Dead spy was found padlocked inside bag

The British codebreaker found dead in the bath of his London flat last month had been padlocked inside a sports holdall, an inquest heard yesterday.

Gareth Williams, 31, is thought to have been dead for more than a week when his remains were discovered on 23 August at his home in Pimlico, half a mile from the headquarters of the secret intelligence service MI6, where he worked.

Colleagues reported him missing when he did not turn up for work for at least 10 days. He was last seen eight days before his body was found, Westminster Coroner's Court was told.

A post-mortem examination failed to establish a cause of death but a pathologist said Mr Williams was not stabbed or shot and bore no obvious signs of strangulation.

Detectives are still trying to determine whether he was asphyxiated or poisoned, or whether drugs or alcohol were in his system. The coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, said the body was in an advanced state of decay when discovered by police, and was in a sports bag that had been "padlocked shut".

Sources within the murder team have said suggestions of national security or terrorism links to the case are "pretty low down the list of probabilities". They say officers are examining Mr Williams's private affairs and not his professional life. Originally from Anglesey in north Wales, he was days from completing a one-year secondment to MI6 from his job at GCHQ, the Government "listening post" at Cheltenham which monitors communications for intelligence purposes.

Dr Knapman said he was to be kept informed of how the inquiry was progressing and would consider when to release the body. The inquest was adjourned for a week.