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Officers who found body of Gareth Williams say it was 'a neat job', leading to speculation that it was a professional hit
* Helen Carter and Richard Norton-Taylor * guardian.co.uk, Sunday 29 August 2010 16.02 BST
Further questions have been raised over the death of an MI6 officer after police confirmed that reports of bondage equipment found at his flat and a "ritualistic" arrangement of his possessions were untrue.
The body of Gareth Williams was found stuffed in a bag in the bath of an MI6 safehouse in Pimlico, south London, a week ago. Reports have said there was evidence of a break-in, and that sim cards containing the numbers of gay escorts were found at the flat, but police who found the body told Channel 4 News it was "a neat job", leading to speculation that Williams was killed in a professional hit.
The police and security services seem to disagree over precisely what led to Williams' death, with Whitehall sources maintaining that his death was "more to do with his private life than his job".
Claims that 31-year-old Williams was secretly gay appear to be wrong, according to the original police dispatch seen by Channel 4. His family claim Williams has been the victim of a smear campaign to deflect attention from his work within the intelligence service. He is thought to have played a role in gathering intelligence as a code-cracker or cipher, and was seconded to MI6 from GCHQ.
Contrary to some reports, three mobile phone sim cards found in the flat were not arranged in a "ritualistic" manner, a Metropolitan police spokesman told the Guardian.
The police confirmed that Williams was last seen on 15 August, eight days before his body was found. Initial reports said he had not been seen for a fortnight. His body was discovered when police were called to check on him after a GCHQ colleague voiced concerns. Police found no mess and no sign of a struggle.
Williams's uncle, William Hughes, said it was possible the government or another agency might be attempting to discredit his nephew by orchestrating a smear campaign. He said Williams's parents, who live on Anglesey, were "very, very angry" about false reports over his private life. He said his nephew's reputation was being destroyed by the "horrible and completely fictitious accounts".
Last week a pathologist was unable to establish a cause of death. Toxicology tests will determine if he was poisoned, or if drugs or alcohol were a factor.
There have been claims that Williams was killed by someone he knew, after reports that thousands of pounds were paid into and withdrawn from his bank account in the days leading up to his death. Police said such reports were "pure speculation".
Williams is known to have been a private man, a mathematical prodigy who studied at Bangor University for a degree at 13, emerging with first-class honours. He later attended St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he failed to complete his studies and returned to GCHQ, where he joined a contingent of keen cyclists.
Williams regularly travelled to the United States, where it is understood that he worked at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade in Maryland, the US government's listening post and the largest intelligence agency in the world.
He was sent to MI6's station in Kabul where he is thought to have helped in breaking codes used by the Taliban. Last year he moved on secondment to MI6. He was due to return to GCHQ at the start of next month.
By Melanie Phillips Last updated at 10:13 AM on 30th August 2010
George Smiley would never have behaved like this. Ever since the body of the GCHQ code-breaker Gareth Williams was discovered stuffed into a hold-all in his bath, we have been treated to a stream of unsavoury and contradictory leaks from mysterious sources.
The story is throwing up more obfuscatory trade-craft than a John Le Carré novel. Of course, the secret intelligence world must of necessity work in a deeply shadowy way - concealing its tracks, laying false trails and employing sundry other means of disinformation.
It does so in order to keep this country safe from its enemies. So much is generally accepted.
But when one of its number is found apparently murdered in a flat in central London, you do not expect these black arts of subterfuge to continue.
You certainly don't expect them to thwart the investigation of an apparently sinister death or cause further and needless distress to the dead man's bereaved parents.
Yet this is precisely what seems to have happened after the discovery of Mr Williams's body.
It appears that he was no ordinary GCHQ operative but a vitally important contributor to the defence of the West.
A brilliant mathematical boffin, he was helping to oversee a network which links satellites and super-computers in Britain and the U.S. with those of other key allies.
He had also worked on breaking coded Taliban messages, helping to save the lives of countless British and other Nato soldiers under attack in Afghanistan.
So his death would seem to have serious security implications of one kind or another - including the possibility that he was murdered by enemies of this country.
Yet shadowy unnamed sources started putting it about that 'bondage equipment and gay paraphernalia' were found in his flat.
The implication was that his death was caused by some seedy sadomasochistic practice that went wrong.
At a stroke, Mr Williams's reputation was trashed - transforming him from an unsung hero of his nation into the sordid author of his own terminal misfortune.
Not surprisingly, this planted suggestion greatly upset his grieving family, who protested at the 'horrible and completely fictitious accounts of his private life'.
More remarkably, it was refuted in the strongest possible terms by the police who said no such paraphernalia had been found in Mr Williams's flat - although they wouldn't comment on the suggestion that he was indeed gay.
None of us has the faintest idea why or how he died. But why would these shadowy sources - whoever they may be - want to blacken his name like this? Of course, it is possible that he was killed by a lover.
Most killings, after all, have a rather more prosaic cause than an assassination perpetrated by clandestine agents.
But why plant this suggestion - and in the most lurid and apparently untruthful way - before the police have even established how or when he met his death?
Maybe a clue lies in the further claim that some £18,000 disappeared from one of his bank accounts two months ago - money reportedly moved 'by complex means', leading to speculation that Mr Williams was being blackmailed.
It is possible there is an entirely innocent explanation for all that, too. But why are we being treated to this drip-drip of partial, sensational and contradictory information while a criminal investigation is going on?
It all sounds disturbingly similar to the case of Jonathan Moyle, another British intelligence agent whose body was found hanging inside a hotel wardrobe in the Chilean capital Santiago in 1990 with a padded noose around his neck.
He had been investigating a company which was modifying helicopters, possibly to carry nuclear weapons, to sell to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
But MI6 planted the suggestion that he had died while engaged in an auto-erotic act. It took his outraged father to discover that his son had probably been drugged, suffocated, injected with a lethal substance and then strung up in the wardrobe - a view supported by the British coroner, who returned a verdict of unlawful killing at his inquest eight years later.
In the Williams case, it appears that a turf-war has broken out between the police and the intelligence world, with the police complaining that the spooks are hindering their investigation.
So just what does the intelligence world want to cover up in this case? Of course, it is possible that disclosure of the precise circumstances of Mr Williams's death would compromise national security in some way.
But it is also possible there is a less honourable motive for the dirty tricks being played in this investigation.
Maybe the intelligence world doesn't want us to know that it didn't vet Mr Williams thoroughly enough; or alternatvely that it shockingly failed to protect the life of its invaluable code-breaker from foreign or terrorist assailants; or maybe it wants to conceal the identity of a country or group that killed him in order to serve some diplomatic end or other.
Who knows? All we can see is that some very peculiar game is being played around this man's demise.
And it's hard not to put this together with that other mystery over the death of the weapons expert Dr David Kelly in 2003.
He was said to have committed suicide during the controversy over the Iraq war - a conclusion endorsed by the official inquiry that replaced an inquest into his death.
Yet the evidence suggests that he could not have killed himself, as we have been told, by slitting his ulnar artery and taking an overdose of pills - not least because there was not much blood at the scene and fewer than one tablet was found in his stomach.
We also learn that people who wanted or needed to give evidence at the inquiry were never called to do so.
Now the pathologist who inspected his body has insisted this was a 'textbook suicide' - an account that raises more questions than it answers.
True, the idea that Dr Kelly was murdered and that this was covered up in an official conspiracy seems too implausible to be true.
Yet he did possess unique expertise in biological weapons intelligence. So there was a long list of terror organisations or rogue states that may have wanted him dead.
And if it is indeed true that the intelligence world sometimes plants false information that key operatives who have been murdered have instead been responsible for their own deaths, then the questions about Dr Kelly's 'suicide' become even more urgent.
No one expects the intelligence services to reveal their trade secrets or to compromise national security.
But they are also the servants of a free society. And that means they must observe due process - which means unexplained deaths must be properly investigated.
That means a transparent and thorough investigation. It means holding a proper inquest where evidence about the cause of death can be properly aired and interrogated. And it means not dripping salacious snippets manipulatively into the public domain.
We must also not lose sight of the fact that, however they died, the loss of both David Kelly and now Gareth Williams has deprived us of two of the most brilliant minds in the intelligence world.
With their deaths, the defences of this country have been left that much weaker.
The coincidence of two random and unfortunate events? Perhaps. Who knows?
By Charlotte Gill and Emily Andrews Last updated at 1:27 AM on 31st August 2010
Pathologists are investigating whether MI6 spy Gareth Williams could have been the victim of the ‘perfect murder’.
