Daily Mail : Did MI6 agents 'specialising in dark arts' kill spy in bag? New evidence emerges sparking fresh questions from the victim's family

Friday, March 30, 2012

Did MI6 agents 'specialising in dark arts' kill spy in bag? New evidence emerges sparking fresh questions from the victim's family

Gareth Williams's family believe a third party was either present when he died or broke into his home afterwards to destroy evidence
Crime scene forensic scientist’s OWN DNA was found on Mr Williams’s hand
Relatives wanted to know why the alarm was not raised when Mr Williams failed to turn up at work - by then his body was badly decomposed for analysis
It also emerged that a Mediterranean couple police wanted to speak to were irrelevant to Mr Williams’s death

By Chris Greenwood | March 30, 2012

The MI6 spy whose body was found locked in a sports bag may have been killed by a secret agent, his family said yesterday.

Their barrister suggested a sinister cover-up had left them with no way of knowing how and why Gareth Williams died.

One theory is that he died at the hands of a colleague. Another is that a foreign agent killed him because of his espionage work.

The discovery of the body in his flat near the Secret Service headquarters in London sparked a 20-month police inquiry that has drawn a blank.

At a public hearing yesterday, it emerged that the flat may have been swept clean of evidence, with no fingerprints or DNA anywhere.

It was also revealed that – far from being a back-office worker – Mr Williams had just completed training for deployment on operations.

Other revelations included:

An expert seeking signs of forced entry said he was hampered because the front door had been taken from its hinges and locks removed;
Pathologists still cannot agree on how Mr Williams died. The 31-year-old suffered no visible injuries and could not have locked himself in the bag according to police;
DNA found on his hand that police rated as highly significant was in fact left by a bungling forensic scientist.

The unclothed body of the super-fit maths prodigy was found in a large padlocked North Face bag in the bath of his Government-owned Pimlico flat in August 2010.

The codebreaker from Anglesey, North Wales, had links to London's bondage and gay scene and it had already been suggested a sex game, possibly with a colleague, may have had a tragic end.

But Westminster Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox was told yesterday his grieving family fear whoever is responsible expertly covered up the evidence.

Their barrister Anthony O'Toole rejected the conclusion of an internal MI6 inquiry that Mr Williams's death 'had nothing to do with his work'.

He said: 'There is a high probability that some third party was in the flat when Gareth was placed in the bag. Evidentially there seems to be no trace of an unknown party in the flat.

'Our impression is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts or secret services.

'Or perhaps evidence has been removed from the scene post-mortem by experts in those arts.'

Mr Williams was nearing the end of a one-year secondment from the GCHQ listening station to the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, in Vauxhall, London.

Dr Wilcox was told a wide-ranging and highly sensitive police inquiry has left many questions unanswered over the circumstances of his death.

Experts believe it would have been 'difficult, if not impossible' for Mr Williams to lock himself in the bag but can find no evidence of anyone else being present.

His body was found curled in the foetal position in the 140-litre black and red holdall with the keys to the Yale travel padlock beneath him. Pathologists found no evidence of injuries or that he attempted to fight his way out. It remains possible that his dead body was put inside the bag.

Dr Wilcox said that whether Mr Williams was alive inside the bag and locked it himself 'was at the very heart of this inquiry'. She may order officials to recreate how he could have got inside it at the full inquest which is due to take place next month.

Experts have been unable to agree on exactly how Mr Williams died, favouring asphyxiation or hypercapnia, a catastrophic build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Their work was hampered by the heavily decayed state of his body and his MI6 colleagues face questions over why they did not raise the alarm earlier.

It also emerged yesterday that Scotland Yard detectives spent almost 20 months pursuing a DNA trace on his body that was left by a clumsy forensic scientist.

The chief executive of LGC Forensics will be hauled before the inquest to explain the astonishing blunder which was discovered only two weeks ago.

The inquest also heard that a Mediterranean couple who called at Mr Williams's block had nothing to do with the case. Detectives released e-fits of the couple and have now traced them. They were looking for a friend's house.

The inquest heard that Mr Williams's family were unhappy about several aspects of the inquiry, including the role of counter-terrorism officers who dealt with MI6 and GCHQ staff. They have raised questions about who ordered a second post-mortem examination and what happened to Mr Williams's possessions held in a work locker.

The family also want to hear more details about the nature of his work but MI6 representatives said disclosing the information could endanger national security.

Dr Wilcox attacked police for delaying the handover of evidence and questioned why the names of some witnesses had been withheld. She said some sensitive letters had gone missing. MI6 has applied for several of Mr Williams's colleagues to give evidence anonymously and from behind screens.


The Unanswered Questions

THE death of MI6 spy Gareth Williams has left Scotland Yard's most experienced detectives searching for answers. These are some of the key questions they face:

Was somebody else present in Mr Williams's immaculate top floor Alderney Street home when he died?

Could the 31-year-old get inside the North Face holdall and padlock it from the inside without the assistance of a third party?

Why were Britain's best forensic experts unable to find a single trace of anyone else -- whether by DNA, fingerprints or other traces -- in the flat?

