NOLA : Naked spy died at hands of mystery killer, British coroner says

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Naked spy died at hands of mystery killer, British coroner says

The Associated Press | May 5, 2012

LONDON -- Even after a coroner's verdict, it remains a mystery: A naked spy found dead in a locked bag, lurid details of a kinky sex life and allegations that someone in Britain's spy agencies may have been involved in his death.

A British coroner ruled Wednesday that another person was likely involved in Gareth Williams' death -- a finding that puts more pressure on police to uncover the cyberwarfare expert's killer and continue to investigate possibilities that include whether he could have died in a sex game gone awry or in a more sinister scenario that involved his counterterrorism work.

In Britain, coroners are asked to investigate unexplained deaths, and their findings can often carry weight as police investigations proceed.

Although Coroner Fiona Wilcox said it was unlikely that the death of Williams, 31, will ever be "satisfactorily explained," she said the spy was likely killed either by suffocation or poisoning in a "criminally meditated act." She also said it was possible that someone from one of Britain's spy agencies was involved.

Williams, described as an introverted math genius, worked for Britain's secret eavesdropping service GCHQ. But he was attached to the MI6 foreign spy agency when his remains were found in the bathtub at his London apartment on Aug. 16, 2010, just a few days after returning from a trip to the United States.

Forensic experts found about 20,000 thousand pounds, or $32,000, worth of luxury women's clothing, shoes and wigs in his apartment. Police also discovered that he had visited bondage and sadomasochism websites, including some related to claustrophilia -- a desire for confinement in enclosed spaces.

William's landlord testified during the coroner's hearing that she once found him handcuffed to his bed. She said he had appeared embarrassed after asking for help.

Still, Wilcox said there was no immediate evidence of a sexual encounter gone wrong, of suicidal intent, or that Williams' death was linked to a supposed interest in bondage. She said, however, that tales about his sex life could have been fueled in an attempt to "manipulate the evidence."

In the past, spy recruits were often cautioned that their sex lives could make them vulnerable to blackmail.

The case has frustrated Scotland Yard detectives who have been investigating the case for 21 months now and say that the secrecy surrounding Williams' job has thwarted their efforts.

"Obviously a lot of information has come out through the course of this inquest which we have not been party to," lead detective Jackie Sebire said.

But Wilcox also criticized the police detectives.

Time and resources were wasted, she said, when forensic teams investigating a DNA sample taken from Williams's hand later turned out to belong to one of the forensic scientists. She also questioned the handling of William's iPhone, which contained deleted images of him naked in a pair of boots.

Detective Superintendent Michael Broster, who was the police liason with MI6, said he had seized it from the spy's workplace and kept it until the next day when he gave it to another officer.

"I find this is either not what occurred ... or it demonstrates disregard for the rules governing continuity of evidence," Wilcox said.

Wilcox also criticized officers who interviewed Williams' colleagues without taking any formal statements.

"I find that this did affect the quality of evidence that was heard before this court," she said.

Still, the coroner said she had seen no evidence to indicate his death was linked to his work.

When the case emerged, some had speculated that he could have been the target of Russian criminal gangs or an al-Qaida extremist. Other media reports had said there had been a break-in at the property where he lived -- a building sometimes used by MI6 to house its agents.

Wilcox said while there wasn't evidence to support a specific verdict of unlawful killing -- which would need a high burden of proof -- it was her opinion that the spy was probably unlawfully killed.

She said while it appeared unlikely, speculation that British intelligence agencies may have had a role in the death continued to be a "legitimate line of inquiry."

MI6 waited a week to investigate why Williams hadn't shown up for work -- a delay that made it difficult for Williams' family to identify his badly decomposed body.

John Sawers, the head of MI6, said in a statement following the corner's verdict that he apologized "unreservedly" to the Williams family for the spy agency's failure.

During the coroner's hearing, MI6 accepted that Williams disliked the agency's boozy culture of post-work drinking and tedious bureaucracy, and had requested to return to his job at GCHQ.

One MI6 officer claimed that Williams hadn't been reported as missing because colleagues assumed he was preparing for his return to the southern England headquarters of the eavesdropping service.

