Body stuffed into holdall

Murdered spy lay undiscovered for weeks

A British spy found murdered in his flat might have lain undiscovered for up to two weeks.

The man, named locally as Gareth Williams, was found stuffed in a large sports holdall in the bath of his central London home.

Mr Williams, aged in his 30s, was employed as a communications officer at the GCHQ "listening post" in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

He was on secondment to the riverside headquarters of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, about half a mile from the flat.

Officers discovered Mr Williams after breaking into the flat on Monday afternoon when the alarm was raised by colleagues who had not seen him for "some time".

They found his decomposing body, as well as his mobile phone and several Sim cards, laid out nearby at the top-floor flat in Alderney Street, Pimlico.



A post-mortem examination was being carried out by a Home Office pathologist today to establish what led to his death.

Sources close to the inquiry said it is not clear how he died and played down speculation that the murder is linked to his secretive line of work.



One source said: "The suggestion there is terrorism or national security links to this case is pretty low down the list of probabilities."



Neighbours described Mr Williams as an "extremely friendly" and athletic man who enjoyed cycling and had a strong Welsh accent.



They said he had lived in London for about a year and was planning to return to Cheltenham, where he rented a flat.



A postwoman who called at the block today said he often collected parcels at the communal front door.



Secretary Laura Houghton, 30, said: "His windows were always shut and curtains were often closed. I could never tell if anyone was in.



"It was strange that we never saw him come and go. I just assumed he worked away.



"The first I heard of anything happening was when the police knocked on my door and asked me if I had heard anything happening. I told them the walls were so thick that I couldn't hear a thing.



"All they told me was that there had been a serious incident. I'm amazed it's taken this long to all come out."



Eileen Booth, 73, who lives opposite, said detectives told her the murder might have taken place two weeks ago.



She said: "A few years ago, I would definitely have known who it was that had been killed. But nobody knows each other these days.



"Detectives came round and asked for our eye colour and height. They said this probably happened two weeks ago."



The scene of the murder is a two-storey flat on a prestigious street among a row of expensive five-storey Victorian townhouses.



Residents are mainly bankers and politicians, including former home secretaries Michael Howard and Lord Brittan.



The ownership of the building is hidden behind the private company New Rodina, registered in the British Virgin Islands.



The property was bought for £675,250 in 2000, remortgaged twice and the word rodina means "motherland" in Russian and Bulgarian.



Public documents revealed several current and former residents of the freehold block have links to London and Cheltenham.



One Frenchman who lived at the flat between 2005 and 2006 is an expert in global satellite positioning, radio communications and high sensitivity antennae.



Officials at Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command and domestic intelligence agency MI5 have been kept up to date about the police inquiry.



The murder inquiry is being led by officers from Scotland Yard's Homicide and Serious Crime Command.



A spokesman said the body was yet to be formally identified and a post-mortem examination would take place later today.



He said investigators were following up "several lines of inquiry" but declined to confirm the occupation of the dead man.



It is the first murder on British soil of someone linked to the secret services since the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.



The former KGB agent died in hospital after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210.



Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov was killed by an assassin who used an umbrella to fire a deadly ricin pellet into his leg as he walked across Waterloo Bridge in September 1978.



A Foreign Office spokesman said: "There is an ongoing police investigation.



"It is long-standing Government policy not to confirm or deny that any individual works for the intelligence agencies."



A GCHQ spokesman said: "There is an ongoing police investigation and it would not be appropriate for us to comment at all as this is ongoing.



"We have nothing to add. Our policy is not to comment on individual members of staff or whether they are staff."









Mr Williams, 31, joined the University of Cambridge in 2000 to undertake a postgraduate certificate in advanced studies in mathematics but dropped out.

A spokeswoman said he was a member of St Catharine's College but left without completing the qualification the next year.



The course is described as "demanding" and normally only accepts students with first-class degrees in physics, mathematics or engineering.



Forensic officers continued to comb the scene this afternoon.



Three officers in pale blue overalls were seen returning to the townhouse shortly after 3pm.

William Hughes, a relative of Mr Williams, said he had no idea of the type of work the spy was engaged in at GCHQ.



He told the BBC: "He worked for GCHQ for many years. I knew he was working in London doing something.



"He would never talk about his work and it felt rude to ask really."



Mr Hughes said he had not yet spoken to the dead man's parents.



He added: "Unfortunately they were away out of the country, they have arrived back in the country today, I haven't spoken to them yet.



"It was terrible when I had the phone call yesterday morning, I just didn't know what to believe really, I didn't know what to believe."



He said Williams was "very, very talented", adding: "We don't know what he was doing, we never spoke about it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...