Daily Mail : So who did kill the spy? Spooks, sex and the vital questions that the inquest couldn't answer

Friday, May 04, 2012

So who did kill the spy? Spooks, sex and the vital questions that the inquest couldn't answer [scroll down]

May 2, 2012

Who put him in the holdall?

Some 400 attempts were made by expert witnesses to padlock themselves inside a North Face holdall identical to the one in which Mr Williams' body was found. Each attempt resulted in failure, so unless Mr Williams was able to pull off this 'amazing' feat, at least one still unidentified person was involved in his death.

The theory that he was placed in the bag while already dead or unconscious was challenged at the inquest by pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd. He said it would be 'extremely difficult' to place a 'floppy' dead body in a foetal position as neat as that in which the corpse was found.

Dr Shepherd did concede that the codebreaker could have been forced into the holdall at gunpoint or while sedated.

While tests continue on scratches found at the end of the bag where his head lay, there were no signs inside the bag of a violent struggle to get out. If Mr Williams was conscious when the bag was sealed he would have quickly passed out and died because of the build-up of carbon dioxide within. He could also have been poisoned.

Furthermore, if a naked Mr Williams had climbed into the holdall while it was in the bath, he would have left hand and footprints. That there were none found suggests that he was already in the bag before it was placed in the bath.

At least one unidentified person would seem to have been present in the bathroom between the time the bag was put in the bath and its discovery by police eight days later.

Yesterday the coroner said: 'In relation to the prints found within the bathroom, in my view what was more significant was what was not found rather than what was found.' She said she was 'sure that a third party moved the bag containing Gareth into the bath'.

Was his death linked to his private life?

That is the official MI6 verdict. While his family portrayed him as a very private man with conventional tastes, the picture that has emerged since his death suggests otherwise.

Police found evidence that Mr Williams looked at bondage websites and visited transvestite clubs and gay bars, though they could not identify any sexual partners. His friends insisted he was heterosexual but could not explain his behaviour.

Mr Williams had a £20,000 collection of women's clothing in his flat, including shoes his own size which had been worn and a long wig. His friends, who knew nothing of the collection, suggest Mr Williams meant to give them away as gifts.

But a video found on one of his phones showed Mr Williams 'gyrating' for the camera naked but for a pair of women's calf-length boots.

His landlady at a former home in Cheltenham had once found him tied to his bedposts wearing only his boxer shorts. She felt that the incident was of a sexual nature. This and his occasional visits to extreme websites coincide with his MI6 training.

There is no firm evidence that Mr Williams derived any kind of sexual pleasure from bondage or confinement, and the coroner raised the possibility that allegations about the spy's private vices were made by a third party to 'manipulate' the evidence. Had a false trail been laid and if so, why?

Did he die as a result of a sex game?

The coroner ruled out any link between Mr Williams' interest in bondage and his death. But suspicions remain. Traces of his semen were found on the floor of the bathroom in which his body was discovered and on his dressing gown.

Someone else's DNA is understood to have been found on a green hand towel in Mr Williams' kitchen, which might yield further clues, even a breakthrough, in coming weeks.

Did he die as a result of a sadomasochistic scenario which went wrong? Was the bag padlocked by a sexual partner who then fled the scene?

Why were the radiators on full blast?

Mr Williams died during August, when central heating would normally be switched off. The fact that it wasn't off in his top floor flat raises a suspicion that it is linked to his death, or at least an attempt to destroy evidence.

The higher temperature would have speeded up the decomposition of the body. Putrefaction would have been further hastened by the fact that the body was curled up inside a holdall.

The holdall also helped contain the tell-tale smell of decomposition. The bath would also have contained and eventually drained any fluids released as the body decayed.

If there was indeed a deliberate effort to speed up decomposition in order to hide the cause of death and delay discovery then it was entirely successful.

By the time pathologists were able to examine Mr Williams' corpse, the decomposition was so advanced they could only guess at cause of death.

Was his death linked to spying?

His family believe so, but we may never know.

MI6 obtained a Public Interest Immunity certificate which kept details of his work for them and GCHQ secret.

They claim Mr Williams was seen as at 'low risk' but he was a highly skilled and trained computer scientist who had recently met two informants and was ready to be deployed on an active mission.

One manager said he made a 'small number' of unauthorised searches on the MI6 database which could have left him open to blackmail.

His flat had been rented by spies since 2003 and he confirmed his sensitive occupation to at least two close friends.

When she reported him missing, GCHQ's human resources chief, told a police switchboard worker that Mr Williams had been 'just taken off an operation' and was unhappy.

The inquest was told this was not true and the coroner ruled her comment may have been 'misinformation' designed to spur police into action. These contradictions did nothing to increase confidence in the security services' account.

Why did MI6 take eight days to call the police?

MI6's behaviour throughout this whole affair has been puzzling and done little to discourage conspiracy theories about its direct involvement in Mr Williams' death.

The codebreaker was a meticulous time-keeper yet he was missing from work for a week before the security services alerted the police.

During that time only cursory attempts were made to contact him. His line manager – known at the inquest as MI6 Officer G – came in for particular criticism at the inquest.

The delay was crucial in the pathologists' subsequent inability to give a definite cause of death. Even after his bosses decided he was missing there was still a four-hour delay before raising the alarm.

Given his work as a spy, this seeming laxity is amazing. It is also puzzling that the security services apparently wanted the police to be the first people through the door of their own 'safe house', to hunt for a missing operative.

Did MI6 undermine the inquiry?

Anthony O'Toole, lawyer for the Williams family, asked an officer from the Met's SO15 counter-terrorism branch: 'If this wasn't the SIS and it was the Kray twins or someone else, you were investigating, you would have gone into far more detail, wouldn't you?'

As the inquest progressed it became clear that there was a disconnect between the anti-terrorist police officers who were security vetted to visit MI6 HQ and their colleagues on the outside investigating the death.

Officers from SO15 went to Vauxhall Cross and examined Mr Williams' locker and desk. There were nine memory sticks in the locker and a North Face holdall, similar to the death bag, under the desk, containing a number of personal items and work material.

Detective Constable Colin Hall, of the counter-terror branch, told the inquest he did not take the computer memory sticks because he was told by MI6 they contained material 'of a sensitive nature'. He said he was also told to leave the bag in situ.

In fact the investigative team learned of the suppressed evidence only during the inquest. They were also kept in the dark about MI6's examination of the dead man's 'electronic media'.

It seems the SO15 officers were serving the interests of the security services rather than those of the murder squad.

MI6 failed to provide formal statements to the inquest. This may well have been the fault of SO15 officers who did not press for anything more than anonymous summaries of informal interviews rather than sworn statements.

The coroner said this had affected the quality of evidence heard at inquest. The security services were also slow in handing over key other evidence.

The inquest heard that Mr Williams's GCHQ computer was not handed over until six days after his body was discovered and the MI6 one four days later.

Mr Williams also owned four iPhones. Experts are still trying to recover data from one of them. It was wiped on the last day he was seen alive.

Telephone company records suggested that it had never been used.

The MI6 headquarters where Gareth Williams worked at Vauxhall Cross, near Vauxhall Bridge, in south London

Why was there so little forensic evidence?

It wasn't only the bathroom that was suspiciously devoid of clues. Police found no unidentified fingerprints anywhere else in the death flat. All belonged to Mr Williams or his close family.

There was a similar paucity of third party DNA, though forensic scientist Ros Hammond told the inquest there was 'certainly evidence' of at least two unidentified people at the flat.

There was no evidence that the flat had been 'wiped' of prints. Yet circumstances suggest that someone else, who knew their business enough not to leave clues, had been at work there. Probably wearing gloves.

Another spy? His family think so; they believe someone skilled in the 'dark arts' was responsible for Mr Williams' death.

There was no sign of a break-in, but police found that the front door latch could be reached and raised through the letterbox.

The top flat at 36 Alderney Street did not seem to be a very 'safe' safe house at all.

Was he killed by MI6?

The theory that Mr Williams was killed by his employers, Britain's own secret service, is perhaps the most outré and disturbing, better suited to the pages of a sensational spy thriller.

No credible motive has been advanced as to why the spymasters would kill one of their own, in circumstances that would attract the most sensational publicity, in their own safe house, in central London.

However, it was by no means discounted by the coroner. Dr Wilcox said that while there was no evidence to suggest he died at the hands of MI6, 'it is still a legitimate line of inquiry'.