This Is London : Spy in bag Gareth Williams was killed 'by a third party', coroner rules

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Spy in bag Gareth Williams was killed 'by a third party', coroner rules

Paul Cheston | May 2, 2012

The MI6 spy found dead inside a padlocked holdall was killed “by a third party” but the mystery of what happened may never be solved, a coroner ruled this afternoon.

The naked body of codebreaker Gareth Williams, 31, was discovered in a red North Face bag in the bath of his Pimlico flat in August 2010. His family claim he was a victim of the “dark arts” of the secret services. Dr Fiona Wilcox said she believed he was alive when he was put inside the bag and suffocated as a result of a quick-acting poison. “A third party placed the bag in the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag”, she said: adding: “The cause of death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated. Therefore I am satisfied ... that Gareth was killed unlawfully.”

Mr Williams’s parents and sister looked on as Dr Wilcox told Westminster coroner’s court there was not enough proof to record an official verdict of unlawful killing. She suggested that he had unwittingly arranged to meet his killer by phone.

In a narrative verdict, the coroner said it was “unlikely” the circumstances “will ever be satisfactorily explained” despite a 21-month police inquiry and a seven-day inquest. Dr Wilcox added: “Most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remain unanswered.

She appeared to rule out that Mr Williams died as a result of some kind of “auto-erotic activity”, also denying there was any evidence to suggest claustrophilia — the love of enclosed spaces — was of any interest to him. I find on the balance of probabilities that, if he had got into the bag and locked himself in, he would have taken a knife in with him,” she said. “He was a risk assessor.”

There was no evidence to suggest the spy was a transvestite “or interested in any such thing”, she said. The make-up found in his flat was more likely to reflect his interest in fashion, she argued.

There was some suggestion that his interest in female footwear could have been of a sexual nature, but this was not unusual, Dr Wilcox observed.

“Gareth was naked in a bag when he was found, not cross-dressed, not in high-heeled shoes,” she said.

A cause of death has not been established. Pathologists said he would have suffocated within three minutes if he was alive when he got inside the 32ins by 19ins e bag.

Poisoning and asphyxiation were the “foremost contenders” in solving the death riddle, they said.

Efforts appear to have been made to clean up the death scene. The lack of hand and footprints in the bathroom was “significant”, Dr Wilcox said, telling the court: “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.”

The coroner ruled out Mr Williams’s interest in bondage and drag queens in having any bearing on his death as she questioned leaks about his private life to the press. She said: “I wonder if this was an attempt by some third party to manipulate the evidence.” Lead detective Jackie Sebire told the inquest she remained convinced that Mr Williams’s death was suspicious. Ms Sebire said: “My strongest belief is that a third party was involved and I would ask people to search their consciences and come to us to find some resolutions to this case and some peace for his family.”

Dr Wilcox said it remained a “legitimate line of inquiry” that the secret services were involved in Mr Williams’s death and criticised “shortfalls” by MI6 in passing on evidence to Scotland Yard. But she said “there was no evidence to support that he died at the hands of” spies.