Wilcox said it appeared unlikely that Williams could have climbed inside the duffel bag and locked it himself. Two different specialists attempted to recreate the feat without success. Williams was discovered in the fetal position inside the bag with two keys to the bag's padlock underneath his buttocks.

Pathologists told the inquest that poisoning or asphyxiation may have killed Williams, but said his cadaver was too badly decomposed to be certain.

Williams' family, who have been left distraught by parts of the inquest, did not speak outside court but offered a statement.

The family, from Wales, described Williams as a "special and adored son and brother" and said they "cannot describe the depth of the sorrow his absence leaves in our lives."

The police investigation is ongoing.

By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press
David Stringer contributed to this report.

Telegraph : Could mystery fingerprints provide clue in dead spy case?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Could mystery fingerprints provide clue in dead spy case?

Police are still to identify up to 20 sets of fingerprints found in the flat of dead MI6 spy Gareth Williams, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

By Tom Whitehead, Security Editor | May 5, 2012

Some of the potential prints are little more than marks or “smudges” but officers hope they could still hold the key to the maths prodigy’s death.

Forensic officers are still examining them along with traces of DNA found on a towel in the kitchen.

It came as the head of the Met’s homicide squad said he believed the bizarre death could still be solved despite few clues after a two-year investigation.

Officers are preparing to return to MI6 to interview colleagues of Mr Williams and take DNA as part of a review of the case.

It followed criticism by a coroner this week over aspects of the investigation and the way some evidence was handled.

Mr Williams’ naked decomposing body was discovered in a padlocked sports bag in the bath of his Pimlico home in London in August 2010.

It had been there for a week without anyone raising concerns that the 31-year-old, who was on secondment to MI6 from GCHQ, had gone missing.

At the end of an eight day inquest on Wednesday, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said that “on the balance of probabilities” Mr Williams was “unlawfully killed” and likely to have been “criminally mediated” by a mystery third party.

A lawyer for the family has previously suggested someone expert in the “dark arts” of the secret service was linked to the death.

Anthony O’Toole also hinted that foreign forces may have been aware the flat was being used to house MI6 officers and targeted it rather than a specific agenda against Mr Williams.

During the inquest, DCI Jackie Sebire, who is leading the investigation, said more than 300 fingerprints were found around the flat.

The majority of those have been accounted for but police sources revealed around 20 are still unresolved.

Some may prove to be too weak to be of use while others may still turn out to be entirely innocent, such as from a workman.

However, experts are working hard to resolve them in the hope they may throw up a mystery visitor to the flat.

Faint traces of the DNA of at least two other people were found on the bag containing Mr Williams but forensic officers fear they are too weak to ever be of use.

There is more hope surrounding DNA tests on a towel found in the kitchen which are due to be concluded within the next few weeks.

Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, head of the Met's homicide squad, said of the riddle: “I think it can be resolved and DCI Sebire has my full support.

“We will make every effort to do that, will review the investigation and follow up lines.”

The Daily Telegraph disclosed yesterday that MI6 fear Scotland Yard is trying to make it a scapegoat for failings in the investigation.

Tensions are growing between the intelligence services and police over a possible blame game following criticism by the coroner.

Dr Wilcox criticised the delays in spotting Mr Williams was missing and apparent failures in the handling of potential evidence.

The inquest heard how nine memory sticks that may have belonged to the codebreaker and a bag similar to the one he was found dead in were discovered his office but never handed over to the Met team that investigated his death for almost two years.

A senior Whitehall source said there was concern within the intelligence service that the police were using it as a “scapegoat” to mask their own failings in solving the mystery.

Express : What Does MI6 Have To Say About The Spy In The Bag?

Saturday, May 05, 2012


By James Gillespie | May 5, 2012

THE bizarre case of Gareth Williams has thrown the spotlight on an intelligence service whose shadowy work leads some critics to ask whether it has become a law to itself.

There is an address in South London where even the police can’t go. Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, the officer leading the investigation into the baffling death of MI6 agent Gareth Williams – the so-called “Spy in the Bag” case – must have wished her powers extended to 85 Vauxhall Cross. But they don’t.

