Telegraph : Gareth Williams timeline: how the mystery of the 'spy in the bag' unfolded

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gareth Williams timeline: how the mystery of the 'spy in the bag' unfolded

How the Daily Telegraph covered the mysterious case of Gareth Williams, the MI6 worker found dead in a sports bag.

By Daily Telegraph reporters | April 25, 2012

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25 August 2010: A GCHQ worker in his 30s is found dead in a large sports bag in his bath. He was on secondment to MI6, police believe. His mobile telephone and sim cards had been carefully laid out on a table. He had been there sometime and his body had decomposed.

26 August 2010: The dead man is named as Gareth Williams. Police believe he may have been killed by a "jealous lover" but they do not rule out the possibility his death was linked to his intelligence work. There were no signs of forced entry and a post mortem is inconclusive. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is given updates on the probe as part of scheduled intelligence briefings. His parents, Ellen and Ian, return from holiday to identify their son.

27 August 2010: Friends say Williams was "one of life's innocents" who could have fallen in with "unsafe" company as details emerge about his brilliant mathematical abilities. Geraint Williams, a maths teachers at Bodedern Secondary School, said the "exceptional" pupil had "the best brain I have ever seen". Friends disclosed that Mr Williams travelled to the United States at least three times a year for up to a month at a time, throughout his time working for GCHQ. It is believed he was working with the National Security Agency, the national listening station near Baltimore, as well as possibly the CIA and FBI in Washington. He was working for MI6 at the time of his death. Philip Johnston profiles GCHQ, the British evesdropping agency.

28 August 2010 Williams' family attacks "completely false" smears about his private life. It is reoported that the spy was gay or even a transvestite, and that bondage equipment had been found in his flat.

29 August 2010 Williams was recruited by GCHQ scouts while studying at Cambridge University, it emerges. He worked at the Super Computer Centre, developing techniques to speed up data encryption, before taking postings at RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire and the US NSA's Fort Meade base. He was due to start work at GCHQ's Cyber Security Operations Centre after his posting at MI6 came to an end.

30 August 2010 Murder detectives tell the Daily Telegraph Williams may have been killed by a foreign intelligence agency seeking to stop his code-breaking work. They say Williams returned from a foreign trip on August 11 and was last seen alive on August 15 - eight days before his body was discovered. Sources close to the inquiry said they are looking at the possibility that his body was manhandled into the bag in order to remove it from the premises. A pathologist remains unsure how Williams died. His family pay tribute to a "generous, loving, son, brother and friend".

2 September 2010 A coroner reveals Mr Williams was padlocked into the sportsbag when he was found dead.

6 September 2010 Police suspect Mr Williams was poisoned - and launch a hunt for a Mediterranean-looking couple who visited the Pimlico safehouse before he died. CCTV footage shows the spy shopping in the West End wearing a red t-shirt and beige trousers.

12 September 2010 Mr Williams was working on systems to defend the banks of the City of London from foreign attack at the time of his death, the Sunday Telegraph learns. One theory being examined is that Mr Williams may have had an approach from a rival agency, and either rebuffed it without informing his superiors or initially agreed to cooperate then got cold feet. If such an approach had been exposed there would have been severe political and diplomatic repercussions, making it expedient for Mr Williams to be killed.

20 September 2010 Police now believe Mr Williams' death was linked to an unusual sex game. Officers have ruled out almost every other possibility. They have come to the view that Gareth Williams probably died after climbing into the bag which was then locked by another person. Detectives believe he was probably indulging in a sadomasochistic game in which he got a thrill from being helpless. It is likely that once locked and left in the bag, he died from a combination of causes including suffocation and dehydration, which sources said can be hard to identify in a post-mortem inquiry.

24 September 2010 Mr Williams is buried at Holyhead, Anglesey. Sir John Sawers, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, tells mourners: "Gareth was a hugely talented person and very modest as well. He did really valuable work with us in the cause of national security." Other MI6 and GCHQ staff enter the church through a back door to protect their identities.

29 October 2010 Tests on Mr Williams' body found no trace of drugs, alcohol or poison - reinforcing the sex game theory.

22 December The keys to the padlock were found inside Mr Williams' North Face holdall, under his naked body, it emerges.

23 December 2010 Mr Williams had visited bondage websites, gay bars and drag clubs in the weeks before his death, police reveal. He also maintained a £15,000 collection of women's clothes by designers including Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin. They were in sizes that would have fitted the 5ft 8ins spy. Unknown to his family and colleagues, Mr Williams had attended two short courses in fashion design at the Central St Martin's College of Art and Design in London during evenings and weekends, one in 2010 and one in 2009.

