NZ Herald : Spy dead when locked inside bag: report

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spy dead when locked inside bag: report

April 28, 2012

The spy in the bag must have been dead or unconscious when he was locked into the holdall in which his body was found, an inquest heard yesterday.

An escapology expert tried and failed 300 times to lock himself into an identical bag after being hired to try to crack the mystery of Gareth Williams' death.

Peter Faulding said 'Harry Houdini would have struggled' to use the small brass travel padlock to seal himself inside, and someone else must have done it.

Mr Faulding, a former Parachute Regiment reservist, described theories that the reclusive MI6 codebreaker got into the North Face holdall by himself as 'unbelievable scenarios'.

His experiments appeared to be a key breakthrough in the riddle which has baffled Scotland Yard's most senior detectives. How Mr Williams died remains unknown. Mr Faulding's evidence came as details of material discovered on Mr Williams' laptops and mobile phones were revealed for the first time.

A short film on his work iPhone showed the 31-year-old wearing nothing but calf high leather boots, 'wriggling and gyrating' around a chair before bending over with his back to the camera.

Mr Williams had used other laptops to view fetish clothing websites and bondage and sadomasochism videos, as well as spending half his time on women's fashion sites and blogs.

Images he viewed on a French website showed a model enclosed in plastic using a vacuum cleaner to suck air out. Others were of people tied up with ropes.

Mr Faulding, a mine rescue specialist, was hired by police a month after the naked and decomposing body of Mr Williams was discovered in the bath in his flat in Pimlico, Central London, in August 2010.

The case sparked a blizzard of conspiracy theories, including claims Mr Williams was murdered by foreign spies or died in a sex game that went wrong.

Mr Faulding filmed himself attempting to get inside an identical heavy-duty holdall and lock himself in by threading a padlock through the eyelets of the zip.

Asked by coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox how many times he had tried, he replied 'probably 300'.

He said: 'I just cannot do it. This case, I just cannot get it off my mind. It is very difficult. I am an escapologist, I am thinking outside the box here and trying everything I can to find a way.'

Dr Wilcox added: 'With all your trials and failures do you think it would be impossible to padlock this bag from the inside?'

Mr Faulding replied: 'I cannot say it was impossible, but even Houdini would struggle.'

He said Mr Williams could not have survived for more than 30 minutes as the temperature quickly rose and oxygen levels dropped. Mr Faulding said he only lasted five minutes before becoming 'delirious' after zipping himself inside with emergency oxygen and a paramedic outside.

He said other evidence reinforced his belief that someone else was involved.

No fingerprints or DNA were found where Mr Williams would have placed his hands on the bath and it would have been difficult to put the key where it was found under his right buttock.

But Mr Faulding said it would have been 'easy' for one person to lift the sturdy bag carrying the body, into the bath.

This may have been done to catch leaking body fluids, while the bathroom door could have been closed to contain the smell of decomposition, he said.

'My conclusion is Mr Williams was placed in the bag unconscious or he was dead when he was put in the bag,' he added.

A second expert, William MacKay, said he and a yoga-practising assistant made more than 100 attempts to recreate the feat without success.

But he refused to rule out the possibility that Mr Williams locked himself inside, highlighting that the rock climbing, fell running spy was extremely fit and dextrous. Mr Williams' former landlady has already revealed she once found him tied to the posts of his bed after he shouted for help one night.

DC Simon Warren said the spy spent half of his time viewing haute couture fashion websites.

But a small amount of material revealed he also viewed websites about famous drag queens and niche sexual fetishes, including bondage.

The inquest has also heard how Mr Williams may have been at risk from blackmail after making illicit searches on the top secret MI6 database. But a senior official, known only as SIS F, said there was no evidence that he had been identified by hostile foreign agents, let along targeted.

The inquest continues next week.

- Daily Mail