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.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn