Courier Mail : Forensic experts question MI6 body-in-bag theories five years after mystery death

Monday, September 21, 2015

Forensic experts question MI6 body-in-bag theories five years after mystery death

ROHAN SMITH | | September 21, 2015

WHEN nobody had heard from Gareth Williams for seven days, alarm bells rang.

The maths genius, who graduated from university at just 17, had secrets — plenty of them — but no one was prepared for what they found. Five years on, experts still have trouble explaining it.

The MI6 spy’s life was a mystery covered up by the British government because his work was so secretive. But his death may end up being the greatest mystery of all, throwing up salacious theories involving sex games, cross-dressing and a hit planned and executed to perfection by the UK’s best trained spooks.

On August 23, 2010, colleagues told police they hadn’t seen 31-year-old Williams for a week. A welfare check led Scotland Yard to a disturbing scene at his immaculately-kept apartment in Pimlico, a small area of central London bound by the Thames.

In his home was a woman's wig, lipstick and makeup and a cutting from The Observer newspaper headlined "Top five regrets of the dying”.

In the bathroom they found his body, zipped inside a red and black duffel bag that had been padlocked from the outside and placed in the bath. Without a mark on him and no sign of a struggle, was it possible he got into the bag himself?


Williams was a smart guy, no doubts about it.

Always ahead of the curve, he graduated with a first-class degree as a teen, completed his PhD at one of England’s top universities and scored a job he couldn’t talk about in the murky world of espionage — as a codebreaker for the British Secret Service.

But forensic investigator Peter Faulding says Williams would have had “to be Houdini” to have locked himself in a duffel bag the size of the one he was found in.

To prove the point, Mr Faulding tried to lock himself in the same bag, in the same bath, 300 times without success.

“I couldn’t say it’s impossible, but I think even Houdini would have struggled with this one,” Mr Faulding told UK newspaperThe Sun.

“The only way I could get myself into the bag was to lie on my back, put my shoulders and head in first, and bending my body at my stomach, pulling my knees up and pulling the bag over my body.

“I am used to confined spaces, and once I’m in that bag, it is a very unpleasant place to be.”

He said a person could only survive for 30 minutes inside the bag and is convinced Williams met with foul play. Others agree.

But if Williams was overpowered, his killers did not leave a scratch on his body. Coroner Fiona Wilcox said in 2010 that Williams showed no signs of injury or struggle and he was neither under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the week that he died.

The New York Times wrote in 2012 that Britain was “riveted” by the country’s “strangest real-life spy mystery”. Three years later the mystery endures. Without conclusive evidence, the theories continue to multiply, including fresh claims that the discovery of $43,000 worth of women’s designer clothes found in William’s wardrobe were not a personal peccadillo but all part of his work as a spy.


On the street, Gareth Williams was a keen cyclist with a clean-cut look and a good job. Inside his apartment, some say he was a different person altogether.

Among his collection of high-priced women’s clothes were wigs and underwear.

On his computer they found information that led some to the conclusion that his death was the result of a sex fetish.

According to police, Williams visited websites for people interested in bondage and claustophilia — a fetish whereby one derives sexual pleasure from being locked in tight spaces.

Detective Constable Simon Warren, investigating the case, said the websites were an “isolated incident among a sea of other data”.

Williams shaved his legs and kept a trim figure, leading some to believe he was a cross-dresser.

Mr Faulding, still on the case after all these years, said this week he was convinced Williams kept the clothes not for pleasure but for work: “The key question never asked was: ‘Were these clothes used for his job?’” he told The Sun.

“I am certain they were.”

The Sun in August broke news that Williams had, in the weeks before his death, hacked into US President Bill Clinton’s computer “as a favour to a friend”.

In doing so, Williams breached his security clearance and reportedly provoked the ire of his bosses at MI6.

The information gave weight to theories from early in the investigation suggesting Williams was killed by agents who not only did the deed but returned to cover their tracks.

The Daily Mail reported that forensic equipment placed at the crime scene was moved despite the building being under armed police guard. Scotland Yard concluded someone “must have scaled the building’s walls and broken in through the skylight to cover their tracks”.


Williams’ life was a closely guarded secret but he did let one person in. Her name was Sian Lloyd-Jones and she was Williams’ childhood sweetheart and confidante.

In an interview in 2010, Lloyd-Jones said the man she knew was not the same person she was seeing portrayed in the media. She said the womens’ clothes he bought were for her and his sister.

“The person everyone talks about I don’t recognise him at all,” she told Mail on Sunday. “He was the complete opposite of everything that has been said about him. It’s been awful for everyone but particularly his family. They’re at breaking point, to be honest.”

She said Williams was a “lovely guy, a true, old school gentleman”.

“He had an excellent sense of humour and, from the bottom of my heart, he was the most charming, sensitive, gorgeous man. Truly, he was one in a million. He was somebody who really had a sound judgment for life.”

She said he was a workaholic but he was happy and content.

“He wasn’t a loner and he wasn’t lonely.”

Originally published as ‘Even Houdini would’ve struggled’