There are no signs of a violent struggle on the body of the cipher and codes specialist and it is possible that the cause of his death will never be fully discovered.
Doctors examining the body of the 31-year-old for clues are focusing on any evidence which would suggest a professional hit and are scrutinising the area around his neck, sources said.
A seasoned assassin may be able to inflict a ‘discreet’ neck wound that could kill even though it would not look as obvious as a snapped neck.
Detectives are keenly awaiting the results of toxicology tests in the hope they will reveal some clues as to how Mr Williams died.
They could indicate whether the cycling fanatic was smothered or if he was drugged.
One theory is that he could have been injected with a deadly toxin which is not immediately identifiable by toxicologists.
In the 2006 poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvenenko, it took weeks for investigators to discover that the killer substance was polonium 210.
Using high-tech ‘cell site analysis’, police are also trawling through hundreds of numbers for mobile phones which were used in the close vicinity of Mr Williams’s flat at the time he is thought to have died to see if any names registered to the phones throw up clues.
The technique will also help detectives piece together his last movements by tracking his mobile phone.
Such analysis can pinpoint where a phone was used to ‘cells’, an area which can be as precise as 200 square yards.
Police are also sifting through Mr Williams’s SIM card records to trace every call that he made.
Officers on the case have yet to discover a motive for his murder.
There is no evidence so far to suggest that he was gay and Scotland Yard has denied speculation that gay paraphernalia was discovered in the flat where his body was found or that there is any link to a male escort.
His family and friends reacted furiously to ‘untruths’ that he led a colourful homosexual lifestyle, claiming the rumours could be government smears aimed at discrediting him.
They have told police that Mr Williams was a private, reserved man who was close to his family and loved his job.
He was found dead last Monday at his £400,000 flat in Pimlico, central London, just half a mile from the headquarters of MI6. His body was discovered in the bath stuffed into a sports holdall.
One line of inquiry is that Mr Williams could have died in an accident and that his body was later moved for some reason.
Although it is highly likely that he was murdered, the Metropolitan Police continue to describe his death as ‘suspicious and unexplained’.
Mr Williams is said to have played an important role in the development of a highly sensitive and secret electronic intelligence gathering system called Echelon and was helping with a new system to monitor internet phone calls such as Skype.
There have been no arrests in the case so far.
On Friday Scotland Yard issued an appeal to anyone who knew Mr Williams or may have seen him in the eight days before his body was found to come forward.
The true explanation for the murder of Gareth Williams, the MI6 codebreaker found dead in a bath, may have to be kept secret even if his killer is found and put on trial, lawyers have warned.
By John Bingham Published: 8:00AM BST 31 Aug 2010
The intense secrecy surrounding the investigation has prompted speculation that any future court case could be the first murder trial in British legal history to be held entirely behind closed doors.
Mr Williams, 31, an employee of GCHQ, the government’s “listening post” in Cheltenham, Glos, who was working on secondment to MI6 in London, was found dead at a flat in London last week.
No one has been arrested and police have been investigating Mr Williams’s background as well as his movements in the days before his death.
But it is thought that the unique level of sensitivity around the case – with the dead man, his workmates, his movements and even the flat where he was found all linked to the security services – could make any future court case virtually impossible to try in public.
Lawyers said that powers already available under the criminal procedure rules 2005 could be used by a judge to hold all or part of any future trial in secret for reasons of national security.
Under a separate procedure the prosecution could even apply for a “Public Interest Immunity certificate” banning sensitive evidence being disclosed even to the defence.
Similar powers were recently used by David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary, in an attempt to prevent three senior judges disclosing details about the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee.
In 2008 the case of Wang Yam, a financial adviser accused of murdering Allan Chappelow, an 86-year-old writer, made legal history when it was heard partly in secret.
The public and press were excluded while the defence case was heard, despite objections from Yam’s legal team, on “national security” grounds after a PII certificate was granted, following an application from Jacqui Smith, then the Home Secretary.
With details of the investigation into Mr Williams’s death already clouded in secrecy, lawyers said that a similar approach could be taken in any future court case, with the entire trial potentially held in private.
“The runes are that they are desperate, almost at any cost, to keep this under wraps," said Mark Stephens, a partner at Finers Stephens Innocent, who led a legal challenge in the Binyam Mohamed case.
