i Editor's Letter: The pain of never knowing what happened to your son

We will never learn the definitive circumstances of Gareth Williams' death

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The Independent Online


When your son, who works for MI6, is found dead in his bath, padlocked inside a holdall, and at his inquest two experts try and fail 400 times to lock themselves in an identical bag, and the coroner rules he was unlawfully killed, but then the Metropolitan Police concludes after all that he probably died in a tragic, self-inflicted accident – the sort of thing that could happen to any of us working for the intelligence services – you are justified in maintaining a certain...detachment from those police findings.

So it is for the family of  Gareth Williams. The British codebreaker’s parents and sister rejected yesterday’s new conclusion from the Met. His family acknowledged that detectives have finally been able to interview members of GCHQ and of “Six”, and added: “The fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief.”

About eight years ago I was a night reporter, manning the newsdesk through the early hours. Part of the job was fielding calls from eccentrics with wild imaginations.

The world contains conspiracy enough. Neil Armstrong did land on the moon, Jews were not behind the bombing of the World Trade Centre, and it is extremely unlikely that Gareth Williams was killed by his own side. But why such an extravagant murder, whoever the culprit? Like other messy killings involving intelligence officers – and they are rare, despite our fervour for le Carré and Bond – we will never know. Unsatisfying for us. Terrible for those who loved him.


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