Is it significant that an expert brought in to search for evidence of forced entry was hampered because the front door had been taken from its hinges and locks removed?

How did the victim actually die? He suffered no injuries and forensic tests have revealed nothing unusual in his blood.

What exactly did Mr Williams do for the GCHQ listening station and MI6 that made him such a highly-prized employee?

Why did it take the victim's MI6 colleagues eight days to raise the alarm and send police to his home?

Does MI6 hold material that could shed light on Mr Williams's death that officials refuse to reveal because they fear jeopardizintg secret operations?

Is Mr Williams's bizarre and secretive private life, in which he visited gay bars, amassed women's clothing and viewed bondage websites, linked to his death?

Why did the secret agent fail to tell his employer that he was undertaking a series of part-time fashion courses at Central St Martins College?

Who ordered the second post-mortem examination and why have letters between the coroner and police gone missing?

What happened to Mr Williams's possessions that he kept in a shared locker at MI6 headquarters?

Telegraph : MI6 spy Gareth Williams death: agent could 'not have locked himself in bag'

Friday, March 30, 2012

MI6 spy Gareth Williams death: agent could 'not have locked himself in bag'

An MI6 spy, Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a holdall, could not have locked himself in the sports bag, a coroner was told.

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter | March 30, 2012

The naked and decomposing body of the 31-year-old GCHQ codebreaker was found in a bag in the bath of his Pimlico flat on August 23, 2010.

Nearly 18 months on, police have been unable to establish what led to his death despite toxicology tests and an exhaustive investigation into his background that has been hampered by errors.

On Friday, at a pre-inquest review, Westminster Coroner’s Court was told that his family believe Mr Williams was murdered by a member of "some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services".

Concerns were also raised about how Mr Williams' MI6 employers failed to raise the alarm when he failed to arrive for work.

The court heard the delays in finding his body resulted in the post mortem being "ineffective".

But in another key blunder, DNA found on the spy's hand, thought to be crucial to the case, turned out to be from a forensic scientist who took evidence at the scene.

Human error in the way DNA results were then fed into a computer led to false leads being pursued needlessly until this year.

Forensic lab LGC is to blame for the blunder, the hearing heard. The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, said it throws into doubt the reliability of their work on this case, as well as others.

She expressed frustration over delays, describing them as "an ongoing problem", as she called for inquiries into the DNA "error".

Dr Wilcox told the hearing that whether Mr Williams was alive inside the bag and locked it himself "was at the very heart of this inquiry".

Anthony O'Toole, representing the family, told the inquest that there was a "high probability" that a third party was in the flat.

"The unknown third party was a member of some agency that specialised in the dark arts of the secret services and perhaps evidence was removed from the scene post mortem by an expert in those dark arts," he said.

He said the family had no view on whether it was a foreign agency or a British agency that was behind either the murder or the cover-up. The family still do not know what Mr Williams did for a living.

Mr O’Toole said that the family had hoped that forensic evidence might help to convict the killer if the police found a suspect.

But following the discovery that DNA found on his hand belonged to a police worker, there was now no forensic evidence which could identify the killer.

He said that Mr Williams had attended two “operational development courses” in the months before his death.

“With effect from March 18, 2010, he could be operationally deployed,” he said.

“In our submission, to properly explore the circumstances of the death, we do need to know something of the deceased’s work.

“SIS (MI6) say the risk to the deceased was assessed to be low, but we don’t know why … we got a bland statement from SIS that the death is nothing to do with his work.”

The coroner assured Mr O’Toole: “I absolutely intend to follow the evidence in this case."

The hearing was told that experts who worked on the case agreed that the code breaker could not have locked the bag himself from the inside.

They could be asked to re-enact how he could have got into the bag by giving a live demonstration in court.

Dr Wilcox told the court there was a lack of pathological evidence to prove Mr Williams made a "frantic attempt" to get out of the bag.

Meanwhile, a "Mediterranean couple" who were reportedly seen visiting the flat have been ruled a red herring by police.

Agents from both MI6 and GCHQ, where Mr Williams had been seconded from, are due to be called to give evidence when the inquest opens next month.

Applications were being made by GCHQ lawyers for agents to be allowed to give evidence anonymously and behind a screen.

Further "corporate statements" from both organisations are set to be tendered, which lawyers for MI6 told the court would "paint a picture and set the scene".

Evidence will also be given about the contents of Mr Williams' locker at GCHQ in Cheltenham, Glos, which the hearing was told several people had access to.

The inquest is unlikely to be shown video of material found on Mr Williams' iPhone that was recovered from his work locker.

The inquest is due to start on April 23 and last five days, with 30 witnesses set to be called to give evidence.

Witnesses will include Mr Williams' sister and the police officers who opened the front door and discovered the padlocked bag containing the body.

Organisers of the ladies fashion course Mr Williams is said to have secretly enrolled on will give statements to the inquest.

Three colleagues, known as witnesses K, F and G, will be called to give evidence and will take questions from his family, the court heard.

An officer from Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism command will also attend the inquest to explain its official role following a request from the spy’s family.

Witness K, a colleague at GCHQ, will also give evidence about Mr Williams' "state of mind" on his last trip taken before his death.

Witness F was considering taking over the MI6-owned flat when the spy returned to Gloucestershire.

Meanwhile Witness G, Mr Williams’ line manager, will be asked to explain why the alarm was not raised sooner when Mr Williams failed to arrive for work.

The alarm was raised by a GCHQ HR manager when she rang the Metropolitan Police, who went to his house for a routine "welfare check".

Dr Wilcox told the hearing that he wanted the inquest to go ahead for the sake of Mr Williams’ family.

This Is London : Forensic DNA blunder hindered 'spy in bag' investigation for a year

Friday, March 30, 2012

Forensic DNA blunder hindered 'spy in bag' investigation for a year

Paul Cheston, Kiran Randhawa | March 30, 2012

The family of dead spy Gareth Williams are convinced he was the victim of "the dark arts of the secret services" a court heard today.

They believe an agent was in the Pimlico flat where died inside a padlocked duffle bag in the bath.

Then the secret service destroyed the evidence before the alarm could be raised, eight days after he was last seen alive in August 2010.

In a pre-inquest hearing today Anthony O’Toole, representing the family told the court of their fears about their son’s suspicious death.

“Our impression is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services.

“Perhaps the evidence of that third party has been removed by some person post-mortem who is expert in those arts.”

Mr Williams’ parents Ian and Ellen who live in Anglesey, were not in court for today’s hearing.

Mr Williams, a code breaker for GCHQ, had been on secondment to MI6 when he died.

The 31-year-old was discovered dead in a North Face holdall eight days after he had last been seen.

A pre-inquest hearing at Westminster magistrates' court today heard how a major forensic blunder over DNA allegedly found on the spy's body has caused his family months of unnecessary heartache.

The DNA sample was discovered on the hand of the former GCHQ code breaker who was on secondment to MI6 when he was discovered dead at a Pimlico flat in August 2010.

It was believed to bear a mixed profile clearly suggesting that another person must have been at the flat when Mr Williams died inside a padlocked sports bag in the bath. But the court was told today that the DNA trace was due to contamination by a scientist at the scene. It was then incorrectly entered into the computer at the laboratory LGC.

The error, discovered only two weeks ago, has led the police investigation up a blind alley for more than a year. Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox today demanded statements be taken from Tony Larkin, the scientist who allegedly contaminated the sample, and Paul Stafford Allen, who was said to have recorded the error on the computer.

She also demanded assurances from LGC managing director Steve Allen and chief executive David Richardson that systems were in place to ensure that the impact of this kind of human error could not occur again.

“There are wider concerns about whether LGC can be trusted to provide a proper level of forensic back-up to all investigations, remembering they are providing forensic DNA and analytical background to a lot of criminal cases,” said the Westminster coroner.

“What I’m concerned about is that the system in place to detect the error, and human errors will always occur and it is not unusual for contamination to happen, but I am concerned about the system evaluation and back up and the analysis of the evidence taken. There has been so much public speculation and so much public anxiety that that is the reason the court has to act to address it head on.”

The court heard that his family was concerned that MI6 did not take any steps to check on his welfare for more than a week, even though he had not been turning up to work.

As a result, his body was so contaminated that scientists are unable to be certain about the exact cause of death.

The full inquest hearing is due to start at the end of next month and last at least five days.

The coroner today said that she would ask scientists to carry out a re-enactment in court of how Mr Williams could have got into the sports bag.

The court has heard that scientists are agreed that it would have been virtually impossible for him to have locked the bag on the outside when he was inside.

Dr Wilcox said: “I want it demonstrated in court exactly how somebody could have got into the bag, done it up and locked it from the outside when confined inside.­ I want a practical demonstration of this in court. It is something I have given an awful lot of my time considering.

“I want a very clear demonstration. It’s the fundamental issue in this case whether Gareth Williams was able to lock the bag outside when he was inside it — it’s the very heart of this inquiry.”

The coroner said she wanted to establish an answer to the question of whether Mr Williams could have suffered from a lack of oxygen or from a build up of carbon dioxide.

This was a key line of inquiry considering the lack of injuries to Mr Williams’s body and the lack of pathological evidence that he made any frantic attempt to get out of the bag.

The inquest is expected to hear from 30 witnesses giving evidence in court.

Three of Mr Williams’s former colleagues will be called to give evidence and will be known only by the initials K, F and G.

They include Mr Williams’s line manager, described as the “chap at the coalface” by Anthony O’Toole, counsel representing the family.

The hearing continues.

During a two hour hearing Mr O’Toole told Westminster Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox: “We thought there was DNA evidence that was a dead end. There was also a footprint found, that has turned out to be a dead end.”

Later the court went into private session to hear PII evidence which Foreign Secretary William Hague wanted to be kept secret on the grounds of national security during the inquest which is due to start on April 23 and last for at least five days.

The Coroner said she would deliver a written judgement on the submissions.