“It may be that there is a genuine national security interest but that will be very limited.
“What on has to be guarding against is that somebody is claiming national security in the interests of covering up a degree of embarrassment or incompetence or some other interest which isn’t national security.” Dan Hyde, a consultant at Cubism Law, said: “On the face of it there certainly seem to be parallels that can be drawn from the case of Allan Chappelow.
“That was a case where there were public interest immunity issues and as a result it was one of those very rare cases in which the defence was presented in camera, that is in private.
“It seems this is a case that is surrounded by intrigue, you have someone who was working for MI6, his body was found in a bag and the police did not categorise it as a murder inquiry.”
By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 12:04 PM on 1st September 2010
An MI6 codebreaker whose partially decomposed body was found in a holdall in his bath had been padlocked into the bag, an inquest heard today.
Gareth Williams, 31, was found dead in his £400,000 flat in Pimlico half a mile from MI6 headquarters in Vauxhall.
However, the cause of his death has still not been established nine days after his body was found despite two post mortem examinations being carried out.
Police broke into his flat after colleagues said they had not seen him at work.
They found his corpse locked inside a large sportsbag in his bath, today's hearing was told.
Police have yet to formally declare a murder investigation, describing the death as 'suspicious and unexplained'.
The inquest into the death opened and was adjourned this morning during a brief hearing at Westminster Coroner's Court in central London.
Coroner Dr Paul Knapman said: 'I have a resume here which says to me that on Monday August 23 police were called to check on the welfare of Gareth Williams at his home address as he had not been seen at work.
'At about 6.30pm that evening I understand police entered the premises. They found a large holdall in the bath in the en suite bathroom of the main bedroom.
'The holdall was padlocked shut and inside was a lifeless body, and it appeared that the body was in an advanced state of decay.
'Following this various specialist departments of the Metropolitan Police were called and it was confirmed it was a male and, as we have heard, the description matched Gareth Williams. The Homicide and Serious Crime Command were much involved.
'A post-mortem was carried out at that time. We will call that the first post mortem, it was performed by Dr Ben Swift on Wednesday August 25.
'This failed to establish the cause of death and so further tests are being carried out.'
The coroner's account was confirmed by Detective Chief Inspector Jacqueline Sebire, who is leading the investigation into the death.
Dr Knapman asked her: 'As far as the Met is concerned is there anything that you wish to appeal for help with?'
DCI Sebire replied: 'This remains an unexplained death. We would appeal for any witnesses who saw Mr Williams in any circumstances after August 11 onwards until the 23 when he was discovered.'
The coroner asked if any of cycling and fitness fanatic Mr Williams' family were in court, and his officer Kim Bedwell said they were not present.
Ms Bedwell added: 'The cause of death has not been established, and further investigations are required.'
Dr Knapman said: 'As always the family will be anxious to have the body released following post mortem.
'We have talked about this and I am not inclined to allow this to occur at the present time.
'What I'm going to do is adjourn this case for one week until Wednesday September 8. By that time I'm happy we will have been in touch [with the police].
'There will be no formal proceedings in this court, and another date will be set for a review to consider the release of the body in this case - so it's not going to happen before next Wednesday.
'No doubt we can be in touch about how any tests and enquiries are going.'
By Sue Reid Last updated at 3:04 AM on 4th September 2010
Number 36 Alderney Street stands in a terrace of tall white houses with gleaming door knockers at the heart of a London enclave the posh estate agents call ‘alpha territory’.
The Queen’s cousin lives down the road of million-pound homes and for 30 years Mimmo d’Ischia, a nearby Italian eaterie, has been a favourite of the Duchess of Cornwall and film stars Joan Collins and Anthony Hopkins.
Even this week, after the strange murder at Number 36 of young British spy Gareth Williams, there is little to show much has changed.
Nothing, that is, apart from the frantic comings and goings by men in suits from the British secret service, MI6, and detectives from Scotland Yard.
The house is where the decomposing body of Mr Williams, padlocked into a sports holdall and thrown into the bath of his top-floor flat, was discovered by police at 6.30 on the evening of Monday, August 23.
The maths genius, loner and cycling fanatic had not turned up for work as a cipher and codes expert at the headquarters of MI6, half a mile from Alderney Street, on the banks of the Thames at Vauxhall.
