'Dark arts' query over spy's death

 

Secret agents specialising in the "dark arts" might have tried to cover up the mysterious death of an MI6 spy found in a holdall, a coroner heard today.

Relatives believe a third party was either present when Gareth Williams died or broke into his home afterwards to destroy evidence, lawyer Anthony O'Toole said.

The family is demanding answers after Scotland Yard revealed a key line of its inquiries had been an 18-month DNA mix-up.

Mr O'Toole told a pre-inquest review that Westminster Coroner's Court must establish why there was no evidence of another person in his London apartment when he died.

He said: "The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services - or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in the dark arts."

Mr O'Toole said Mr Williams "could have been actively deployed" as an agent up to five months before his death.

"In our submission, to properly explore the circumstances of the death, we need to establish the deceased's work," the lawyer said.

Mr O'Toole said relatives wanted to know why the alarm was not raised when Mr Williams initially failed to turn up to work.

By the time officers arrived at his flat, his body was so decomposed that evidence had been lost.

Fresh questions over the cause of his death were raised after it emerged that two areas of investigation were red herrings.

Forensic teams mistakenly flagged up a spot of DNA on Mr Williams's hand in 2010 - before realising just two weeks ago that it matched a scientist on the crime scene, the force told the review.

It also emerged that a Mediterranean couple police wanted to speak to were irrelevant to Mr Williams's death.

Coroner Fiona Wilcox expressed frustration over delays as "an ongoing problem" as she called for inquiries into the DNA "error".

Dr Wilcox said that whether Mr Williams was alive inside the bag and locked it himself "was at the very heart of this inquiry".

She also told the hearing she was keen to see a practical demonstration of how Mr Williams might have got into the bag and locked it himself.

Regarding the error by forensic teams, Ms Wilcox said: "I do not want it to overwhelm - it's a question of proportionality."

Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire told the court the DNA evidence was previously regarded as a "key line of inquiry".

She said: "It came to our attention that there had been a very significant DNA finding on Gareth's hand... That was sent to LGC Laboratory."

But it emerged just weeks before today's hearing "that actually the DNA evidence was contamination by a scientist at the scene", the officer said.

The error arose because "two numbers were put in the wrong way round" on a computer.

The force launched a review of the handling of other forensic evidence after the mistake was discovered.

The naked and decomposing body of Mr Williams, 31, was found in the bath of his home in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.

The discovery sparked a painstaking investigation, worldwide media frenzy and several outlandish conspiracy theories.

Mr Williams, of Anglesey, North Wales, was found in a large North Face holdall, sealed by a padlock, at his top-floor flat in Alderney Street.

A battery of post-mortem tests failed to determine how he died and police originally found it would have been impossible for him to have locked himself inside.

The mathematics prodigy worked as a cipher and codes expert for GCHQ, the Government listening station, but had been on secondment with MI6 since March 2010.

Experts agree that locking the bag from the inside "would have been very difficult, if not impossible", Metropolitan Police lawyer Vincent Williams said.

Mr Williams said the evidence suggested there is no need for a demonstration as to how the spy might have got in the bag.

The inquest, due to start next month, will hear that Mr Williams may have died after breathing too much carbon dioxide.

The remainder of the hearing was held behind doors closed to the public.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most