Columbus Dispatch : Police: ‘Spy in a bag’ death accidental

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Police: ‘Spy in a bag’ death accidental

Gareth Williams’ naked body was found inside a locked sports bag in a dry bathtub.

By Stephen Castle | The New York Times | November 14, 2013

LONDON — The bizarre death of a British intelligence analyst whose body was discovered inside a sports bag in a bathtub was called a probable accident by the London police yesterday, an inconclusive ending to one of the most puzzling investigations in recent years.

Gareth Williams, 31, a Welsh-born mathematician involved in code-breaking work, was found dead on Aug. 23, 2010, by police who entered his London apartment. His naked body was curled in a fetal position inside a sports bag in an otherwise empty bathtub.

In a twist worthy of a spy movie, the bag was padlocked, but the keys to the lock were inside the bag, beneath the decomposing body.

Williams had led a very private existence, with few close friends. But with its glimpse into the world of espionage, the “spy in a bag” case drew interest from the news media, which speculated that Williams might have been assassinated or might have died as an accidental consequence of an interest in escapology or bondage.

An autopsy failed to identify a cause of death. A coroner’s inquest in 2012 found that someone else probably was involved in the death. However, the police now say they think that Williams was most likely alone and locked himself in the bag, although they cannot rule out the possibility that someone else was present.

“From the inquest, we set up our investigation in a different way, and this has led to greater clarity on some aspects of the case,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who oversaw the police investigation, said in a statement.

“Now, at the end of our investigation, based on the evidence, or where we have been unable to find positive evidence, we believe that it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died.”

Although the police did not demonstrate that it was possible for a person to lock himself inside a bag, Hewitt said, they saw video footage of this being done.

Why Williams would have done so was unclear. The 2012 coroner’s inquest heard evidence that he had visited websites dedicated to bondage and “claustrophilia,” which involves seeking sexual thrills from being shut in enclosed spaces.

Williams’ family said in a statement yesterday that they stood by the coroner’s findings — that he probably was the victim of an unlawful killing — rather than those of the police.