Today, the mystery over his death is deepening. Was he killed because of his professional life or his private one? Was it an impromptu killing or one that was planned?
Did he die in the top-floor flat after letting in his own killer? Or was he murdered elsewhere by someone who stole his flat keys, before carrying him back and dumping him?
Is it possible that despite his reputation for clean living, an aspect of his private life has led the young spy into danger? Scotland Yard has not ruled out that a woman, or indeed a man, may have been at his flat in the hours before his death. Was she or he invited there to play a sex game that went wrong?
It is, of course, just another question that needs to be answered about the spy who was ‘on loan’ to MI6 from UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the country’s top-secret listening post in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
When Mr Williams’s gruesome death first became public knowledge, there were lurid and unproven rumours about his private affairs.
Speculation that ‘bondage equipment and gay paraphernalia’ had been found at the flat was later dismissed as ‘garbage’ by Scotland Yard.
His parents, Ian and Ellen, who live in a bungalow in Holyhead, Anglesey, were horrified at the unsavoury claims about their bachelor son’s supposedly wild homosexual lifestyle.
The family insist he lived an exemplary existence and was not gay. A friend of Mr Williams said that the spy was ‘asexual’, and showed little interest in having a relationship with a man or a woman.
A first post-mortem failed to find the cause of his death. A second examination of his body took place a few days ago to unravel if he was drugged, poisoned or smothered. The results of this are still being analysed.
Yet, in a worrying twist, the Mail understands that a turf war has broken out between the police and MI6, with some police officers complaining that the spooks are hindering their investigation into the spy’s death.
The Mail has learned from sources close to the investigation that Mr Williams informed MI6 that he believed he was being followed in the months before his death, though murder squad detectives say they have not been told this.
This suggests that every aspect of his life at work and at home should be put under the microscope. However, there is frustration at Scotland Yard that the ‘security concerns’ of MI6 are stopping this wide-sweep inquiry happening.
Police attempts to quiz two spies still working at GCHQ who knew Mr Williams well have been unsuccessful and some detectives suspect they have been ‘blocked’ by both MI6 and GCHQ. It is also understood the
murder squad was unable to get to one of his closest friends, a former GCHQ spy.
The man lived at the Alderney Street safe house in 2005 and visited there earlier this year. ‘He knows the day-to-day movements of Mr Williams and that is why he is important,’ added our source.
Scotland Yard murder detectives were this week also waiting to quiz another former GCHQ employee, who suddenly moved to America from Cheltenham six weeks ago and is said to be a ‘best friend’ of the dead codebreaker.
There is also friction between MI6 and GCHQ over the level of protection given to Mr Williams while on his London secondment. ‘Some people feel that he was sent to MI6 on secondment as a goodwill gesture and the intelligence service then “lost” GCHQ’s man,’ said a source.
It is a troubling backdrop to any major murder investigation, especially one into an expert codebreaker who was playing a significant role in protecting Britain.
Meanwhile, the Mail has learned of intriguing riddles about his death. The spy’s brain showed no signs of bruising, indicating he was not knocked unconscious before he died.
This has led to speculation that he may have been killed with a tiny injection of poison, possibly through his inner ear. If so, the needle mark would be almost invisible to the naked eye.
Another riddle is that Mr Williams’s personal computer is thought to be missing. He had designed the small machine to his own specifications and it ‘cannot be found’, the Mail has been told.
The laptop, which Scotland Yard refuses to officially confirm is missing, is crucial to the investigation. It could be a vital window on Mr Williams’s private life, his innermost thoughts, any transfers to and from his online bank account and would reveal if he had money problems. Gareth Williams schoolboy
Bright boy: Gareth Williams, centre, with classmates in 1987
Importantly, it will help trace his movements between the time he was last seen alive, on August 15, and the discovery of his body eight days later in his flat, where there was no sign of a break-in.
This will help pinpoint the time of his death, which is essential to finding a killer. Mr Williams’s bank and credit cards were used during these crucial eight days.
Troublingly, because it is not known when he died, it has been impossible to discover if they were used by him, or someone who had stolen them from him and was involved in his murder.
In a further conundrum, one of the first police officers who entered the flat after Mr Williams was discovered dead saw some white powder on several surfaces in the kitchen and living room. Although this could prove innocent, the powder is being tested in case it is cocaine or another drug.
