Sydney Morning Herald : 'Spy in a bag': Gareth Williams' family reject accidental death verdict

Thursday, November 14, 2013

'Spy in a bag': Gareth Williams' family reject accidental death verdict

Tom Whitehead | The Telegraph, London | November 14, 2013

The family of Gareth Williams, the MI6 spy who was found dead in a locked bag, has rejected a police conclusion that he died in an accident.

Scotland Yard ended its three-year investigation on Wednesday (UK time) into the so-called ‘‘spy in a bag’’ case. It said Mr Williams, 31, probably got into a bag by himself and died when he could not get out.

His family still believe he was murdered and made a fresh attack on his spy masters for failures over his welfare.

The naked, decomposing body of Mr Williams, who was on secondment to MI6, was found in a padlocked holdall in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.

An inquest last year concluded that he was ‘‘unlawfully killed’’ and put in the bath by another person. These findings have been contradicted by the Metropolitan Police inquiry.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who led the police investigation, said there was no evidence of third party involvement in the death. But he admitted that no evidence had been able to establish the exact ‘‘circumstances of Gareth’s death’’.

Police have effectively ended their inquires into the case but said they would keep it under review.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Williams’s parents, Ian and Ellen, and his sister, Ceri Subbe, said: ‘‘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.’’

Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner, last year said the spy was probably ‘‘unlawfully killed’’, largely because none of his DNA was found on the rim of the bath or the padlock.

Mr Hewitt said the police’s ‘‘position is that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died’’.

The police inquiry concluded it was possible for one person to climb into and lock the bag without assistance.

There was also no evidence of a forced entry or struggle in the flat and suggestions that all DNA and fingerprints had been wiped in a sinister ‘‘deep clean’’ were a ‘‘fallacy’’, Mr Hewitt said.

He said there was no evidence that his death was connected to his work. ‘‘I do not believe that I have had the wool pulled over my eyes. I believe that what we are dealing with is a tragic unexplained death,’’ he added.

The inquest heard that Mr Williams had several items of women’s clothing in his flat, but the coroner said it was because of his interest in fashion.

Mr Hewitt said there was nothing to suggest other reasons, but he confirmed that the spy had visited several bondage websites, a fact that also emerged at the inquest.

‘‘Three years of extensive investigative activity have developed a very clear profile of Gareth,’’ said Mr Hewitt.

‘‘He was, without doubt, a private person who was very close to his family and had few other close friends. That said, the universal view of colleagues was of a conscientious and decent man with a few, well-known hobbies such as his cycling and climbing.

‘‘There is no evidence of any animosity towards Gareth, and it has not been possible to identify anyone with a motive for causing him harm.’’