27 December 2010 Mr Williams had intended to give the clothes away as gifts, Sian Lloyd-Jones, a childhood friend says. "I truly believe that Ceri and I were going to receive the clothing. He was so generous you wouldn't believe," she said. She reveals Mr Williams was training to take on a new identity and had a second passport.

16 December 2010 The inquest into Mr Williams death is adjourned again to allow more tests. Dr Paul Knapman says the case has made little progress, the 'Mediterrean' couple have not been traced and a break-through looks unlikely.

31 March 2012 An interim hearing before a full inquest takes place. A lawyer representing Mr Williams' family says he could have been killed by someone who specialised in the "dark arts of the secret services". The MI6 worker had recently qualified for "operational deployment". Finger prints and DNA evidence was wiped from the scene of the crime in a cover-up, the family believe. It emerges that DNA found on Mr Williams' hand, which officers believed could lead them to his killer, belonged to one of the police forensics worker. The code for the sample had been incorrectly logged by LGC, the forensics company.

3 April 2012 Scotland Yard apologises for "administrative errors'' during its probe. The force said it was responsible for giving a coroner three names for the same witness. Elizabeth Guthrie is expected to be questioned about her contact with Mr Williams in the months before his death. The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, told a pre–inquest review last week that ''there has been some confusion'' over her identity.

21 April 2012 Ahead of the inquest, Mr Williams' family says their emotions remain "very raw". His aunt, Judith Thomas, says: "We could fill newspapers with words to describe Gareth. You couldn't find enough paper in this world to say how we feel about him."

22 April 2012 Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, met Sir Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, hours after Gareth Williams' body was discovered. MI6 feared detectives would extend their probe into sensitive areas, including the nature of Mr Williams' work.

23 April 2012 The inquest continues. Mr Williams' sister, Ceri Subbe, tells Dr Fiona Wilcox that her brother did not enjoy the "flash car competition and post-war drinking culture" of MI6, and had applied to return to Cheltenham but MI6 were slow in approving his request.

24 April 2012 Fragments of another person's DNA were discovered on the outside of the bag in which Gareth Williams was found, the inquest heard. The traces were discovered on the toggle attached to the zip and the padlock used to lock the bag, it was revealed. Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, who led the police investigation into Mr Williams’ death, told the inquest: “My thought or opinion since I went into the scene is that a third party had been involved in the death or in putting the bag in the bath.”

The inquest also heard that MI6 held an internal investigation into Mr Williams' death. Andrew O’Connor, the lawyer for the Secret Intelligence Service, told coroner Fiona Wilcox that MI6 had carried out its own internal review. He said: “The fruits of that internal investigation were shared with the police at the time.” Dr Wilcox replied that she had not seen the results of the inquiries and asked for any report that had been produced to be submitted to the inquest.

25 April 2012 Mr Williams was once discovered tied to his bed posts wearing only boxer shorts. The maths prodigy was living alone in Cheltenham at the time and had to call for help in the middle of the night to be set free. His landlady and landlord, who lived below him heard his yells and were met with the “shocking” scene, Westminster Coroners’ Court heard. Searches of his home computers seized after his death revealed that he had been visited "websites of claustrophillia, and he also had access to bondage and sado masochism websites, the inquest has heard earlier in the day.

But a friend told the inquest Mr Williams was straight and not a transvestite. Elizabeth Guthrie, who had only known Mr Williams since 2009, said he may have had women’s clothing in his flat as “support strategy” for female friends. She said he would not have let anyone in to his flat unless he had a “very strong relationship” with them.

26 April 2012 MI6 officer SIS F tells the inquest that Mr Williams' interest in women's clothing and sadomasochism would not have prevented him becoming a spy. The inquest also heard that Mr Williams had conducted unauthorised searches on the MI6 database that could have put him at risk to “hostile and malign” parties.

Denise Stanworth, a toxicologist, told the inquest that traces of the date rape drug GHB were found in the body of Gareth Williams. They possibly occurred naturally. A panel of forensics experts which reviewed the post mortem findings was unable to rule out the use of certain poisons, such as cyanide and chloroform.

27 April 2012 Williams may have been able to get in the bag himself, the inquest hears. Despite experts failing to complete the bizarre task more than 100 times, a specialist said it could not rule out that someone with training could achieve it.

But a second expert, Peter Faulding, said he tried and failed to get into the bag 300 times. “My conclusion is he was placed in the bag unconscious or was dead when he was put in the bag. I cannot say it is impossible but I think even Houdini would struggle with this one.”

30 April 2012 A pathologist says Mr Williams probably died from poisoning, suffocation or strangulation. But Dr Richard Shepherd, a second pathologist, said he believed Mr Williams died inside the bag - probably from the build up of carbon dioxide.