In particular, some Scotland Yard detectives believe a public appeal for sightings of Mr Williams in the missing days before his death is essential to solve the murder mystery.
It would involve the release of more photographs and details about his lifestyle, but it is understood to have been ruled out by MI6, which is worried that terrorists might use the information to identify other British spies and their own secrets.
It all sounds disturbingly similar to the case of 28-year-old journalist Jonathan Moyle, another British intelligence agent, whose body was found hanging inside a hotel wardrobe in the Chilean capital Santiago in 1990 with a padded noose around his neck.
He had been investigating a company — ostensibly for his British defence magazine — which was modifying helicopters, possibly to carry nuclear weapons, to sell to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Williams Family Home
The family home: Mr Williams was raised in Holyhead by parents Ian and Ellen
But his friends and family believe security sources planted the suggestion that he had died while engaged in an auto-erotic act and tried to stand in the way of the family’s own inquiries.
It took his outraged father to expose the cover-up — and find out that his son had been drugged, suffocated, injected with a lethal substance and then strung up in the wardrobe, a view supported by the British coroner, who returned a verdict of unlawful killing at his inquest eight years later.
This week, the Mail traced Mr Moyle’s former fiancée Annette Kissenbeck to her home in Germany, where she said the latest death of a British ‘spy in a bag’ brings back painful memories.
‘The British intelligence services tried to smear Jonathan by suggesting he was sexually deviant,’ she said. ‘I felt so helpless and alone trying to stand up to what was untrue against such powerful and shadowy forces.’.
The rumour that Moyle indulged in auto-erotic experiences first surfaced at a British embassy cocktail party attended by journalists in Santiago, adding weight to the Chilean claim that he had died by his own hand.
Annette says both were smears to cover up the truth about the murder and the illicit trade with Iraq. ‘Jonathan had everything to live for. We were totally in love with each other and about to get married,’ said Annette this week at her home in Essen, where she works as one of Germany’s leading child doctors.
A year after his death, a Chilean judicial investigation concluded that Moyle had been murdered. But two years later, in 1993, the murder investigation was wrapped up without a single suspect being arrested.
‘Jonathan just wasn’t the type to be depressed. And never in all the time we were together was there any hint that he was into auto-erotic sex,’ said Annette this week.
Even today, she is convinced that the spread of false information was deliberately orchestrated by shadowy figures in British secret services to cover up their own knowledge of the helicopter sales and to protect the UK’s relationship with Chile.
So could the extraordinary story of Jonathan Moyle shed any light on the death of Gareth Williams?
Williams played a key role in the world’s most sensitive and secretive electronic intelligence-gathering system.
He was helping to oversee a network called Echelon. It links satellites and super computers in Britain and the nations of our Western allies, including the U.S.
Set up to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Echelon now eavesdrops on terrorists, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, threatening British security.
In particular, it listens for key words and phrases that might suggest that an attack on this country is being planned by overseas terrorist cells or home-grown subversives.
He was signed up by GCHQ at 21 while studying for a post-graduate maths certificate at Cambridge, a favourite recruiting ground for the secret services.
His career path was meteoric. Williams had two passports, which allowed him to travel incognito if necessary. Soon he was working for long spells in Afghanistan for our secret services.
Four times a year, he paid visits to America to liaise with the powerful National Security Agency in Fort Meade in Maryland.
When he died, he was living rent-free at Alderney Street, which was bought by MI6 as a ‘safe house’ ten years ago.
It is one of many owned by MI6 dotted around Pimlico, which have been swept for listening devices and kept under surveillance. They are used to put up visiting operatives or to conduct de-briefings in total secrecy.
Mr Williams was due to return to his former flat, rented from a landlady, in Cheltenham yesterday and start back at work at GCHQ later this month.
An associate of Mr Williams told the Mail this week: ‘Gareth really didn’t like London, although he was sent on secondment to MI6 more than once.
‘He suffered it because he had to for his career. He did make a few friends, mainly others sent from GCHQ in Cheltenham who also lived at this MI6 place in Alderney Street.
‘They are the people that know the most about how he spent his spare time over the past few months and MI6 must let the police murder squad speak to them.’
So will the truth about death of the young spy Gareth Williams ever come to light amid the smears and secrecy of the murky world of espionage?
