Telegraph : The death of MI6 spy Gareth Williams was 'criminally mediated'

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The death of MI6 spy Gareth Williams was 'criminally mediated'

MI6 spy Gareth Williams was unlawfully killed by a third party “on the balance of probabilities” a coroner ruled today.

By Tom Whitehead and Martin Evans | May 2, 2012

In a sensational narrative verdict, Dr Fiona Wilcox said a third party was involved in his death and that is was likely to have been “criminally mediated”.

The coroner had earlier ruled that because of the lack of evidence she could not return a formal verdict of unlawful killing.

But in her narrative she concluded that he was most probably killed.

She said: “I am satisfied so that I am sure that a third party placed the bag (which contained Gareth) in to the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag.

“The cause of death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated.

“I am therefore satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully.”

Mr Williams’ naked, decomposing body was discovered in a sports hold all in the bath at his Pimlico flat in London on August 23, 2010.

Dr Wilcox said it was "highly unlikely" that his mysterious death was connected to bondage activities and that he could have died from the effects of "some unknown poison".

"I find it more likely than not that Gareth entered the bag alive and then died very soon afterwards either from the toxic effects of carbon dioxide and heat before he was able to make a concerted effort to escape or from the effects of some unknown poison."

She acknowledged that Mr Williams, who was found naked in a padlocked bag, had demonstrated a passing sexual interest in bondage, but she did not believe it had been a factor in his death.

Fundamental questions surrounding the death remain unanswered and his "highly unusual" death may never be explained. she said.

She said there had been “endless speculation but little evidence”.

The coroner, sitting at Westminster Coroner’s Court, said the circumstances of the death “immediately raised the possibility of foul play”.

Summing up, Dr Wilcox said despite a two year police investigation and seven days of evidence “most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remain unanswered”.

“It is unlikely this death will ever be satisfactorily explained.”

The body of Mr Williams, 31, was discovered in a sports holdall in the bath at his Pimlico flat in London on August 23, 2010.

Police have never been able to solve the case but are certain a third party was involved.

Pathologists and confined spaces experts have also concluded that the spy was probably alive when he went in to the bag and died shortly after.

Dr Wilcox said IT experts who examined his computer history found he had only visited bondage websites on four separate dates.

She said there was also no evidence that he had researched claustrophilia – where people gain sexual gratification from being in enclosed spaces.

Dr Wilcox said the amount of internet activity regarding bondage formed a "tiny, tiny, tiny" part of his browser history.

Explaining her reasons for ruling out the involvement of bondage in his death she said in order for Mr Williams to have got into the bag in the bath alone and unaided, he would have left foot and fingerprints around the bath.

Dr Wilcox said she believed if Mr Williams had got into the bath alone he would have taken a knife with him as he was a "scrupulous risk assessor".

In addition she said there was no evidence of semen found in the bag during forensic examination.

Dr Wilcox also said she did not believe the large collection of female clothing pointed to the suggestion he was a transvestite.

Dr Wilcox said £20,000 collection of haute couture clothes were too small for Mr Williams to have worn and were also in their original wrapping. She suggested it was more likely that he had bought the clothes, which included 26 pairs of shoes and boots, as presents.

The hearing was told all three lawyers, representing the family, Met Police and MI6, were agreed that there was insufficient evidence to allow a verdict of unlawful killing.

Dr Wilcox agreed and added that an open verdict “would not do justice to the positive findings that I can make”.

At the conclusion of the inquest, the chief of SIS, Sir John Sawers apologised to Mr Williams' family for the mix-up which saw MI6 fail to report his disappearance for a week.

In a statement delivered by MI6 lawyer Andrew O'Connor, Sir John said the service should have acted more swiftly when Mr Williams failed to turn up to work in August 2010.

Mr O'Connor said: "On behalf of the whole organisation, Sir John regrets this deeply and apologises unreservedly."

He said "lessons have been learned, in particular the responsibility of all staff to report unaccounted staff absences".

Sir John paid tribute to the spy, saying in the statement: "Gareth Williams was a man of remarkable talents, talents which he devoted to public service. The work that Gareth undertook during his career both at Cheltenham and London made a real contribution to the security of this country and of its citizens.

"Gareth continues to be mourned by his friends and colleagues."

Mr Williams' family hit out at the failures of MI6 to raise the alarm after the spy went missing, saying their "grief is exacerbated" by it.

In a statement read out by their solicitor after the inquest into his death concluded, they said they were "extremely disappointed" at the secret services' "reluctance and failure" to make relevant information available to the death inquiry.

They also attacked the "total inadequacies" of the inquiry by Metropolitan Police counter-terror branch SO15 into MI6 and called on Scotland Yard's chief to look into how the investigation would proceed in light of this.

The Williams family has waited 21 months to find out how he died and whether someone else was involved. They were moved to tears in court as police, scientists and secret agents all said investigations had drawn a blank.

Jackie Sebire, the lead detective on the case, said Scotland Yard will review lines of inquiry in its investigation in the wake of the inquest.

Added attention could turn on the expert mathematician's colleagues, she indicated.

Police have no suspects in their inquiry but Ms Sebire says she remains convinced Mr Williams' death was suspicious.