This is Gloucestershire : MI6 accused of not handing over evidence in spy death

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

MI6 accused of not handing over evidence in spy death

Gloucestershire Echo | May 2, 2012

INTELLIGENCE bosses have been accused of failing to hand over vital evidence to the inquest into the death of spy Gareth Williams.

Coroner Fiona Wilcox suggested a counter-terror officer was not being "completely impartial" towards secret services during the Scotland Yard inquiry.

Dr Wilcox and the family's lawyer both delivered angry outbursts after it emerged nine computer memory sticks and a black bag were overlooked for 21 months after the death.

The lead detective on the case was only told about the evidence on Monday.

Dr Wilcox told Detective Superintendent Michael Broster, who was unable to rule out secret service involvement in the death, that he was offering "total non-sequitur" reasons for failing to pass on evidence.

"I suggest that this means you have not been completely impartial in this case," she told him at Westminster Coroner's Court.

As Dr Wilcox ordered police to bring the missed evidence into the inquest into Mr Williams's death, family barrister Anthony O'Toole told police they had not taken the incident seriously enough.

The lawyer said: "If this had not involved SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and it was the Kray twins you were investigating, you would have gone into this in far more detail."

The North Face bag – similar to the one in which Mr Williams was found dead at his flat – was discovered by officers under the spy's desk at MI6's London HQ.

MI6 also examined computer equipment belonging to Mr Williams without telling police, the inquest heard.

Detective Constable Colin Hall, of the force's counter-terror SO15 branch, said his search of the agent's Vauxhall HQ was called off shortly after the spy was found dead.

Mr Hall said "there was stuff in there of a sensitive nature" in the bag but, when asked what, he said he could not remember.

Mr O'Toole added: "That's about as helpful as a London pea souper."

Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, the lead officer on the case, said she had no knowledge of the existence of memory sticks in the bag or Gareth's cabinet at work.

She said: "What I knew was that Gareth's email accounts had been checked, but I did not know that other media had been checked."

Mr Hall was ordered to re-examine the black bag in the courtroom as the inquest heard its last day's evidence.

The 31-year-old fitness enthusiast was found naked, curled up in a padlocked holdall in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, central London, on August 23, 2010.

Dr Wilcox asked Mr Hall: "Would you not consider that seizing another sports bag might be relevant?"

He replied: "I was told there was nothing there about Gareth's death."

He added that "we had not completed our search" when he was told to wrap up efforts on his first visit on August 26.

Pathologists said earlier this week that Mr Williams would have suffocated within three minutes after getting inside the bag.

Poisoning and asphyxiation are the "foremost contenders" in solving the death riddle, they added.