Today, almost a fortnight after the tragic discovery at 36 Alderney Street, you wouldn’t be wise to put money on it. Even if your name was James Bond or George Smiley.
By Abul Taher and Ian Gallagher Last updated at 12:44 PM on 5th September 2010
The policeman who found the body of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams said it was submerged in ‘fluid’, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
An inquest heard last week that the 31-year-old spy was padlocked in a sports hold-all and left in the bath of his two-bedroom flat in Pimlico, Central London.
But the disclosure that he was also covered by liquid – not thought to be blood or water – has raised fears that a substance was used to accelerate decay and complicate toxicology tests.
The revelation came as new details emerged of the highly sensitive nature of Mr Williams’s work.
A source said he had the highest security clearance available to an intelligence officer and was part of a secretive ‘cell’ that created devices that can steal data from mobiles and laptops.
Now, nearly two weeks after cycling enthusiast Mr Williams was found in his flat, police are apparently no nearer to learning how or when he died.
This is despite a post-mortem, a second examination and toxicology tests, the results of which might not be available for weeks.
Sources close to the inquiry say the PC who found the body described it as being in ‘fluid’ when he radioed for assistance. Detectives at the scene are understood to have used the same word in their reports.
Immediately after making the discovery at the flat, the PC said: ‘This is a murder scene.’
Mr Williams, from Anglesey, North Wales, worked as a cipher and codes expert for the Government’s eavesdropping centre GCHQ in Cheltenham.
He was on a year-long secondment to MI6 which was due to end days after he was found dead.
Police and security sources have indicated that the explanation for his death is more likely to be found in his personal life rather than his work.
But speculation that he was the victim of a professional ‘hit’ was given credence last night after further details of his work were disclosed.
‘He was involved in some very sensitive projects, known as codeword protected,’ said a security expert.
‘This meant that only the people in his cell would know what he was working on, and nobody else in his organisation.
‘You are signed in to these projects and once you finish one you are signed out and you no longer have access to any data or news about what is happening in the project.’
Mr Williams – a child prodigy who had a degree in maths at 17 and then a PhD in the subject – was part of a team that created devices which ‘hook’ on to mobiles and laptops.
‘It is an aggressive form of Bluetooth or similar wireless technology,’ said the security expert.
He said such devices would be used by spies on the ground to steal data from the handsets of unsuspecting terrorists, organised criminals or officers from rival intelligence agencies.
‘Traditionally, there has been a separation of MI6 and GCHQ,’ said the expert. ‘MI6 has been full of the James Bond types working on the ground and GCHQ is filled with boffins with beards who are doing their scientific stuff.
‘But recently there has been a merger of these agencies’ work and Williams was at the forefront of that. This was why he was on secondment to MI6.’
He added that Mr Williams did similar work when he had stints at the National Security Agency in America.
The NSA is the equivalent of GCHQ and has been leading the West’s attempts to intercept communication between Al Qaeda cells.
Mr Williams worked for the Special Delivery Team, a unit set up in the NSA to create advanced bugging and intercepting devices.
‘If you just look at Williams’s CV, you know he has worked in some of the most important data-mining centres in the UK and US. His salary is no indication of his rank,’ said the expert.
It has also emerged that before his secondment to MI6, Mr Williams worked briefly for MI5, the domestic security agency. As part of that work, he was sent to Bulgaria on a secret mission.
A source close to the investigation said that on August 23 police were asked to check on Mr Williams’s flat as he had not shown up for work. Just before 6pm, a PC went to the Georgian townhouse in Alderney Street, which has been converted into four flats on four floors. Mr Williams had the top one.
The PC could not get into the house so the letting agent, W. A. Ellis, was called and a woman employee arrived with keys.
She hovered at Mr Williams’s door as the PC went inside. Within minutes he emerged quickly from the en suite bathroom and escorted the woman back downstairs. He then told her: ‘You stay here. This is now a murder scene.’
This weekend, staff at W. A. Ellis, of Knightsbridge, refused to confirm details. A spokeswoman said: ‘36 Alderney Street is owned by a private company, New Rodina.
‘There has been speculation that it is linked to MI6 or that it is a front for MI6. Our clients do not have any links to MI6 whatsoever and are distressed by the death of Mr Williams.’
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