MI6 accused of withholding clues in 'spy in a bag' case

Computer memory sticks and a bag were not handed to police investigating death of Gareth Williams

MI6 and Scotland Yard's CounterTerrorism Command were accused yesterday of failing to disclose vital evidence into the death of intelligence officer Gareth Williams.

Recriminations and claims of a cover-up continued on the penultimate day of an inquest, with both the coroner and counsel for the bereaved family criticising the way the investigation appears to have been hampered.

Nine computer memory sticks belonging to Mr Williams and a black bag found at his office had been overlooked for more than 21 months and the officer in charge of the murder inquiry, Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, was only told of their existence this week.

The Coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, accused Detective Superintendent Michael Broster, of SO15 (Counter Terrorism Command) who had obtained evidence from MI6 regarding the death, of colluding with the intelligence agency. She claimed he was offering "total non-sequitur" reasons for failing to pass on the items, before continuing: "I suggest this means you have not been completely impartial in this case."

Det Supt Broster said: "I am not saying that a member of SIS [MI6] is not involved. I don't know." But he stressed he was "completely impartial" and that MI6 and GCHQ, from where Mr Williams had been seconded, had been helpful.

As Dr Wilcox ordered police to bring the missed evidence to Westminster Coroner's Court, Anthony O'Toole QC, appearing for Mr Williams's family, said the police had not taken the death of the computer expert, who was found naked in a padlocked bag, seriously enough.

Cross-examining Detective Constable Colin Hall, also from SO15, Mr O'Toole said: "If this had not involved SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and it was the Krays you were investigating, you would have gone into this in more detail." DC Hall was asked why he had not taken away a black bag found at Mr Williams' office at MI6 headquarters in south London, for forensic examination.

DC Hall replied: "I was told there was nothing there about Gareth's death." He stressed he was following instructions from superior officers.

Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell will review evidence from the inquest to ascertain whether new lines of inquiry will be pursued.

The inquest continues.

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