Daily Mail : MI6 spy found dead in a bag 'disliked the office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions' and dreamed of escaping the rat race, sister tells inquest

Monday, April 23, 2012

MI6 spy found dead in a bag 'disliked the office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions' and dreamed of escaping the rat race, sister tells inquest

* Gareth Williams was extremely 'security conscious' and would not have let strangers inside his flat
* He may have been considering leaving the security services to start up his own business
* Detectives say criminal charges are still a possibility, despite no suspects
* Four intelligence agents give evidence behind anonymity screens to avoid 'real risk of harm' to national security and international relations

By Chris Greenwood | April 23, 2012

A spy whose body was discovered in a padlocked bag was desperate to leave his intelligence post and complained about ‘friction’ at MI6 headquarters, his family said yesterday.

They revealed 31-year-old Gareth Williams was a ‘scrupulous risk assessor’ and a meticulous genius who colleagues compared to a Swiss clock.

But he had become disenchanted with a heavy drinking ‘office culture’, the London ‘rat race’ and work politics at the spy agency’s central Thames-side HQ.

He applied to end his secondment early and return to the GCHQ Government listening station in Cheltenham, where he worked as a highly prized code-breaker.

But just one week before he was due to leave, his naked and decomposing body was found in a large sports holdall in the bath of his home, sparking a huge police investigation.

Yesterday, his grieving family attended the first day of a long-awaited inquest into his mysterious death.

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox pledged to hold a ‘full and fearless’ inquiry as she heard:

* Mr Williams wanted to escape the ‘rat race’ of the capital and was frustrated that MI6 had been dragging its feet over the move.
* The spy was extremely conscientious and his family said he would never let anyone into his flat apart from them.
* MI6 was accused of failing to raise the alarm when he missed a key meeting one week before his body was found.
* A sergeant described the moment he cut open the red North Face holdall and found the body of Mr Williams curled up inside.
* A constable who discovered the bag and raised the alarm noticed underwear neatly folded on a nearby bed and a woman’s wig hanging on a chair.

The death of Mr Williams in August 2010 triggered a painstaking investigation, worldwide media frenzy and a raft of conspiracy theories.

Revelations about his personal life and claims that no third-party fingerprints or DNA were found in his home fuelled speculation around the circumstances of his death.

His parents, Ian and Ellen Williams, listened as his sister Ceri Subbe told the inquest how he never spoke about his top-secret intelligence work.

Choking with emotion, she outlined the astonishing academic achievements that led him to his highly specialist job and passions for sport, fashion and the arts.

But Mrs Subbe said he disliked the office culture at the landmark MI6 headquarters on the south bank of the Thames.

She said: ‘He missed the countryside and longed to ride his bicycle in the open air without smog and the constant fear of being run over by a bendy bus.

‘He disliked the office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions and the rat race. He even spoke of friction in the office.

‘The job was not quite what he expected. He encountered more red tape than he was comfortable with.’ Mrs Subbe said she last spoke to her brother on August 13, when he said he was looking forward to going to see a transvestite comedian.

She later found out he missed a meeting at MI6 that he was due to chair, but no one investigated why.

On August 23 PC John Gallagher was asked to conduct a ‘welfare check’ on Mr Williams’s flat when he failed to keep in touch and they could not raise him.

The officer described how the property was clean, tidy and unremarkable until he came across the holdall in the en-suite bathroom. PC Gallagher said: ‘I noticed that the side nearest the door had a round bulge.

‘I noticed there was a padlock with the two zips joined together. At this point I am realising it is something serious.’

He called Sergeant Paul Colgan, who used a knife to cut a three-inch hole in the bag, confirming a body was inside and alerting the murder squad.

Sgt Colgan said the heavy-duty bag concealed the smell of the decomposing body but once the hole was made the ‘smell became more than apparent’.

When Mr Williams’s sensitive job was discovered, detectives from the force’s Counter Terrorism Command were informed.

The inquest, in Westminster, heard details of the spy’s life, including how he went to university aged just 16, joining the University of Bangor’s computer science department.

It was also told how the successful cyclist and fell runner followed the arts and fashion and had a £20,000 collection of women’s designer clothing in his wardrobe. Mrs Subbe said her brother was ‘the most scrupulous risk-assessor’ she had ever known. She said he would meticulously check his equipment before rock climbing, cycling and fell running.

She added that her brother never told her he was being followed or felt threatened, saying: ‘I cannot think as to why anybody would want to harm him.’

The inquest, which is expected to last eight days, continues.