Independent : 'Spy in a bag' may have been executed by secret agents, coroner hears

Saturday, March 31, 2012

'Spy in a bag' may have been executed by secret agents, coroner hears

Dirty tricks may mean killers will never face justice

Kim Sengupta | March 31, 2012

An MI6 officer whose body was found in a holdall may have been executed by secret agents specialising in the "dark arts", with a cover-up subsequently organised to ensure that his killers did not face justice, a court heard yesterday.

The highly charged allegations came at a coroner's hearing which was also told it was virtually impossible for Gareth Williams to have locked himself inside the bag, but that the hunt for those who may have killed him was sidetracked by a major forensic blunder.

The mix-up, over DNA found on the body, was discovered only two weeks ago – while the investigation into one of the most high-profile spy cases of recent times has been going up a blind alley for the best part of a year.

Westminster Coroner's Court in London was also told that MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service) had not checked on Mr Williams's whereabouts for more than a week, even though he had failed to turn up for work. As a result, his remains were so decomposed and contaminated that scientists had been unable to ascertain the cause of death.

Anthony O'Toole, representing Mr Williams's relations, told the court: "The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services – or evidence has been removed post mortem by experts in the dark arts."

Mr O'Toole said Mr Williams "could have been actively deployed" as an agent up to five months before his death. There was a "bland statement" from MI6 "that the death was nothing to do with his work", said the lawyer. "To properly explore the circumstances of the death, we need to establish the deceased's work," he added.

Mr Williams worked as a cipher and codes expert for GCHQ, the Government listening station, but had been on secondment with MI6 since March 2010. His body was found at his flat in Pimlico, south-west London, in August 2010 in a North Face holdall sealed by a padlock.

Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire told the court that traces of DNA found on one of Mr Williams's hands were previously been regarded as a "key line of inquiry". But it subsequently emerged that "actually the DNA evidence was contamination by a scientist at the scene".

The laboratory responsible, LGC Forensics, last night apologised to Mr Williams's family. "LGC identified the partial profile as matching that of a Metropolitan Police scientist who was involved in the original investigation," a spokeswoman for the company said.

The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, said: "What I am concerned about is that there is a system in placed to detect the error. Human errors will always occur.

"There has been so much public speculation and so much public anxiety that this is the reason the court has to act to address it."

Mr Williams's family, said Mr O'Toole, was concerned a third party who may have been present at his death has still not been traced. There was the DNA evidence which turned out to be contaminated and also, supposedly, a footprint. But both leads had come to "dead ends".

Examination of a door knob which may have provided incriminating material could not be carried out because the expert tasked with doing so found the door had been removed and the knob taken out, said the lawyer.

The inquest into Mr Williams's death, expected to begin in April, will hear from his colleagues at MI6 (who will give evidence anonymously) and GCHQ, toxicology experts, bag experts, as well as from his sister. It will also hear that he may have died after breathing too much carbon dioxide.

Dr Wilcox said she wanted the circumstances of Mr Williams's death to be re-enacted in court. "I want it demonstrated in court how somebody could have got into the bag, done it up and locked it from outside when confined inside. It's the fundamental issue in this case: whether Gareth Williams was able to lock the bag when he was inside."

But Vincent Williams, representing Scotland Yard, held there was no need for such a demonstration. A panel of experts had concluded it "would have been very difficult, if not impossible" for him to lock the bag from the inside.

Timeline: The mysterious death of Gareth Williams

15 Aug 2010

31-year-old Gareth Williams, a cipher and codes expert who worked at the GCHQ listening post in Cheltenham, is seen alive for the last time.

23 Aug 2010

A colleague at GCHQ reports Williams missing. His body is found later that day at his flat in Pimlico, London.

30 Aug 2010

Detectives say they are looking at whether Williams may have been killed by a foreign intelligence agency.

1 Sept 2010

An inquest hears that Williams's remains were discovered padlocked into a sports bag, which was in an empty bath at his flat.

6 Sept 2010

Police appeal for help in tracing a couple of Mediterranean appearance, pictured left, who were seen entering Williams's flat earlier in the summer.

22 Dec 2010

Police reveal that Williams had accessed bondage websites and visited a drag show, amid suggestions that the death could have been the result of a sex game gone wrong.

March 2012

After 18 months of investigation, police discover that a trace of DNA found on Williams's hand came from a crime scene scientist. They also find that the couple they were tracing were irrelevant to the inquiry.

Daily Mail : The woman with THREE identities who could hold key to death of the body-in-the-bag spy

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The woman with THREE identities who could hold key to death of the body-in-the-bag spy [or here]

American Missa Elizabeth Guthrie claims to be an international businesswoman linked to a wealthy American family

By Robert Verkaik, George Arbuthnott and Sharon Churcher | March 31, 2012

The Mail on Sunday can today identify a mysterious new witness who could hold the key to the death of the body-in-a-bag MI6 spy Gareth Williams.

The woman used three different names in statements provided to police for a pre-inquest hearing into the death of code-breaker Mr Williams.

This provoked Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner investigating the case, to declare: ‘There has been some confusion as to who this witness is and I need to know her identity.

‘I expect witnesses to identify who they are, not who they think they are.’

Our investigation has revealed the woman to be 27-year-old American Missa Elizabeth Guthrie, who claims to be an international businesswoman linked to a wealthy American family worth £35 billion.

The full inquest into Mr Williams’s death is due to be held later this month and Westminster coroner Dr Wilcox is now expected to quiz Ms Guthrie about the time she spent with Mr Williams in 2010.

Dr Wilcox said on Friday: ‘She [Ms Guthrie] will be asked to explain who she is and called to give evidence.’

The coroner said that there were a number of questions she wanted to ask Ms Guthrie about her identities, which were previously given as Missa Gunther, Misa Guseiri and Elizabeth Guthrie.

The confusion surrounding Ms Guthrie deepened further on Friday when a senior Scotland Yard press officer contacted The Mail on Sunday on her behalf to say that she had not told her family that she was a close friend of Gareth Williams.

Mr Williams was discovered naked inside a red North Face holdall, which was padlocked on the outside and placed inside his bath

The official said that the family was well known in America, and that it could embarrass them if Ms Guthrie’s previously unknown connection was made public.

However, it is no secret among Ms Guthrie’s friends that she was close to Mr Williams before he died.

A source involved in the case said: ‘She first met Gareth when she shared a flat in Knightsbridge where Gareth frequently came to meet friends from Wales. They struck up a close friendship because they were both interested in politics and history.

‘But in 2009 she moved out and found a top floor-flat in Pimlico which was close to Gareth’s address.’

In the months before he died, Ms Guthrie’s friendship with Mr Williams blossomed. The source said: ‘On election night in May 2010 the two of them stayed up late with another person to see in the new Coalition Government.’

Mr Williams, a maths genius from Anglesey, North Wales, had worked for the Government listening post GCHQ in Cheltenham since leaving university and was on secondment to MI6 when his body was found by police at his top-floor flat in Pimlico, Central London, on August 23, 2010.

He was discovered naked inside a red North Face holdall, which was padlocked on the outside and placed inside his bath.

The Government has refused to disclose what secret operations Mr Williams was working on during the weeks before his death.

Fresh evidence about his state of mind before his death is expected to be aired at the full inquest – adding to speculation that the spy may have been murdered by a foreign agency or a criminal gang.

The source said: ‘Ms Guthrie said Gareth told her he was being followed in the days before his death.

‘She didn’t know who it was, only that she and Gareth were so concerned that they sometimes varied the route they took home.’

Ms Guthrie also told friends after Mr Williams’s body was found that he was planning to leave the Secret Service so that he could set up his own business with her and another MI6 officer.

