M16 spy found in holdall mystery: Human mole crime expert reveals the secrets
Human Mole Peter Faulding who has cracked some of the greatest mysteries and now he reveals why he thinks there was foul play involved in the spy in the holdall
By Rachael Bletchly | August 18, 2015
When the naked, decomposing body of MI6 spy Gareth Williams was discovered inside a padlocked bag in his bathtub it sparked a real-life mystery worthy of any 007 thriller.
Had the 31-year-old codebreaker been killed by foreign spooks? Was he eliminated by fellow agents? Or had the maths genius with a taste for cross-dressing suffocated when a sex game went disastrously wrong?
In 2013 after a three-year investigation – and despite a coroner’s ruling that Mr Williams was killed unlawfully – the Metropolitan Police decided he had locked himself inside the red holdall and no one else was involved.
But this week it was shockingly claimed unknown secret service agents DID kill the Welsh cryptographer after all – before breaking in to his London flat through a skylight to clean evidence from the crime scene right under the noses of police.
A source close to the investigation revealed forensic officers noticed equipment left in the Pimlico flat had been moved, despite it being under armed guard.
This latest twist in the Spy in the Bag story will sound far-fetched to many.
Not to Peter Faulding.
He is the expert witness who tried – and failed – more than 300 times to fold himself into an identical bag and lock it from the outside.
Peter, who at 5ft 6in is a similar height and build, told the inquest into Mr Williams’ death it was “an unbelievable scenario” he could have got in alone, and even escapologist Harry Houdini would have struggled.
And the latest claims have fuelled his conviction the spy was murdered in “the perfect crime”.
Peter, 52, says: “If Gareth Williams had got into that bag as part of a weird sex game he would surely have had a knife with him in case things went wrong.
“It was summer time but the heating was turned up. His iPhone was completely wiped, the bathroom door was closed, the shower screen was closed, the lights were off and the keys to the padlock were under his body.
“There was unidentified DNA found – but none of Gareth’s own DNA on the padlock, the zipper, or the bath screen, and no palm prints on the bath from lowering himself in. Nothing.
“I think it is perfectly feasible that experts in covert entry got back in across the rooftops and removed forensic evidence. Unless the flat was monitored electronically no one would have known.”
Peter, a world leader in confined spaces rescues, a specialist in underground and underwater searches and an expert witness on suffocation, goes on: “I got someone to zip me into the bag with oxygen monitors and worked out how long it would have taken for Gareth to suffocate – within 30 minutes.
“Then I tried to get into the bag and zip it closed. I managed that, but there was no way I could have put the padlock on the outside too. I told the coroner I believe he was dead before he was put in the bag – that he was murdered.”
Peter has been called in to offer expert advice on many other high-profile cases after a childhood hobby led to a fascinating career in the world of murder, danger and dark secrets.
From the age of five he spent his weekends deep underground, digging through rocks and burrowing through collapsed tunnels.
In the 1960s his caver dad, John, had rediscovered a network of ancient flint mines under the Surrey countryside and Peter inherited his passion for exploring the subterranean wonderland.
Speaking from his home in West Sussex, dad-of-three Peter says: “I was very close to my dad and just loved being underground with him.
“Whenever we found an opening in the rock falls dad would use a candle to check the oxygen levels were OK and then he’d squeeze me though a small gap to see what was on the other side. Some people might think it was an odd pastime for a kid, but I thought it was amazing.
“I’d find myself walking down passages no one else had been in since the 1400s. I was so comfortable underground I even got nicknamed the Human Mole.”
Today the Human Mole is the man emergency services call on to help them out of tight spots – whether it’s evicting environmental protesters from tunnels, locating bodies, digging survivors from collapsed buildings, or rescuing people from perilous cliff faces.
In 1995 the former Parachute Regiment reservist founded Specialist Group International. He now employs 40 people, many ex-military, with an arsenal of cutting-edge kit, including boats, 4x4 vehicles, a helicopter, remote control submarines, side-scanning sonar, diving and camera equipment.
He has advised the Home Office and FBI on search techniques and helps train police, fire and ambulance services.
Peter trained as a radar engineer and worked for the Civil Aviation Authority before training as a commercial diver.
In 1996 he advised police during high-profile protests against the Newbury by-pass. Around 7,000 environmental campaigners, including the notorious “Swampy” (Daniel Hooper), occupied trees and dug tunnels and Peter helped bailiffs evict them safely.
Then he got a call from police in Devon, where Swampy and his pals were dug in again, trying to stop another road.
“They were in real danger of suffocation but didn’t believe the police,” says Peter.
“As we dug towards them they’d fill their tunnel with soil and the oxygen levels were dangerously low. They were also smoking dope. I was pleading with them to come out but they were saying ‘We’re OK, man, we’re fine’.
“Eventually I managed to build a rapport and convinced them I really wasn’t bluffing – they were going to die. So they came out and we shook hands.”
But Peter has worked on many cases which ended in tragedy.
In October 2012 he joined the hunt for missing five-year-old April Jones in Machynlleth, Wales. He says: “We did a lot of river work then aerial reconnaissance.
“We found a remote caravan which we went to search hoping she might be there – abducted, but alive. We did what we could, but poor April was never going to be found.”
Local man Mark Bridger, 46, was found guilty of her abduction and murder in May 2013.
Peter tells the story of two divers who died at a specialist centre in Chepstow.
He says: “Police realised they had snuck in on a Friday evening after the place had shut, rather than pay. That cost them their lives. The man was only an average diver and the woman with him was a beginner.
“But the lake – an old quarry – is used to train commercial divers and was too deep even for police teams to search.
“I used our mini-submarine to dive down and found them at 230ft, tied together with a buddy line. We had to drag their bodies, suspended from the boat, to a platform to recover them.”
Peter adds: “Afterwards we were exhausted and sitting around a table when the mum arrived. Very emotionally, she thanked us for finding them – and every single one of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.
“Then there was the chap who disappeared after a row with his wife. He was missing for 18 months. Police searched the river 12 times but found nothing. They were about to close the case when I reviewed it with the senior investigating officer.
“Within 10 minutes of starting a scan up the river with the sonar I found two cars. The first was a stolen vehicle from years back but the second one contained the missing man’s body.
“He’d committed suicide by driving into the water.”
As the Human Mole continues saving lives and digging out the truth of bizarre deaths and disappearances, he admits he will always be baffled by that Spy in the Bag Case.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know why he was killed but I’ll always be wondering,” he says. “It’s the most puzzling case I have ever dealt with.”
Swampy's protest, 1996
Bypass construction protester Swampy (Daniel Hooper) dug himself into a tunnel in Honiton, Devon, and Peter was brought in to get him out safely.
“As we dug towards them they’d fill their tunnel with soil and oxygen levels were dangerously low. They were also smoking dope. I used a chimney rod with a hose to pump air through. They would have died within about two hours without it.”
Missing April Jones, 2012
“We had a team of five, our helicopter, diving gear and a remote submarine with side-scanning sonar equipment.
We did a lot of river work then aerial reconnaissance. We found a remote caravan which we went to search hoping she might be there, alive. But poor April was never going to be found.”