Coroner opens inquest into death of UK spy

Apr 23, 2012, 4:44 PM

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) – A British codebreaker had complained of friction at the country’s overseas spy agency before his naked and decomposing body was found inside a padlocked sports bag, his family told an inquest Monday.

Gareth Williams worked for Britain’s secret eavesdropping service GCHQ and was attached to the country’s MI6 overseas spy agency when his body was found in the bathtub of his central London home in August 2010. While detectives have suggested Williams, 31, may have died in a sex game gone wrong, his family has countered that British spy agencies may have been involved in the death.

An inquest being held into his death will investigate whether Williams could possibly have climbed inside the sports bag and locked it from the inside. There were no signs of struggle, and no drugs or poison in Williams’ body, the discovery of which launched a flurry of conspiracy theories.

The coroner leading the inquest agreed Monday to allow four intelligence agents to give evidence anonymously.

Coroner Fiona Wilcox acknowledged “there will be a real risk of harm” to national security and international relations if the identities of some of those giving evidence at the inquest are exposed.

William’s sister was the first to give evidence to the inquest, saying that her brother was unhappy with the “rat race” in London and had requested to be sent back to GCHQ’s headquarters in Gloucestershire, western England.

“The job was not quite what he expected,” Ceri Subbe said. “He encountered more red tape than he was comfortable with.”

Subbe told the inquest Monday that she did not believe her brother would let a potential killer into his flat, saying he was extremely careful.

Policeman John Gallagher told the inquest how he made the grim discovery of William’s body when he went to the man’s apartment to check on the missing spy.

Gallagher said a real estate agent let him into Williams’ flat when his knocks went unanswered. In the apartment, he recalled seeing a mobile phone with two Sim cards on a table and a women’s wig hanging on a chair.

Gallagher said when he entered the bathroom, he noticed a bulging North Face sports bag in the tub with the zippers padlocked together.

“At this point I am realizing it is something serious and my concern was to not damage anything in a crime scene,” he recalled, describing how he lifted the bag up and saw red fluid seeping out.

Gallagher said he then called for backup.

Experts later consulted by police said Williams could not have locked himself inside the bag.

Police have made no arrests in the case and are still not certain exactly how Williams died. But Scotland Yard raised the possibility that criminal charges could still be filed, telling the inquest Monday that it objected to the release of some material to the media because that could prejudice future criminal proceedings.

In Britain, inquests must be held when someone dies unexpectedly, violently or from unknown causes. However, the coroner’s task is to determine the cause of death, rather than to identify any suspect.


Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Coroner opens inquest into death of UK spy