Windsor Star : Details emerge about life of murdered MI6 spy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Details emerge about life of murdered MI6 spy

The Daily Telegraph | April 24, 2012

The British spy found dead in a padlocked sports bag in his London apartment hated the "flash car and drinking" culture of MI6 and complained of "friction" at work, his family told an inquest Monday.

Gareth Williams, 31, told his sister, Ceri Subbe, he wanted to leave London because he did not like the "rat race" lifestyle and was unhappy working for the security services. He had applied to cut short his three-year secondment to MI6 and return to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham but felt his superiors were "dragging their feet," Subbe told the hearing.

A date for his return was finally fixed for September 2010. His body was discovered in his Pimlico flat a week before he was due to return.

The long-awaited inquest was opened at Westminster Coroner's Court Monday to investigate the "highly controversial" death of Williams.

Dr. Fiona Wilcox, the coroner, has promised a "full, fair and fearless" inquiry in which no evidence will be heard behind closed doors. Up to 40 witnesses are due to give evidence at the hearing, including intelligence officers, police, forensic experts and friends.

The family believes that a third party was involved in Williams's death. Their lawyer has previously suggested experts in the "dark arts of the secret services."

The naked and decomposing body of the math prodigy, who was a cipher and codes expert, was discovered in a sports bag that had been locked from the outside and placed in the bath at his Pimlico flat in August 2010.

Police attended the flat after being alerted by his family, who were concerned that they had not heard from him for more than a week. The discovery led to worldwide speculation and conspiracy theories over how he died.

Lawyers for Scotland Yard said there was still a "real possibility" that criminal proceedings could be brought in connection with the death.

The first witness on the stand yesterday was Subbe, who said her brother had grown increasingly frustrated with his city life and wanted to leave.

Williams joined MI6 on a three-year secondment from GCHQ in 2009 but by March the following year his "enthusiasm had begun to fade," Subbe said.

In a statement, she told the hearing: "He disliked office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions and the rat race. He even spoke of friction in the office."

In her oral evidence, she added that her brother, a keen cyclist, was a "country boy, and the city life did not quite suit him."

In an emotional statement, Subbe told the inquest that her brother had a wide range of hobbies including fell running, cycling, art and fashion.

Subbe was unaware of other aspects of her brother's life, however. He did not tell her that he had completed two sixweek fashion courses at St. Martin's College in London or that he had amassed more than $32,000 worth of female clothing at his flat.

Asked if she was surprised, she said: "I am not surprised. He was very generous with gifts."

Subbe suggested that he may have simply been collecting the clothing due to his interest in fashion and his desire to buy high-quality items. The hearing was told that the last time Subbe had spoken to her brother was on Aug 13, when he mentioned that he was planning to visit a comedy club with a friend where a transvestite performer was appearing.

Subbe described her brother as "the most scrupulous riskassessor" she had ever known.

She said he would never have let anyone into his flat who had not been security cleared.

Const. John Gallagher found Williams's body after being asked to make a check at an address in Alderney Street. He was let in by a member of staff from an estate agent that managed the rented property and found a pile of unopened mail, but otherwise the flat was tidy. In the bedroom, the duvet was half on the floor and there was a pile of neatly folded clothes on the bed.

In the living room he noticed a mobile phone on the dining room, with a woman's wig hanging on a chair. The lights were on despite it being 5 p.m. on a summer evening.

Gallagher told the hearing that when he entered the en suite bathroom he noticed a smell that he associated with dead bodies and saw a red North Face bag in the bath. "I lifted the bag up around six or seven inches," he said. "It was quite heavy and that is when I noticed a red fluid seeping out of the bag." After making a small incision in the bag, Gallagher said it was apparent it contained a decomposing body.

Four intelligence officers will be allowed to give evidence from behind a screen in the coming days after Dr. Wilcox granted an application to keep their identity a secret. The request came from MI6 and GCHQ, backed by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, amid concerns over a risk to national security.

The coroner will also allow some aspects of the evidence to remain secret, including any information from foreign intelligence agencies, ongoing operations or details of secret service officers, methods and tactics.

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