Southport Visiter : MI6 agent 'vulnerable to blackmail'

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MI6 agent 'vulnerable to blackmail'

April 26, 2012

MI6 agent Gareth Williams was vulnerable to blackmail, having carried out unauthorised searches on spy computers, an inquest has heard.

A malign or hostile party could have "theoretically put some pressure on to Gareth", his boss said. But a Secret Intelligence Services' inquiry ruled out any connection with the discovery of his body in a bag and his "world class" work.

Relatives of the spy walked out of the inquest into his death in tears as MI6 apologised for blunders which saw colleagues fail to raise the alarm about his disappearance for seven days.

The witness, named to the inquest as SIS F, said she was "profoundly sorry" after family lawyer Anthony O'Toole said the agency showed a "total disregard for Gareth's whereabouts and safety".

SIS F blamed Mr Williams' line manager for the "breakdown in communication". She denied family fears that the "dark arts" of the secret services had been involved in a cover up.

When asked what justification Mr Williams might have had for unauthorised searches, she said: "It seems to me that there was less to this than meets the eye."

She added that a review confirmed there was "no evidence of any specific threat to Gareth and we concluded that there was no reason to think his death was anything to do with his work".

Mr Williams was on secondment to MI6 in London from GCHQ before he died but had asked to cut this short, in part because he was disillusioned with the bureaucracy there, Westminster Coroner's Court heard.

It was "quite rare" for someone to request an early termination of their secondment but the spy had seemed happier once his request had been accepted, SIS F said. Yet before his planned departure from London could happen, his naked body was discovered curled up in a padlocked hold-all in his bathtub.

Some 20 months on, the circumstances of his death remain shrouded in mystery.