Daily Mail : 50 agents face DNA tests over spy-in-the-bag killing as coroner brands death 'unlawful' and puts MI6 in the frame

Thursday, May 03, 2012

50 agents face DNA tests over spy-in-the-bag killing as coroner brands death 'unlawful' and puts MI6 in the frame

* 15 colleagues of Gareth Williams have already given DNA evidence
* Coroner: 'It is unlikely the spy's death will ever be satisfactorily explained'
* Dr Fiona Wilcox says lack of compelling evidence removes possibility of unlawful killing verdict but says it is probable his death was 'illegal'
* 'It would appear that many agencies fell short' during the investigation
* Coroner: British Secret Service's involvement 'still a legitimate line of inquiry'
* MI6 chief apologises 'unreservedly' to Mr Williams' family over the way the police inquiry was hampered by his colleagues
* Family pay emotional tribute to their 'special and adored son and brother' and blast MI6's 'reluctance and failure' in helping detectives

By Stephen Wright and Chris Greenwood | May 3, 2012

Police are taking DNA samples from up to 50 colleagues of body-in-the-bag spy Gareth Williams.

Officers strongly suspect a member of the security services, working for either MI6 or GCHQ, was in the 31-year-old's flat on the night he died.

Fifteen of his colleagues have already given their DNA to police and officers plan to take swabs from dozens more.

Investigators hope detailed analysis of a scruffy green hand-towel recovered from a shelf in his kitchen could soon result in a forensic breakthrough.

Details of the extraordinary DNA sweep emerged as a coroner ruled that Mr Williams, whose naked body was found in a locked red North Face bag in the bath of his central London apartment, was probably 'unlawfully killed'.

In a dramatic narrative verdict, Dr Fiona Wilcox told Westminster coroner's court it was a 'legitimate line of inquiry' that the codebreaker was killed by a colleague, as he would only have let someone he trusted into his home.

'The cause of his death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated,' she said. 'I am therefore satisfied that on the balance of probabilities Gareth was killed unlawfully.'

Dr Wilcox said serious questions remain over an iPhone of Mr Williams's that was mysteriously wiped of all data just hours before he died in August 2010.

She added that the forgetfulness of some employees at MI6, where Mr Williams had been on secondment from GCHQ, the Government's listening post, 'stretched probability'.

She refused to rule out that a colleague in the shadowy world of intelligence was involved.

Yesterday Mr Williams's family accused MI6 of withholding vital clues and failing to make 'basic inquiries' into his whereabouts until a week after his disappearance.

And they called on the head of Scotland Yard, Bernard Hogan-Howe, to review the 21-month investigation personally.

Mr Williams's sister Ceri and their parents Ian and Ellen attacked the 'total inadequacies' of the inquiry.

In a statement released by their lawyer, they said: 'Our grief is exacerbated by the failure of his employers at MI6 to make even the most basic inquiries as to his whereabouts and welfare that any reasonable employer would have taken.

'We are also extremely disappointed over the reluctance and failure of MI6 to make available relevant information.'

Last night Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, apologised 'unreservedly' for the failure of Mr Williams's colleagues to raise the alarm promptly, which meant the body was left to decompose for a week in the sweltering top-floor flat in Pimlico.

Mr Williams was a maths prodigy who graduated with first-class honours in computer science aged 17 and completed a PhD four years later. As well as being a cycling fanatic and successful fell runner, he had a wide-ranging passion for the arts and high-end fashion.

He also hoarded a £20,000 collection of designer women's clothing, browsed fetish websites and filmed himself dancing naked except for a pair of cowboy boots.

But in a painstaking two-hour examination of the evidence, Dr Wilcox rejected theories that the reclusive prodigy's eccentric private life had any link to his death.

She also said he probably did not die in a solo sex game that went catastrophically wrong, because he was not a risk-taker.

Dr Wilcox said she was 'sure that a third party placed the bag into the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag'.

She told Mr Williams's family that she hoped the inquest would give them some comfort, adding that 'it would appear that many agencies fell short' during the investigation into his death, leaving 'most of the fundamental questions unanswered'.

Dr Wilcox concluded Mr Williams was alive when he got into the North Face holdall where his body was found.

She said she was certain someone else put it in the bath of his windowless ensuite bathroom, probably to contain bodily fluids, before closing the door behind them.

The coroner said the spy would have died quickly, either from hypercapnia, the fatal accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood, or from a mystery poison.

A range of poisons, including cyanide, insulin, chloroform and amyl nitrate could not be detected if they were used because of the advanced state of decomposition.

Detectives were last night already preparing to interview and take DNA samples from dozens of staff at MI6's London headquarters and GCHQ in Cheltenham.

Officers said human traces have been found on the hand towel recovered from Mr Williams's kitchen and the 'very promising' results of highly sensitive DNA testing could be ready within weeks.

After the inquest, Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire said there were several 'new lines of inquiry'.

She said: 'It is highly likely that a third party was involved in Gareth's death and I urge anyone who had contact with him to search their conscience and come forward.'

Last night Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt announced an urgent review of the new evidence and police blunders as a result of the inquest.