West End Extra : Police challenge coroner’s ruling on MI6 death – but ‘how can you lock yourself in a bag by accident?’

Friday, November 15, 2013

Police challenge coroner’s ruling on MI6 death – but ‘how can you lock yourself in a bag by accident?’

by WILLIAM McLENNAN | November 15, 2013

THE death of an MI6 code-breaker who was found naked inside a locked holdall in the bath of his Pimlico flat was a “tragic accident” that was not “in any way related to his work”, according to Scotland Yard.

Last year an inquest found it was likely Gareth Williams, who was 31, had been “unlawfully killed” at his home in Alderney Street in August 2010.

But Detective Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said this week that they disputed the coroner’s findings and said: “It is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died.”

No major breakthrough has been made by police but, instead, they reached the conflicting conclusion after reanalysing existing evidence and carrying out further interviews with 27 members of the security services who worked with Mr Williams.

The long-running police investigation has been dogged by speculation about the involvement of the security services in his death and several blogs have sprung up dedicated to the so-called “Alderney Street Mystery”.

It was the “talk of Lupus Street” for weeks after the death, and the announcement on Wednesday was said to have left Pimlico residents “baffled”.

DAC Hewitt denied having the “wool pulled over my eyes” by the security services and said MI6 had co-operated with the investigation.

He said it was now proven that it is “theoretically possible” for somebody to lock themselves in “the exact holdall, with the same type of lock, and in the configuration in which Gareth was found”.

Announcing the end of the Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation, DAC Hewitt nevertheless said it was impossible to rule out the involvement of a third party. He said: “The reality is that for both hypotheses there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding.”

Mr Williams’s family disagree with the Met’s conclusion and said the coroner’s ruling “accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death”.

After an inquest, held in Marylebone in April last year, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “The cause of his death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated.

“I am therefore satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully.”

In a statement this week Mr Williams’s family said: “We are naturally disappointed that it is 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”.

Mr Williams, who was originally from Wales, worked for the Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham but was living in Pimlico while on secondment at MI6 in Vauxhall.

During the inquest last year it was suggested that the two-bedroom flat near the junction with Warwick Way was used as a safe house for MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service, SIS.

This was denied by security services, but at the inquest Anthony O’Toole, the lawyer for Mr Williams’s family, suggested there was evidence that “since 2003 the tenant of the flat has been the secretary of state”– in other words that it had been occupied continuously by agents from MI6 since that year.

At the inquest last year, Mr O’Toole asked if it was “possible that it may have been known to certain parties as being the residence of SIS”.

Pimlico resident Murad Gassanly told West End Extra: “When it first happened it was the talk of Lupus Street, in the shops and so on, and everyone was quite shocked that it was in their neighbourhood and so close.

“I think people are talking about it again today, but they’re just baffled. How can you lock yourself in a bag by accident?”

Mr Williams was not been well known in Pimlico and this week police said: “He was without doubt a private person who was very close to his family and had few other close friends.”

He was said to go for walks around Belgravia and regularly visit Dover Street market in Mayfair.