AFP : MI6 withheld evidence on codebreaker death

Monday, April 30, 2012

MI6 withheld evidence on codebreaker death

April 30, 2012

LONDON — MI6 failed to disclose evidence to police investigating the death of a spy whose body was found locked in a bag in his bathtub, the inquest into his death has heard.

Britain's external spy agency kept nine memory sticks belonging to codebreaker Gareth Williams, 31, after he was found dead, and also failed to give police a black holdall from his office that was similar to the bag in which he was found dead.

The detective heading the case said she had been unaware of the items until Monday, although police have been investigating since Williams' naked and decomposing body was found in August 2010.

"I would have expected to have been told," Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire told the inquest Tuesday.

Detective Constable Colin Hall, of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terror squad, said he had searched Williams' office but did not seize the memory sticks because he was told they contained material "of a sensitive nature".

Hall did not take the black sports bag because "I was told there was nothing there about Gareth's death", he added.

Police were asked to leave Williams' office when they made their first visit three days after he was found dead, without being given a reason, Hall said.

"We had not completed our search," he said, later adding: "I will do what I'm told."

Counter-terror police liaised with MI6 because they are the only police with the required security clearance.

Intelligence officers also searched Williams' "electronic media" without telling police, the inquest heard.

Williams' death has so far remained unexplained, and the inquest also examined whether he could have padlocked himself in the holdall alone -- a feat one expert said "Houdini would have struggled" to achieve.

Pathologists said Williams likely died from poisoning or suffocation, but the decomposition of his body reduced the scope for pinpointing the cause of death.

MI6 did not report Williams missing for a week after he failed to arrive at work.

Police found women's clothing worth about £20,000 ($32,400, 24,500 euros) in Williams' flat, while the inquest also heard he visited bondage sites, filmed himself naked apart from a pair of boots, and was once found tied to a bed.

But his family have said they believe secret agents versed in the "dark arts" tried to cover up the codebreaker's death.

His sister, Ceri Subbe, earlier told the inquest Williams had been unhappy at MI6, where he was seconded from Britain's intelligence monitoring centre.

The coroner said Monday she was aiming for a verdict on Wednesday in the inquest, which has gripped Britain and sparked a series of conspiracy theories.

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