she studied at the Regent’s Business School in Central London.

The source added: ‘She had two names, calling herself both Phipps and Guthrie, and claimed to come from a famous American family – but she never really explained who they were.’ Ms Guthrie told her friends that she had travelled widely, visiting the Middle East, China and South America on what she described as business trips.

The source said: ‘The funny thing was that she never explained exactly what she did and was very secretive about her work.

‘She even used the code-name Shark when talking about her business partner.’

In 2008 Ms Guthrie’s parents retired to a four-bedroom, five-bathroom villa for which they paid £2 million on Sea Island, an exclusive resort on a barrier reef on the coast of Georgia. Reached by a dramatic causeway that swoops for miles over marshland and shaded by moss-draped oak trees, Sea Island was once one of the favourite winter resorts for socially ambitious Americans who were drawn to its five miles of private beaches.

The £2 million the Guthries paid was about the average for a home on the island at the time. The island is privately owned by a development company.

But shortly after Ms Guthrie’s parents bought their villa, it was revealed that the company was in financial trouble.

Property values have since plunged and the Guthries’ sprawling home is now valued by one online site at about £1 million.

There was no sign of Ms Guthrie’s parents at the family home yesterday.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the investigation into Mr Williams’s death is ongoing and officers have not ruled out murder.

The coroner’s court heard on Friday that a series of blunders, including a mix-up over DNA found at the scene, had hampered the inquiry. The inquest was also told that a man and a woman of ‘Mediterranean appearance’ who had visited the flat in the weeks before the death, and who were the subject of a police witness appeal, had now been identified and ruled out as a ‘red herring’.

Mr Williams’s family have said they believe that he was murdered by those ‘specialising in the dark arts of the secret services’.

They also suspect a cover-up, suggesting evidence has been removed or tampered with.