A spy found dead inside a locked holdall, was probably killed unlawfully and it is unlikely his death “will ever be satisfactorily explained” a coroner said today.
Dr Fiona Wilcox said she was sure a third party padlocked MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams in the red holdall, and that "on the balance of evidence" he was probably alive when he was put in the bag.
She suggested that Mr Williams was suffocated by carbon dioxide, possibly as an onset of a short-acting poison adding "the cause of his death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”.
She dismissed speculation that Mr Williams died as a result of some kind of "auto-erotic activity", also denying there was any evidence to suggest claustrophilia - the love of enclosed spaces - was of any interest to him.
"I find on the balance of probabilities that if he had got into the bag and locked himself in, he would have taken a knife in with him… He was a risk assessor," she said.
Dr Wilcox said it remained a "legitimate line of inquiry" that the secret services were involved in Mr Williams' death, but added there was no actual evidence to support that he died at the hands of spies.
The coroner was highly critical of the 21-month investigation into Mr Williams’ death, saying it would appear that many agencies fell short" during the inquiries.
Dr Wilcox said "most of the fundamental questions in relation to how Gareth died remain unanswered", and questioned why details of Mr Williams' private life were leaked to the press.
MI6 apologised for waiting a week before raising the alarm about Mr Williams’ disappearance, something Dr Wilcox said hampered the investigation into his death.
Breakdowns in communication by her own office in ordering a second post-mortem examination, a DNA mix-up by forensics, and the late submission of evidence by MI6 were singled out for blame.
Referring to the suggestion Mr Williams has climbed into the bag himself, Dr Wilcox said she found the it "highly unlikely", adding "If Gareth had been carrying out some kind of peculiar experiment; he wouldn't care if he left any foot or fingerprints."
On claims Mr Williams was interested in bondage, the coroner added: "I would have expected much more internet activity to have been recovered."
The coroner ruled out Mr Williams's interest in bondage and drag queens as having any bearing, before adding: "I wonder if this was an attempt by some third party to manipulate the evidence."
Dr Wilcox said today there was no evidence to suggest the spy was a transvestite "or interested in any such thing".
The make-up found in his flat was more likely to reflect his interest in fashion, she argued and the wigs that were found there were "far more consistent with dress-up such as attendance at a manga conference".
There was some suggestion that his interest in female footwear could have been of a sexual nature, but this was not unusual, Dr Wilcox observed. "Gareth was naked in a bag when he was found, not cross-dressed, not in high-heeled shoes," she added.
Speaking outside court after the end of the inquest, Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, in charge of the investigation, said: "I've always been satisfied a third party may have been involved in his death and the coroner has confirmed that in her finding today.
"The inquest has raised several new lines of inquiry and the investigation will now refocus and actively pursue all the evidence heard and all the new lines of inquiry."
Scotland Yard said it will review new lines of inquiry, with fresh attention on Mr Williams’ colleagues.
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