This Is London : MI6 spy was poisoned or suffocated after he was put in bag alive, says pathologist

Monday, April 30, 2012

MI6 spy was poisoned or suffocated after he was put in bag alive, says pathologist

Paul Cheston | April 30, 2012

MI6 spy Gareth Williams was “likely” to have been alive when he was put in the holdall where his body was found, an inquest heard today.

Pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd said that it would be “extremely difficult” to place a dead body inside a bag, either immediately after death, because of the floppy nature of the body, or after rigor mortis had set in.

Dr Shepherd said he was “confident” that Mr Williams’s death was unnatural and that the most likely causes were poisoning or suffocation.

But there was also no evidence that he was “manhandled” into the bag, and it could have been that “Gareth placed himself in due to an external threat. But I think to get in that bag so neatly requires some skill at manoeuvring.”

He said: “The handling of a body immediately after death is extremely difficult. I would have thought it would be an extremely difficult process to achieve in such a neat way.”

Asked by coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox: “Do you think Gareth was likely to be alive or dead when he got into the bag?”

He replied: “From a pathologist’s point of view, it is a difficult line to try to draw. I could conceive of situations where he could be placed in the bag, but it would be difficult. I think it is more likely than not he was alive.”

Dr Wilcox said: “It could have been that Gareth voluntarily got in the bag … but there would have been a point at which he needed to get out. It is possible that he could have got into the bag unaided, lost consciousness and then someone else put it in the bath.”

Dr Shepherd replied: “Yes, but the difficulty is the lock. It would be possible for him to get in the bag and do the zips up on his own.” He agreed that increasing unawareness of his surroundings as the air ran out could have led to his death.

Dr Wilcox asked: “Do you think it is more likely that he was prevented from getting out?”

He replied: “Once the lock was placed on it, there was no possibility of him escaping from the bag. So the question is, did he lock the bag or did another?”

Consultant forensic pathologist Dr Benjamin Swift, who conducted the post-mortem examination on 25 August 2010, said the level of decomposition “would be consistent with 10 days since he was last seen alive”.

Dr Swift said bodies could sometimes show injuries in decomposition which mimic actual injuries, but that “sometimes injuries that have occurred at the end of someone’s life can almost disappear as a result of the decomposition. It is possible to grab someone and move them without causing injury.”

The inquest continues.