‘Spy in a bag’ likely to have been killed with poison, inquest told

Asphyxiation is said to be the other most likely explanation for the death of Mr Williams

The MI6 officer found dead in a bag may have been poisoned, an inquest heard yesterday.

Poisoning and asphyxiation were the "foremost contenders" for the death, consultant pathologist Benjamin Swift told the inquest. Overcome by carbon dioxide, Gareth Williams would have lost consciousness within two to three minutes if the bag had been sealed.

Yesterday, scientists said they had found traces of "at least" two unknown people who had been in Williams's apartment prior to the death, despite evidence he rarely entertained guests.

The inquest heard that post-mortem examinations were hampered by decomposition of the body caused by heat because the radiators had been left on.

According to the findings, Williams had been dead for 10 days at the time of the post-mortem examination, consistent with the last time he was seen alive on CCTV on 15 August 2010.

His naked body was found in a padlocked holdall in his bath at his top-floor flat in Pimlico, central London, on 23 August 2010. The Home Office pathologist Richard Shepherd said it was "more likely than not" that Williams was alive when he entered the bag, but it was "an extremely difficult call".

Because of the "floppiness" of a newly dead body, it was not easy to place a body as neatly as Williams was found, he said. Hypercapnia – a high level of carbon dioxide in the blood – would be a "reasoned explanation" of what might have happened to Mr Williams, the pathologist noted.

Examinations on August 25, 2010 – two days after Mr Williams was found in a holdall in his bathroom – gave cause of death as "unascertained". But under questioning, Dr Swift said poisoning or asphyxiation such as suffocation were "probably rather than possibly" to blame. Another pathologist, Richard Shepherd, said it was "more likely (Mr Williams) was alive when he entered the bag than that he was dead".

There was, however, "no suggestion" the spy's body had been manhandled into the holdall and were he to have been forced into it either alive or straight after he died, marks on his body would have been expected, Mr Shepherd said. The hearing continues today.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'