S.F. Chronicle : U.K. Spy Found in Locked Bag Died by Accident, Police Say

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

U.K. Spy Found in Locked Bag Died by Accident, Police Say

Jeremy Hodges| ©2013 Bloomberg News | November 13, 2013

(Updates with statement from his family in ninth paragraph.)

Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. police investigating the death of a U.K. intelligence-agency worker who was found naked and padlocked inside a duffel bag in the bathtub in his apartment, said he wasn’t murdered.

Gareth Williams, 31, was found in August 2010 in his apartment in the Pimlico neighborhood of London. He had been working for MI6, the British overseas intelligence agency, as a code-breaker at the time of his death.

“It is now proven that it is theoretically possible for a person to lock themselves in that exact holdall, with the same type of lock,” Martin Hewitt, Detective Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, said in a press briefing today.

Officers interviewed 27 people from MI6 and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, and concluded that Williams’s death wasn’t connected to his work, Hewitt said.

A London coroner ruled in May 2012 that Williams’s death was “criminally mediated,” stopping short of calling his death an unlawful killing on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence.

Hewitt said it’s “a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died,” but “there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding.”

‘Conscientious, Decent’

While there were no fingerprints from Williams on the bathtub and police found unidentified traces of DNA from third parties in the apartment, there was no evidence of forced entry, a violent struggle, or anything to suggest that Williams’s apartment had been cleaned, Hewitt said.

A collection of 15,000 pounds ($24,000) worth of women’s clothing, including shoes and a collection of wigs, that were found in Williams’s apartment had nothing to do with his death, according to police. Williams was a “conscientious and decent man” who liked cycling and climbing, the detective said.

Williams’s family said they were disappointed over MI6’s failure “to take even the most basic inquiries concerning Gareth’s welfare when he failed to attend for work.”

“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,” they said in a statement.

--Editors: Lindsay Fortado, Anthony Aarons

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net