Telegraph : Spy in a bag: family reject police conclusion death was 'tragic accident'

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spy in a bag: family reject police conclusion death was 'tragic accident'

The parents and sister of MI6 spy Gareth Williams still believe he was murdered

By Tom Whitehead | November 13, 2013

The family of MI6 spy Gareth Williams, who was found dead in a locked holdall, have rejected police conclusions that he died in a tragic accident by himself.

The parents and sister of the codebreaker still believe he was murdered and launched 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 from GCHQ was found in a padlocked holdall in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, London, in August 2010.

An inquest last year concluded he had been “unlawfully killed” and put in the bath by another person.

But following a three-year investigation, Scotland Yard has contradicted the coroner’s findings and concluded Mr Williams most likely got in to the bag himself and died after failing to get out again.

Deptuy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who led the investigation, said that was the most logical outcome but stressed it may never be known exactly how or why Mr Williams came to die.

Police have now effectively ended their inquires in to the death but said they would keep the case under review.

But a statement issued on behalf of Mr Williams’ family said: “We have, as a family, had the opportunity to consider the investigative update which has been prepared by the Metropolitan Police following the inquest which took place in London in April/May, 2012.

"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 note that the investigation has been conducted with further interviews upon some of the witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest, and that the investigation team were at last able to interview directly members of GCHQ and SIS.

"We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known, the Coroner's verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth's death.”

Mr Hewitt said: “With the conclusion of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police's position is that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died.

"But the reality is that for both hypotheses there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding."

But Mr Hewitt said the 31-year-old's death was "most probably" an accident, although he admitted: "No evidence has been identified to establish the full circumstances of Gareth's death beyond all reasonable doubt."

However, Mr Hewitt said there was no evidence that the flat had been "deep-cleaned" to remove forensic traces and nothing to suggest a struggle or a break-in.

Despite an intensive police investigation, no one has been arrested and the circumstances surrounding his death have remained a mystery.

Following an eight-day inquest last year, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox concluded that Mr Williams was probably "unlawfully killed" in a criminal act after experts found it impossible to climb in to a bag by themselves.

She said his death most likely involved a third party and he was either poisoned or suffocated.

She also said the possibility that a member of the intelligence services was involved in the maths prodigy's death remained a "legitimate line of inquiry" for police.

On behalf of the coroner, two experts tried 400 times to lock themselves into the bag, and one claimed that even Harry Houdini "would have struggled" to squeeze himself inside.

But days after the inquest, a retired Army sergeant showed how it was possible to climb into a similar North Face bag and lock it from the inside.

The renewed investigation saw officers reinterview MI6 officers and take their DNA samples.

The Metropolitan Police announced an urgent review of the case in the wake of the inquest findings, including concerns over how some evidence was handled by MI6 and counter–terrorism officers during a two–year investigation in to the death.