Spy poisoning 'cannot be ruled out', says forensic expert

 

Scientists cannot rule out if spy Gareth Williams was poisoned before being dumped in a bag because it took MI6 a week to realise he was missing, an inquest heard today.

Traces of a drug matching the party drug GHB appeared in his bloodstream - but forensic expert Denise Stanworth said it "probably" appeared naturally after he died.

She added that "we cannot rule out volatile agents" as she was asked how reliable toxicology can be nine days after death.

Ms Stanworth also said it was impossible to say if there was any sign of the legal high poppers, acknowledging that the drug "could have caused loss of consciousness or death".

MI6 had earlier apologised for failing to raise the alarm about his disappearance, conceding the error may have hampered police inquiries.

Relatives walked out on the inquest in tears as a senior spy said the secret service was "profoundly sorry" for delays in noticing he was missing.

The family's lawyer accused MI6 of showing "total disregard for Gareth's whereabouts and safety" before he was found dead in his London home on August 23, 2010.

Mr Williams, who was largely teetotal, had 78mg per 100ml of alcohol in his blood when toxicology tests were carried out on his decomposed body.

Ms Stanworth said the traces of GHB was "likely to be post-mortem production".

She added: "If someone had taken GHB close to the time of death you would expect the urine level to be much higher.

"I can't completely rule out ingestion of GHB but it would seem unlikely.

"In my opinion it's far more likely to be post-mortem production."

When asked how reliable tests could be, Ms Stanworth added: "In terms of many of the drugs, reliable, but in terms of the more volatile substances, not that reliable."

MI6 earlier denied "dark arts" were behind his death, despite saying a malign or hostile party could have "theoretically put some pressure on to Gareth".

Speaking from behind a screen, Mr Williams' boss offered a full apology for MI6's slow response to Mr Williams's disappearance in August 2010.

The woman - named only as SIS F - said: "We are profoundly sorry about what happened.

"It shouldn't have happened and we recognise that the delay in finding Gareth's body has made it even harder for the family to come to terms with his dreadful death and we are truly sorry for that.

"I also appreciate the delay had some impact on the police investigation."

The spy's non-attendance at work should have been raised as an issue two to four hours after it had been noted, she said.

SIS F blamed Mr Williams' line manager for the "breakdown in communication" but said disciplinary action was not taken.

Measures have been put in place since his death that would "prevent a repeat of what happened," she insisted.

SIS F was asked by Coroner Fiona Wilcox about evidence Mr Williams might have carried out unauthorised searches.

She said: "It seems to me that there was less to this than meets the eye."

When officers finally entered Mr Williams's flat in Pimlico, central London, they discovered among his possessions some £20,000 of high-end women's clothing and shoes.

Examination of his home computer showed he had also visited websites about claustrophilia - the love of enclosure - and bondage and sadomasochism, the inquest has heard.

Mr O'Toole told the witness of speculation "that revelations about Gareth's private life might have rendered him unsuitable for SIS work".

SIS F replied that it was a "sensitive area" of questioning as it related to vetting issues but indicated his lifestyle and sexual preferences would not in themselves have posed a problem.

"I can't respond directly to the questions over Gareth because that goes to what knowledge we did or didn't have of him," she said.

"There's no set template as to what (an employee's) lifestyle should be. Individuals have lifestyles and sexual choices which are perfectly legitimate.

"Our concern in the vetting process is to identify whether anything in the individual's background, lifestyle, creates a risk for him."

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.

PA

Suggested Topics
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes