Financial Times : MI6 screening considered in dead spy case

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

MI6 screening considered in dead spy case

By Helen Warrell and James Blitz

A Scotland Yard review of all the forensic evidence in the case of dead spy Gareth Williams may involve a DNA screening programme of MI6 employees, the Metropolitan Police commissioner said on Tuesday.

Bernard Hogan-Howe told reporters that from now on, the senior investigating officer would be able to approach MI6 personnel directly, without an anti-terrorism officer working as an intermediary.

Homicide detectives were previously forced to involve counter-terrorism colleagues in an attempt to obtain statements and evidence from MI6 as part of their investigation into Williams’s death.

When asked whether MI6 had agreed to greater access by the police team, the commissioner said: “They don’t have to sign up to it. It’s called the law.”

An inquest into the death of Williams – a talented codebreaker whose body was found zipped inside a locked holdall at his London flat in August 2010 – concluded that he was probably unlawfully killed.

Although the investigation leading up to the inquest did not identify any suspects, forensic teams have still not found a match for DNA found on a green towel in the spy’s kitchen.

The Met commissioner said that a screening programme on MI6 employees was one option under consideration, though he stressed this would be carried out on a “voluntary” basis.

Mr Hogan-Howe said: “Of course it may well be that Gareth Williams’s death has nothing to do with employment. All we need to do is to make sure that all areas of his life were fully explored.’’

However, he criticised an “unacceptable” breakdown in communication over potential evidence, which emerged during the inquest into Williams’s death, which concluded last week.

He said the senior investigating officer (SIO) would in future have complete access to all MI6 material, after it emerged a counter-terrorism officer did not tell the SIO, Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, about potential evidence.

Members of MI6 came under fresh scrutiny after the coroner at last week’s inquest said she was sure a third party locked Williams inside the red holdall in which his naked body was found in his bathtub.

Giving her verdict, Dr Fiona Wilcox said the 31-year-old was probably killed and it “remained a legitimate line of inquiry’’ that the secret services might have been involved in the death.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012.