That address is the home of MI6 and although Sebire is a highly-experienced murder detective she doesn’t have security clearance to even enter the building much less question its inhabitants.

Instead her investigation depended on the mediation of Detective Superintendent Michael Broster of SO15, the counter-terrorism branch, which works closely with the intelligence services.

Only in the final stages of the inquest into Williams’s death this week did it emerge that no verbatim notes were taken of interviews with his MI6 colleagues and that a black holdall and nine memory sticks had been found at his desk but not handed over to the investigating officers.

Now 50 MI6 staff are facing DNA tests after the coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox, in a narrative verdict, ruled that it was likely Williams was “unlawfully killed”. Investigators are understood to believe that a colleague either from MI6 or the Government’s secret listening post at GCHQ was in the Pimlico flat when Williams died.

For his family – sister Ceri and parents Ian and Ellen – the inquest has raised as many questions as it has answered. And the most disturbing question of all is: does MI6 think it’s above the law?

The family has accused the intelligence service of withholding vital clues and failing to make “basic inquiries” until a week after Williams disappeared. “We are also extremely disappointed over the reluctance and failure of MI6 to make available relevant information,” they added.

Dr Wilcox echoed those concerns when she said that the forgetfulness of some employees at MI6, where Williams was on secondment from GCHQ, “stretched probability” and she refused to rule out the possibility that someone from the world of intelligence was involved.

From the moment the 31-year-old’s body was discovered in a North Face bag in the bath of his flat the response of MI6 has been puzzling. It took staff seven days even to report Williams – a conscientious time-keeper – missing then they appeared keen for police to be first into the apartment that MI6 has used for many years as temporary accommodation for employees.

The flat’s heating had been turned up high, despite the warmth of August, speeding up the decomposition of the body. The placing of the bag containing Williams into the bath prevented the giveaway leakage of fluids through the floor.

There were suggestions that the flat had been “swept” by someone who was forensically aware, to remove as many clues as possible.

Dr Wilcox said there was no evidence to suggest MI6 was involved in the death but “it is still a legitimate line of inquiry” and she added that “many agencies fell short” in the aftermath.

Sir John Sawers, MI6 chief, has apologised “unreservedly”, saying that lessons had been learned. But have they?

The problem may be that deep within MI6, in its culture and attitudes, lies a belief that the law is for other people.

The very nature of its work (MI6 deals with foreign intelligence, MI5 with domestic) means it is often on the boundaries of legality. The service is already under investigation for its part in sending Libyan dissidents into the hands of Muammar Gaddafi’s secret police.

Conservative MP Andrew Tyne, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, this week called on Foreign Secretary William Hague to investigate whether MI6 officers had briefed journalists over the Libyan case – in breach of the Official Secrets Act.

The 1994 Intelligence Services Act allows MI6 officers to carry out acts abroad that if done in Britain would be in breach of criminal law. It would be hardly surprising if that attitude spreads to their staff at home.

Michael Smith, author of SIX: The Real James Bonds, says: “MI6 would recoil at any suggestion that it sees itself as above the law but the inherent secrecy of organisations like MI6 does tend to make them think that keeping everything they do secret, even the slightest thing, is so important that it transcends everything else.

“We’ve definitely seen that here, which is why the coroner and some police officers are so angry, justifiably so.”

But who are the people who spend their days working in the modernistic building on the banks of the Thames at 85 Vauxhall Cross?

There are about 2,500 people working for MI6 of whom about half are support staff.

The others are divided into two types: Intelligence Branch (IB) officers and General Service officers.

General Service officers asses reports.

It is the IB officers who are the real James Bonds. They train in the "killing houses" of the SAS and SBS at Hereford and Poole and have their own firing range at the MI6 training school at Fort Monckton on the Solent.

Within their shadowy world there are as many tensions and disagreements as in any workplace but these are hidden. In the Williams case a senior MI6 officer identified as F blamed his subordinate G for a "breakdown in communications" but G was not disciplined and no one will ever know who they are.

But Williams was a computer expert on secondment from GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. What sort of people work there?

“Geeks,” said one who knows GCHQ staff but did not want to be identified. “They are brilliant in languages, maths or computers but they tend to be the sort of people who don’t mix easily. At university they are always the top ones in their class but they’re loners. A bit awkward.”

That description certainly fits Williams. He was a fitness fanatic who loved competitive cycling but also had a £20,000 collection of women’s clothing in his flat. When it came to the inquest, friends were few and far between.

HOWEVER those who did know him believe the picture painted during the inquiry was misleading. Some have claimed the clothes were gifts for female friends and talk of him visiting claustrophilia websites turned out to be based on four visits in two years. Hardly evidence of a dangerous obsession, as Dr Wilcox pointed out.

Perhaps the truth about what happened to Williams has fallen victim to MI6’s rather ambivalent attitude to the law.

“The secret world lives in a bubble,” says Smith. “It very often seeks to keep secret even things that are freely available on the internet.”

Another intelligence services expert, author Michael Burleigh, says: “After imagining that it could outmanoeuvre Plod, meaning highly-competent detectives, MI6 needs to think about how it lost track of its ‘vital’ employee – for tracking people is what it allegedly does on a global stage.

“It needs also to think about how it can allay the understandable distress of the Williams family while helping DCI Sebire, who has every right to feel short-changed.”

By protecting its right to secrecy every step of the way in the case of Gareth Williams, MI6 may actually be doing nothing more than what it does best: keeping secrets. What it does not appear to have done is to have helped significantly in finding out the truth of what happened in that Pimlico flat.

And MI6 seems to have shown scant regard for the others involved, not least Williams’s sister and his parents.

Because MI6 appears to think of itself as being above the law it hasn’t convinced anyone that it did the right thing.

It has just made itself look guilty.

Daily Record : Intelligence expert Crispin Black on why sex games feature in so many spy deaths

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Intelligence expert Crispin Black on why sex games feature in so many spy deaths

By Crispin Black | former government intelligence adviser | May 5, 2012

SITTING at the Gareth Williams inquest this week, listening to the more lurid details of the case, it occurred to me the death of spooks in bizarre circumstances involving sex games or women’s clothing is hardly an unusual event.

Disposing of an enemy and making it look like a perverted fantasy gone wrong is in the training manuals of every spy agency from MI6 to Mossad.

Codebreaker Gareth, from Anglesey, north Wales, was found dead in a locked bag, in a flat full of women’s clothing and wigs and with his internet browsing history conveniently featuring bondage sites, sparking a flurry of allegations which horrified his parents.

But the fact the 31-year-old’s death scene was organised in such a way as to suggest a sex game gone wrong should make us more suspicious, not less.

The sex game cover is a very useful mechanism in a murder. Not only does it provide a disguise for the actual means and method of death, it trashes the reputation of the victim and blunts the energy of any subsequent investigation.

And it appears to explain the astonishing number of spies, and other people who step into their murky world, who turn up dead in circumstances similar to Gareth.

Take GCHQ personnel for instance, those that work at the vast electronic doughnut in Cheltenham that is responsible for intercepting and decoding secret electronic traffic of interest to Her Majesty’s Government. And Gareth’s ultimate employer.

In 1983, 25-year-old Stephen Drinkwater, who worked as a clerk at GCHQ, was found dead at his home with a plastic bag over his head. In 1997 another worker, Nicholas Husband, 46, was found dead at home dressed in a bra and panties – with a plastic bag over his head.

Two years later, Kevin Allen, 31, a language expert at GCHQ, was found dead in his bed with a plastic bag over his head and a dust mask over his mouth. One wonders what the Gloucestershire Constabulary make of it all.

To be fair, the kind of higher mathematical ability that many GCHQ codebreakers have is rare and it sometimes comes with some personal eccentricities attached.

Alan Turing, the Cambridge academic and founder of modern computer science who became the greatest of the wartime Bletchley Park codebreakers was a distinctly odd fish – a loner with sexual hang-ups who seemed to spend most of his waking hours dreaming of obscure mathematical theorems.

The point was amusingly made in 60s film The Italian Job in which Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine, recruits computer genius Professor Simon Peach – Benny Hill – to pull off a daring bullion robbery.

