MI6 inquiry will ask why it took two weeks to find murdered officer

MI6 is investigating why it took two weeks to discover that a GCHQ officer on secondment to the agency had been murdered.

Gareth Williams's body was found stuffed into a sports bag in the bath at his home in central London by Metropolitan Police officers. They forced their way into the flat on Monday afternoon after colleagues reported he had not been seen for some time.

While police and MI6 officers do not believe the 31-year-old's murder had anything to do with his work as a codes and ciphers expert, they are concerned that any agent could go missing for such a long time without checks being made on their whereabouts.

Investigators suspect Mr Williams may have known his killer as there was no sign of forced entry at his top-floor flat in a smart street in Pimlico where his neighbours included wealthy bankers and politicians, including former home secretaries Michael Howard and Lord Brittan.

Scotland Yard's Homicide and Serious Crime Command was investigating whether the victim's private life or relationships offered any clues that could identify his murderer. As a fingertip search was conducted on the property, police have been examining his telephone and financial records, as well as CCTV footage from the area. A post-mortem examination proved inconclusive and detectives are now awaiting the result of toxicology tests.

Before gaining his post at the national "listening post" Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Mr Williams would have undergone strict vetting including a nine-month process of interviews, background checks and a medical. As well as examining his family history and personal circumstances, it would assess whether he had the character for the secret world of intelligence work.

However, there were questions raised last night as to whether he may have held something back from his employers. Family and friends painted a picture of an athletic young man, a keen cyclist and runner, who was deeply private and rarely socialised.

His mother's cousin, William Hughes, said: "I knew he worked at GCHQ and he had been working in London but I didn't know what he did. It wasn't said that we shouldn't talk about it, I simply never asked and he never told me. He was a bright boy from a young age and his parents were very proud of him."

Mr Hughes added that his parents, Ian and Ellen, as well as his younger sister, Ceri, were deeply shocked and devastated by the news. His mother and father, from Wales, were picked up by police upon their return from a holiday in America on Tuesday and taken to identify his body in London.

A childhood friend, Dylan Parry, 34, described Mr Williams as academically gifted but socially naive, an isolated boy fascinated by mathematics and computers. Mr Parry, who went to school with Mr Williams at Uwchradd Bodedern secondary in Anglesey, said that he travelled to Bangor University every week aged 16 to study for a mathematics degree part-time. He later graduated from the university with a first class degree.

"It was clear he was going to go far, but we all assumed he would end up in academia. Finding out he became a spy was a shock," he added.

Keith Thompson, of Holyhead Cycling Club, said he had known Mr Williams since he joined the club at the age of 17. He said: "It's true that he was very quiet. He wasn't a great conversationalist. We were club mates but Gareth wasn't the sort to go to the pub after a race so he didn't have any close friends in the group. I never spoke to him about his job or his private life. Nobody did with Gareth."

Charles Cumming, author of A Spy by Nature, who was approached himself for recruitment by the SIS after university, said the secretive nature of the work and the long hours could prove a real burden on relationships and many chose to mix within the services.

But he added: "I think the pressure that spies are put under has been exaggerated by programmes like Spooks. People who go into the work are highly intelligent, highly motivated and well aware of the sacrifices they are making. To a man or woman they don't find the restrictions all that difficult."

While MI6 remained an "alpha male" culture, he added, GCHQ was a very different environment.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam