CNN : Mysterious death of MI6 spy grips Britain

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Mysterious death of MI6 spy grips Britain

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN | May 1, 2012

It reads like something from a spy novel. An MI6 agent known for his mathematical genius and codebreaking talent is found dead at his home, his naked body padlocked inside a large red carrying bag stowed in the bathtub.

There is no sign of a break-in or of force having been used against him. The man's Internet history betrays an interest in sex games and bondage. But DNA traces suggest other people may have been in his apartment.

The mysterious 2010 death of Gareth Williams, who worked for Britain's foreign intelligence service, is a riddle that has gripped the nation.

And at the heart of the mystery is a key question: Could Williams have zipped himself into the bag as part of a bizarre sexual fantasy? Or was the Cambridge-educated math whiz placed there by what family members have suggested are killers versed in the "dark arts" of espionage?

At Westminster Coroner's Court, a solid red-brick building across the River Thames from the headquarters of MI6 -- where fictional spy James Bond worked -- the disturbing tale of the final hours of a man known for closely guarding his privacy has unfolded in the most public of ways.

The inquest has heard that Gareth Williams was not reported missing for more than a week, despite the sensitive nature of his work, meaning many vital clues were lost to decomposition.

Meanwhile, UK media have focused on revelations about the 31-year-old's apparent interest in bondage and claustrophilia, a fetish for enclosure in very confined spaces.

Reports about the "body in a bag spy" detail how two experts spent days trying to figure out whether Williams, who was athletic and of medium height, could have contorted himself in such as way as to lock himself into the North Face holdall bag, with a key to the padlock inside.

Video provided to the court shows one of them, Peter Faulding, folding himself laboriously into an identical bag, measuring just 32 inches by 19 inches (81 by 48 centimeters), placed in a bathtub.

Faulding, who specializes in rescuing people from confined spaces, told the inquest he had tried to lock himself into the bag 300 times without success, according to the Press Association news agency. A second expert witness, also of a size and build similar to Williams, tried 100 times to re-enact the feat without succeeding.