The Metropolitan Police were under mounting pressure last night to bring in counter-terrorism officers to investigate the death of Gareth Williams, the British intelligence officer whose decomposing body was found stuffed in a sports bag in the bath of his flat in Pimlico, central London, last Monday.
Officers from the Met's Homicide and Serious Crime Command are understood to be furious at being stonewalled by Britain's secretive intelligence agencies. Detectives claim to have been "blocked" from interviewing potentially crucial witnesses, such as Mr Williams's "best friend", a female colleague at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who was posted to the US last month.
Counter-terrorism officers are security vetted, which would make it harder for intelligence agencies to withhold information on the grounds of security clearance, say detectives. "It's a big cover-up... The security services obviously don't want the police to pry too deeply," said a police source.
It emerged yesterday that police are investigating three sums of £2,000 paid into Mr Williams's account on consecutive days, and then withdrawn on consecutive days, with the last transaction on the eve of his killing. The money trail has heightened concerns that his death may present a national security risk. Mr Williams was on secondment to MI6 from GCHQ and was a regular visitor to the US National Security Agency HQ, Fort Meade.
His murder is unprecedented in that it took place just a short walk from MI6 and has seen a police investigation undertaken amid a frenzy of public speculation. Even the basic fact that he was murdered has yet to be officially confirmed, with a post mortem failing to discover the cause of death, despite reports he had been stabbed and found dumped in a sports bag in his bath. Police will only describe it as a "suspicious and unexplained death", and tests are under way to establish how the 30-year-old mathematician from Anglesey died. The results are expected this week. And after initially claiming he had been dead for two weeks before his body was found, police said on Friday that he had been in London from 11 August, with the last sighting of him on 15 August.
Mr Williams's family hit out yesterday at speculation in some newspapers that he was a cross-dressing homosexual who may have been killed by a gay lover. His uncle, William Hughes, said: "The family are concerned it may be an attempt to put false, unkind details about Gareth's private life into the public domain to diminish him and take attention away from the security services he worked so loyally for."
Sir Paul Lever Former chair of Joint Intelligence Committee
"If you want to dispel a suggestion that something is work-related, you inevitably imply it's to do with the person's non-work life... ergo their private life, so you end up perhaps implying things that may distress his family. I would be very surprised if his employers were deliberately setting out to smear him."
Annie Machon Former MI5 agent
"The trouble is that it's so murky at the moment. It could be misdirection ... towards some sort of sexual thing that went wrong. But there's also the fact that he was working on secure communications... the SIM cards and telephone laid out indicate the killer was aware of where he worked and was letting people know that."
Mark Birdsall Editor 'Eye Spy' magazine
"The fact that he was in a holdall is a classic indication that the body was going to be moved. There's something not quite right here, but I think the story is being created to give the ordinary man in the street the opinion, 'well, he was involved in some sort of lovers' tiff'... I think the whole background about Mr Williams is being manipulated, possibly to disguise what he was up to, which is natural. You put out a cover story to disguise the real operation."
David Wilson Professor of Criminology, University of Central England
"In the vast majority of murders you don't look for a Hollywood motive, you look for the most banal motive – the most banal motives are love, rage, and jealousy... I'm absolutely convinced with virtually every serious crime I've been involved with that there's a great deal of misinformation... when one talks to press officers of any government agency they have a line that they try to feed."
'John Smith' A former head of GCHQ
"This is first and foremost a personal tragedy. Clearly it's unwelcome that it is someone working for the intelligence services who might have been working for anyone else, and it isn't yet clear quite what the ramifications beyond that might be. People are going spare [at GCHQ/MI6] because there is a public relations crisis to handle. As a precautionary measure, they will be looking at how much this chap knew and how much he could have communicated to anyone."
Rupert Allason Espionage author & former Tory MP
"The only security concern regarding Gareth Williams's death would be if there was evidence that classified information had been compromised. Doubtless SIS and GCHQ security staff are pursuing those lines and a search of his flat and laptop would be top of the list. In the absence of any indication that there had been a breach of security there would not appear to be any other issues, apart perhaps from one: which police officer tipped off the media to the link with Vauxhall Cross?"
Prof Anthony Glees Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, University of Birmingham
"I don't think he would have been murdered because of what he knew but because of his private life. If his private life brought him into contact with someone who went on to kill him, he was a risk-taker... If you do risky things, you may not be blackmailable but you may still be a security risk because your risk-taking may bring you into contact with people who might try to exploit this trait to get secrets out of you."
James Bamford Author of three bestsellers on the US national security agency (NSA)
"Rather than a 'spy' in the James Bond sense of the word, he was far more likely a routine cryptanalyst. It is also very unlikely, especially given his sexual interests, that there is any foreign intelligence involvement in his death. Those things happen in the movies but rarely in real life. Nevertheless, I'm sure there is a very intense investigation, both at the NSA and GCHQ, into what accesses Williams had, his travels and his telephone, email and internet communications."
Stephen Dorril Intelligence expert University of Huddersfield
"GCHQ has been sending people into the field in Afghanistan to monitor communications; they have small units of personnel who are doing field work instead of just being behind the desk, so they have obviously been working closely with MI6."
Nicholas Anderson Former MI6 agent and author
"My first gut thought was that he couldn't have been a high-security risk as it took nearly two weeks for the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] employee assistance head to follow up on why he hadn't been at work. Granted, he may have had a job where he worked alone so he didn't have to report in, but most lone operators, like I used to be, report to somebody on a timely basis regardless."
Roger Graef Broadcaster and criminologist
"The one thing we won't know is the truth. This is in the category of iconic crimes, when you don't ever expect to be told the real thing, and there are just too many reasons to keep it secret... None of it adds up: if he was such a hot shot at code breaking then presumably he'd have been protected... We are very unlikely to ever know what happened."
Prof Martin Innes Director of the universities' police science institute at cardiff university
"If they've stuck him in a bag ready to be moved, if that was what happened, then that suggests someone a bit more intent on what it is they're trying to do... If the individual concerned is out there and dismembering the body, there's something else going on. But until we know that it's pretty difficult to say anything useful."
Michael Smith Author of 'Six: A history of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service'
"No conversation I have had with anyone genuine within the intelligence community has given any information on this guy that would be any use in building up a picture of him other than off-the-record confirmation that he was a GCHQ employee who has been on attachment to MI6."Reuse content