British spy found in padlocked gym bag probably died by accident, police say
Published November 13, 2013, FoxNews.com
This undated file photo provided by the Metropolitan Police shows British intelligence official Gareth Williams, 31, who worked for Britain's secret eavesdropping service GCHQ but was attached to the country's MI6 overseas spy agency when his naked and decomposing remains were found in 2010 at his central London apartment.
A spy whose naked, decomposing body was found in a padlocked gym bag at his apartment likely died in an accident with no one else involved, British police said Wednesday.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the death of Gareth Williams, whose remains were found inside a bag in his bathtub in August 2010, was "most probably" an accident.
"I'm convinced that Gareth's death was in no way linked to his work," Hewitt told Reuters.
But he conceded that the facts could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt, and Williams' family members said they still believe he was killed.
Tests found no traces of alcohol, drugs or poison in his body, Reuters reported.
The police verdict also disagrees with a coroner's inquest, which concluded last year that Williams had probably been killed by another person in a "criminally meditated act."
Hewitt told reporters at Scotland Yard headquarters that a police review had found little evidence of foul play in a death that has spawned a host of theories, from assassination to sexual adventure gone awry.
Williams, a cyberwarfare expert, worked for Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping service and was attached to the overseas espionage agency MI6 when he died. According to Reuters, Williams worked as a code breaker at the GCHQ.
Hewitt said the police 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."
Some have raised the possibility that Williams locked himself in the bag as part of a sex game gone wrong. Investigators found that he had visited bondage and sadomasochism websites, including some related to claustrophilia -- a desire for confinement in enclosed spaces.
Police concluded that it could have been possible for Williams to climb inside the sports bag and lock it. However, none of Williams' DNA was found on the lock on the bag and his palm prints were not found on the rim of the bath.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox last year was critical in her inquest verdict of MI6, which failed to pass evidence to investigating police. And she said that while it appeared unlikely that British intelligence agencies were involved in Williams' death, it was a "legitimate line of inquiry."
Hewitt said there was no evidence that the apartment had been cleaned to remove forensic traces and nothing to suggest a struggle or a break-in.
And he dismissed the idea that Britain's secretive intelligence services had carried out a coverup.
"I do not believe that I have had the wool pulled over my eyes," he said. "I believe that what we are dealing with is a tragic unexplained death."
He said there was "no evidence to support the theory that Gareth's death was in any way related to his work."
Williams' relatives said in a statement that they were disappointed that the facts were still not clear, but still believed it was likely he had been the victim of foul play.
"We consider that on the basis of the facts known at present the coroner's verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth's death," the statement said.
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Spy in a bag: Flaws in investigating death of MI6 spy Gareth Williams
Murder detectives did not formally interview MI6 colleagues of Gareth Williams or look at his vetting files for more than two years after death
By Tom Whitehead, Security Editor4:06PM GMT 13 Nov 2013
Police investigating the death of spy Gareth Williams did not have access to his personnel and vetting files for more than two years – and after his inquest, it has emerged.
Murder detectives also only formally interviewed colleagues of Mr Williams at MI6 and GCHQ in the last year, despite him dying in 2010.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt admitted the way the death was first investigated was flawed.
Although a homicide team led the initial inquiries, counter terrorism officers acted as a go between with MI6 because they were the only ones vetted to do so.
The situation was subject to criticism during the inquest, especially when it emerged that no formal witness statements were even taken.
Spy in a bag: family reject police conclusion death was 'tragic accident' 13 Nov 2013
Following, the inquest homicide officers had direct access to files and to officers and formally interviewed 27 members of MI6 and GCHQ.
Mr Hewitt said: "We didn't get it right at the beginning and the way that we did it was cumbersome and didn't allow us to do the investigation in the way that we wanted to.
"We recognised that fact and we changed it fundamentally for the subsequent two years of the investigation. I don't think that process stopped us getting any evidence that we needed to get.
“"It is highly unusual for us to be able to go into those organisations and to have open access to personnel files, to vetting files and to all the other aspects of Gareth's work, which we have been given, and which allows us to draw the conclusion that I am convinced that Gareth's death was in no way related to his work either current or previously."
MI6 and GCHQ were also criticised during the inquest for failings in the welfare of Mr Williams.
He was not noticed missing for up to a week, by which time his body was badly decomposed meaning some toxicology tests could not be taken.
In their statement today, Mr Williams’ family said: “We still however remain very disappointed over the failure of his employers at MI6 to take even the most basic enquiries concerning Gareth's welfare when he failed to attend for work on the 16th August, 2010.
“We believe that if proper steps had been taken in the same manner as any reasonable employer would have undertaken further information relating to the cause of his death might have become apparent and not have been lost due to the length of time before Gareth's body was found.”
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