‘She was very vague about what this would be, only that it would be with another MI6 officer,’ said the source.

Our investigations in the United States have revealed that Missa Elizabeth Guthrie is the daughter of George Gordon Guthrie, a wealthy New York stockbroker.

The 69-year-old, who is known as Jerry, worked for various Wall Street investment firms, including a securities unit of the French bank Caisse des Depots et Consignations, where he was managing director of options trading.

His brother, Randolph Hobson Guthrie, a retired plastic surgeon, is married to a great-granddaughter of the steel magnate Henry Phipps. Phipps was the son of an English shoemaker who went to America in the early part of the 19th Century.

Phipps became the business partner of Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Steel Company and built Carnegie Hall in 1891.

Phipps also founded the Bessemer Trust to manage the family fortune. It now manages funds for more than 2,000 families and has £35 billion in assets. There are about 300 of Phipps’ descendants who benefit from the Trust.

Ms Guthrie’s father was previously married to Laura McCord, who is now the wife of Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg, the multi-billion business news and analysis corporation.

According to US securities records, Ms Guthrie and her mother Donnell, 57, are shareholders in a business and technology consulting firm called Answerthink.

Ms Guthrie grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, a town is known its for great estates and links to famous families such as the Kennedys.

Her childhood homes included a six-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion. The property is currently valued at £5 million.

Ms Guthrie, who it is claimed has given different names to friends and uses pseudonyms on her Facebook site, is described by friends as a flamboyant character who lived a secretive life working for a Middle Eastern oil and minerals trading company.

'She was very secretive about her work'

In New York she is understood to have also worked as an actress, appearing in a low-budget production called In Search Of Myster Ey, taking the part of a ‘mystery-seeking lady’.

The film is an eccentric investigation into the meaning of the ego.

Ms Guthrie is believed to have left New York for London in 2008.

A source told The Mail on Sunday that she studied at the Regent’s Business School in Central London.

The source added: ‘She had two names, calling herself both Phipps and Guthrie, and claimed to come from a famous American family – but she never really explained who they were.’ Ms Guthrie told her friends that she had travelled widely, visiting the Middle East, China and South America on what she described as business trips.

The source said: ‘The funny thing was that she never explained exactly what she did and was very secretive about her work.

‘She even used the code-name Shark when talking about her business partner.’

In 2008 Ms Guthrie’s parents retired to a four-bedroom, five-bathroom villa for which they paid £2 million on Sea Island, an exclusive resort on a barrier reef on the coast of Georgia. Reached by a dramatic causeway that swoops for miles over marshland and shaded by moss-draped oak trees, Sea Island was once one of the favourite winter resorts for socially ambitious Americans who were drawn to its five miles of private beaches.

The £2 million the Guthries paid was about the average for a home on the island at the time. The island is privately owned by a development company.

But shortly after Ms Guthrie’s parents bought their villa, it was revealed that the company was in financial trouble.

Property values have since plunged and the Guthries’ sprawling home is now valued by one online site at about £1 million.

There was no sign of Ms Guthrie’s parents at the family home yesterday.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that the investigation into Mr Williams’s death is ongoing and officers have not ruled out murder.

The coroner’s court heard on Friday that a series of blunders, including a mix-up over DNA found at the scene, had hampered the inquiry. The inquest was also told that a man and a woman of ‘Mediterranean appearance’ who had visited the flat in the weeks before the death, and who were the subject of a police witness appeal, had now been identified and ruled out as a ‘red herring’.

Mr Williams’s family have said they believe that he was murdered by those ‘specialising in the dark arts of the secret services’.

They also suspect a cover-up, suggesting evidence has been removed or tampered with.

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

Saturday, March 31, 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 31, 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.

Irish Independent : 'Dark arts' link in MI6 spy's death

Saturday, March 31, 2012

'Dark arts' link in MI6 spy's death

By Gordon Rayner in London | March 31, 2012

Gareth Williams, an MI6 spy found dead inside a locked holdall could have been killed by someone who specialised in "the dark arts of the secret services", a coroner has been told.

Mr Williams could not have locked the bag from the inside, meaning a "third party" must have done it, according to a lawyer representing his family.

Relatives believe his death in 2010 may have been linked to his work at MI6, where he had recently qualified for "operational deployment", and that fingerprints, DNA and other evidence was wiped from the scene in a deliberate cover up.

Police have always said they were keeping an open mind on whether the 31-year-old codebreaker was murdered or died as a result of an accident, possibly during a bizarre sex game.

But at an interim hearing ahead of the full inquest, Westminster Coroner's Court in London was told that a delay by MI6 in notifying police of his disappearance meant a post-mortem examination had been "ineffective".

A series of blunders, including a mix-up over DNA found at the scene, had also hampered the inquiry, Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner, was told.


Mr Williams, a maths genius who had worked for the government listening post GCHQ in Cheltenham since leaving university, was on secondment to MI6 when his body was found by police in a flat in Pimlico, west London, on August 23, 2010. He was discovered naked inside a red North Face holdall, which was padlocked on the outside and was in his bath.

Dr Wilcox said there were no injuries on the body to suggest he had been in a struggle.

She said it was possible he had got into the bag himself, and was considering ordering a demonstration at the full inquest involving a police expert getting into an identical bag.

Police have released two e-fits of a couple who said they were visiting Mr Williams's home.

Anthony O'Toole, representing the Williams family, said there was "a high probability that there was a third party present in the flat" at the time.

"The unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising 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.

The coroner said she would "follow the evidence" wherever it led.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Independent : Calls for inquiry into 'astonishing' DNA error

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Calls for inquiry into 'astonishing' DNA error

Paul Peachey | March 31, 2012

The major blunder that sent detectives on the Gareth Williams inquiry down a blind alley for more than a year is the second embarrassment admitted this month by Britain's biggest private forensic science laboratory.

The latest error – described as "astonishing" and which led to a public apology from the company to the Williams family – has raised questions over systems and practices at LGC, which handles half a million samples a year.

Critics called for a public inquiry to try to discover if private providers were fit for purpose following the final closure today of the state-run Forensic Science Service. "This simply should not happen," said Professor Peter Gill, a founding father of DNA profiling in the 1980s. "Surely there is sufficient evidence to open a public inquiry because we are now getting regular reports of widespread system failure."

The mistake followed the discovery of a partial trace of a second person's DNA on the hand of Mr Williams. To rule out possible contamination from any of the investigators at the scene, those details were loaded manually onto a database.

But that entry was never checked and a simple typographic error meant no match showed up. It was only last week, when the files were checked, that scientists realised the correct trace matched the DNA of a Metropolitan Police scientist.

"We are sorry for any pain this error may have caused Mr Williams' family," said LGC in a statement.

The man who recorded the sample faces an internal inquiry but the ramifications for the company could be more serious. It said yesterday that it had checked back on four years of samples to rule out other errors.

Westminster Coroner Fiona Wilcox said: "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."

The failure comes amid a continuing investigation by the forensic science regulator, Andrew Rennison, into another problem at an LGC laboratory in Teddington, southwest London. A contaminated sample led to a man being charged with rape in a city that he claimed he had never visited.

Adam Scott, from Exeter, Devon, was not considered a suspect but was charged after tests on a sample retrieved from the crime scene in Manchester revealed a match. The charge was dropped after LGC accepted that the samples were mixed.

The initial inquiry by Mr Rennison blamed human error and said 26,000 other samples had been checked and no further cases had been identified. Mr Scott's solicitor, Philippa Jefferies, said the latest case reinforced her calls for a public inquiry. "I'm concerned that two basic errors have happened now," she said.

The Home Office said it was "inappropriate" to comment because of the inquest and Met police inquiry.