Chicago Tribune : MI6 "kept evidence related to dead spy" - testimony

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

MI6 "kept evidence related to dead spy" - testimony

Yeganeh Torbati | Reuters | May 1, 2012

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's MI6 intelligence agency failed to hand over to police the belongings of a spy found dead inside a bag in his home, including computer memory sticks, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

Gareth Williams, 31, was on secondment to MI6 at the time of his death in 2010.

Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire told the inquest that MI6 agents searched Williams' electronic media without informing police, the BBC reported. Police only learned of the memory sticks on Monday.

"Had I known of their existence, I would have expected them to be at least reviewed or audited by (the counter-terrorism unit) and if information was available, then sent to my team," Sebire was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.

Sebire testified last week that she believed someone else was involved in Williams getting inside the bag, which was found locked. A small amount of unknown DNA not belonging to Williams was found on the bag.

Williams, a mathematics prodigy, was trying to develop technologies that could be used in gathering information for MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service.

One police officer, Detective Superintendent Michael Broster of the counter-terrorism branch SO-15, was quoted by the BBC as saying his team should have examined the memory sticks before giving them to MI6, but that he had taken what evidence he believed was relevant to the case.

Police also did not take an inventory of the contents of Williams's office cabinet because of the "sensitive nature of the documents," fellow counter terrorism officer Colin Hall was reported by the Guardian as saying.

Pathologists believe the likeliest cause of death was either poisoning or suffocation, but say they cannot be sure which.

The strange death - Williams was found naked inside the padlocked bag, his corpse decomposing in the August summer heat - has puzzled investigators, who have found little forensic evidence that would point to a culprit.

Last week, the inquest was told that if proper procedures had been followed by Williams' supervisors at MI6, his absence would have been reported and acted upon within hours. Instead, they waited days to report him missing and Williams' body was found a week after he had first failed to show up to work.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)