MI6 spy in a bag case: Gareth Williams 'probably' locked himself in holdall by accident

Scotland Yard puts itself at odds with findings of coroner and family of MI6 codebreaker

Scotland Yard today put itself at odds with the findings of a coroner and the family of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams by announcing that he had most probably died by accident when his body was found in a locked bag.

An inquest last year found that Mr Williams, whose remains were discovered inside a sports holdall in a bath with no evidence of his DNA on the padlock used to close it, had "on the balance of probabilities" been killed unlawfully in August 2010 while he was working for the Secret Intelligence Service while on secondment from GCHQ.

The finding by Westminster coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox prompted a reinvestigation by the Metropolitan Police lasting a further 12 months which officers said had been allowed unprecedented access to serving MI6 staff following strong criticism at the inquest of the spying agency's actions following the death of Mr Williams.

But a senior Yard officer announced that despite a re-examination of all evidence and the investigation of new leads no definitive answers had been obtained as to the cause of  Mr Williams' death and the "most probable scenario" was that he had died alone in his flat in Pimlico, central London, as the result of accidentally locking himself inside the bag.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt told a press briefing at New Scotland Yard that while there was no evidence to conclusively explain the death of the 31-year-old codes expert, police were now able to draw a different "logical inference" from that of Dr Wilcox, who had found that the death was "likely to have been criminally meditated".

The holdall in which Gareth Williams was found curled in a foetal position The holdall in which Gareth Williams was found curled in a foetal position Mr Hewitt said: "With the conclusion of the investigation, the MPS position is that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died. But the reality is that… there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding."

The Yard said Dr Wilcox had accepted the findings of the investigation but had decided there was insufficient evidence for her to apply to re-open her inquest and consider fresh findings.

But the family of Mr Williams, a maths prodigy from Anglesey, said they believed that the conclusion of Dr Wilcox that foul play was the most likely cause of the GCHQ specialist's death - and that the involvement of the security services could not be ruled out although there was no evidence to that effect - remained valid. Among the lines of inquiry reportedly pursued by police was the theory that Mr Williams may have been murdered in connection with work that had brought him into contact with active MI6 agents.

In a statement, the family said: "We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known the coroner's verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth's death."

Gareth Williams's parents leave Westminster Coroner's Court Gareth Williams's parents leave Westminster Coroner's Court last year The family were also sharply critical of MI6 after the spying agency failed to investigate his failure to attend work on 16 August 2010. His decomposing remains were not found until a week later inside his MI6-owned flat, where the central heating had been left on despite the summer weather.

The statement said: "We believe that if proper steps had been taken in the same manner as any reasonable employer would have taken, further information relating to the cause of his death might have become apparent and not have been lost due to the length of time before Gareth's body was found."

The Yard said that it had studied videos which emerged following last year's inquest showing how a person could lock themselves inside a sports bag and accepted it is "now proven" that such an event could have happened with the same North Face holdall and padlock in which Mr Williams was found.

Mr Hewitt said he believed that evidence pointed out by Dr Wilcox as significant, such as the absence of any palm prints from Mr Williams on the bath, could be explained by him not having touched it as he got into the bag but he accepted other evidence, such as the absence of the victim's DNA on the padlock, remained unexplained. He added that there was no evidence that Mr  Williams' interest in bondage or escapology was linked to his death.

Mr Hewitt said his officers had been allowed to interview 27 MI6 and GCHQ employees after it emerged during the inquest that direct access had not been given to investigators following Mr Williams' death and potential evidence, including memory sticks and a bag found under his desk, had not been made available.

The officer admitted that the Yard "did not get it right" in its arrangements with MI6 but said it had now received full co-operation. He rejected suggestions that the intelligence agency had been able to "pull the wool over my eyes".

The Yard said it was no longer pursuing any active lines of enquiry but the case would remain review. The re-investigation found 10 to 15 traces of DNA which current technology is unable to develop into full profiles. All other DNA and fingerprints in the flat had been eliminated.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?