A codebreaker for the MI6 foreign intelligence agency, whose naked body was found padlocked in a holdall inside a bathtub three years ago, most likely killed himself by accident, police said Wednesday.
A fresh review of the mysterious “spy in the bag” case has concluded that 31-year-old intelligence analyst Gareth Williams was not murdered but had climbed into the bag without assistance.
The police findings contradict those of a coroner who concluded at an inquest last year that another person was probably involved in Williams’s death.
“My personal view at the end of the investigation is that what happened was an accident,” Martin Hewitt, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, told reporters.
“I am convinced that Gareth’s death was in no way related to his work.”
He admitted that several “odd” factors remained — notably the fact that no DNA was found on the padlock, and there were no handprints on the bathtub.
The decomposed body of the talented mathematician was found locked in a North Face holdall inside the bath of his apartment in London’s upmarket Pimlico district in August 2010.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox concluded at the inquest last May that Williams probably died of suffocation or poisoning.
She had heard from experts who had repeatedly failed to padlock themselves into bags identical to his holdall. One expert said escapologist Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to pull off the feat.
But Hewitt said police were satisfied that it was “theoretically possible” for a man to lock himself in the bag, and stressed that this had been accepted by the coroner.
“The point is that we’re satisfied that theoretically you could achieve that,” he told reporters.
“Gareth’s physical stature, Gareth’s strength — my belief is that it would have been possible for him to do that.”
Hewitt acknowledged that several factors including the lack of DNA or handprints had been used to support the theory that Williams was murdered.
“Most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remain unanswered,” he said.
“It is unlikely that his death will ever be satisfactorily explained.”
Hewitt refused to speculate whether Williams’ death was linked to his alleged interest in escapology and bondage.
He also insisted that the police investigation had enjoyed the full cooperation of the intelligence services, including access to Williams’ personnel and vetting files.
Williams was a codebreaker for the British eavesdropping agency GCHQ but was working at MI6 on secondment at the time of his death.
His death sparked a fierce debate about whether he had been murdered because of his work.
No one has been arrested over the death.
Hewitt said it was “beyond credibility” that the secret services had been involved in some form of cover-up.
“I do not believe that I have had the wool pulled over my eyes. I believe that what we are dealing with is a tragic unexplained death.”
[AFP/AFP/File – A police officer stands guard outside of the entrance to a London flat where the body of Gareth Williams was discovered, on August 26, 2010]