But the whole scheme nearly comes unstuck as Prof Peach is unable to control his powerful urges towards large women. MI6, who recruit a more worldly-wise type than the boffins of GCHQ, have not been immune.

In 1994 ex-MI6 man turned journalist James Rusbridger, 65, was found hanged at his house in Cornwall – in a green chemical protection suit including rubber gloves, gas mask and black plastic mackintosh. Bondage pictures completed the tableau.

And of course, according to the pathologist, it turned out he probably did it himself as part of a sex game.

The same year Stephen Milligan, the Tory MP for Eastleigh, was found dead with electrical flex tied round his neck, a black bin liner over his head and wearing stockings and suspenders.

The 45-year-old was also tied to a chair and had a satsuma stuffed into his mouth.

His boss at the time, then junior defence minister Jonathan Aitken, has since denied suggestions Milligan had links to MI6.

Even if you are not a spook you need to be careful. In 1990, ex-RAF helicopter pilot and editor of Defence Helicopter World Jonathan Moyle, 28, was found hanged in the wardrobe of his hotel in Chile with a pillow case over his head.

At the time his demise was widely thought to be an auto-erotic accident. He was in fact almost certainly murdered after uncovering links between Chilean arms dealers and Saddam Hussein.

The last person to give evidence at the Gareth Williams inquest was Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire – the senior investigating officer in the case.

She stated confidently that she was sure she and her team would be able to unlock the mystery in the end. But she also felt that this, her final appearance in court, was an appropriate time to remind the assembled audience of Williams’s internet browsing habits.

The last website he accessed probably just a few hours before his death was connected to cycling – a photo of him competing in a cross-country cycling race has been seen frequently in the national newspapers.

But then she went on to deal with the browsing information that had been made much of in the media over the last 20 months. Williams had accessed bondage websites on four days over a two-year period.

He had never accessed so-called “claustrophilia” sites which cater for people who get a thrill out of being confined in small spaces.

There we have it – the view of the woman in charge of the probe. Williams may have had a passing interest in bondage but no more than that. Even this passing interest may have a perfectly innocent explanation.

All MI6 officers get extensive training before they are allowed out on to the streets. Much of this takes place at Fort Monckton near Gosport in Hampshire – a Napoleonic era fortress surrounded by barbed wire and accessible only by a drawbridge.

It includes instruction in basic entry and exit procedures – buildings and cars mainly. If you ever get locked out of your flat and know a friendly spook from school or university give them a ring.

They should be able to get you back inside and could save you a fortune on locksmith’s fees. The instruction also includes some counter-surveillance techniques – how to make sure you are not followed.

And instruction on what to do if you fall into the wrong hands – resistance to interrogation and crucially, what to do if you are restrained – tied or chained up.

It is possible Williams had some of this training and it might well account for the episode when he was discovered tied up in his room by his landlady.

That the sex game angle was a simple smear is a view certainly not ruled out by the Westminster coroner who said, “it is still a legitimate line of inquiry” Gareth died at the hands of MI6.

In her narrative verdict, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “I am sure a third party placed the bag into the bath and on the balance of probabilities locked the bag.

The cause of death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated. I am therefore satisfied that on the balance of probabilities Gareth was killed unlawfully.”

I was impressed by Dr Wilcox. She had good judgment and wisdom as can be seen from her verdict in the case. She played down the bondage question and the interest in female fashion – Williams had an expensive collection of women’s clothing nearly all of it unworn and most of it not in his size.

She seemed to accept the view of Williams’s sister that these were a store of presents for his female acquaintances. Dr Wilcox pretty much dismissed the idea of any sexual component in his death.

Sadly that is the aspect many people will remember. Well, these kinky games with yourself or other people go wrong – what can you expect – becomes the prevailing attitude.

Occasionally the dark arts of postmortem reputation trashing are employed in a good cause and based on hard facts rather than a set-up.

The strange and squalid habits of Osama bin Laden before his death have been used to great effect by the US to make him a laughing stock.

Crispin Black’s espionage thriller The Falklands Intercept is published by Gibson Square on June 19.