Evening Standard : MI6 Spy in a bag Gareth Williams 'probably locked himself inside it'

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MI6 Spy in a bag Gareth Williams 'probably locked himself inside it'

Justin Davenport, Crime Editor | November 13, 2013

The MI6 spy found dead in a bag in his Pimlico flat three years ago probably locked himself inside it, a Met review of the case said today.

Senior officers said they could can find no evidence that the GCHQ codebreaker was a victim of an assassination by the security services or any other third party. The partially-decomposed naked body of Gareth Williams, 31, was found inside the padlocked holdall in his bath in August 2010 sparking a host of theories.

Police will now wind down their inquiry but admitted there was no evidence to establish the exact circumstances of his death “beyond all reasonable doubt”. His family said today they still believe he was killed by a “third party”. It came as police said they now believe that he could have been able to climb into the large North Face bag unaided and lock it from inside.

It follows a new 16-month investigation by murder squad detectives. The findings contradict the conclusions of Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox who ruled last year that Mr Williams was probably “unlawfully killed”.

She concluded that the spy could have been killed by a secret service colleague and pointed to a significant lack of hand or fingerprints around the bath where Mr Williams was found.

Two experts, working for the coroner, tried 400 times to lock themselves into the North Face bag and one claimed even Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to squeeze himself inside.

But days after the inquest a retired Army sergeant showed that it was possible and now police believe it was possible to do so. Mr Williams, a fitness fanatic, had an interest in escapology and confined spaces, visiting little known websites on the internet.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the police had decided “that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died”.

Mr Hewitt said the family still believed the finding of the coroner that “someone else was involved.” He added: “We are saying that the most probable scenario is that Gareth was alone but I do not have the evidence to close down entirely that someone else was there.”

Mr Hewitt said: “My view is that it was an accident. There is nothing to suggest that Gareth had any intention of taking his own life.” But he admitted there were still “evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding” which prevented detectives from reaching a definitive conclusion.

He said a full investigation had included interviewing 27 Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ colleagues of Mr Williams’s, extensive forensic examinations of the flat, and “digital forensic examination” of phones and computers.

Mr Hewitt said there was no evidence that the top-floor flat in Alderney Street had been the subject of a “forensic clean” by security agents because numerous fingerprints and DNA traces dating back several years had been found. “Such a ‘selective’ clean would not be possible,” he says. However, he admitted there was still no explanation for lack of fingerprints around the rim of the bath.

There was also no physical evidence of any forced entry to the premises, nor any evidence that the spy was involved in a violent struggle. Mr Hewitt said Mr Williams’s interest in women’s clothing had fuelled speculation. Around £20,000 worth of clothing was found in his flat, many of them dresses still in their wrapping.

He said the coroner had found these were a “fashion collection” and he did not believe they were relevant.

He said the coroner had been informed of the findings but had concluded that there was insufficient new evidence to re-open the inquest.

Mr Williams family said in a statement: “We are naturally disappointed that it is still not possible to state with certainty how Gareth died and the fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief.

“We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known the coroner’s verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death.”