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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower