I love mysteries. Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Precious Ramotswe are fictional detectives with whom I have spent many a happy hour; ‘Sherlock’, ‘CSI’, ‘The Mentalist’ and similar shows form the bulk of my television viewing. Therefore it’s no surprise that I’ve been following the real-life mystery of the death of Gareth Williams with close attention.
Here’s what happened. On the 23rd August 2010 a locked red sports bag was found in the bath at Gareth Williams’ flat in London. Inside was his naked, decomposing body, and under the body–inside the bag–was the key to the lock. It transpired that Mr Williams was employed by MI6, but not in a James Bondish role; he was a mathematical boffin who worked in the cipher department, and, apparently, under secondment to GCHQ, the NSA at Fort Meade, the CIA and the FBI. There were no signs of a break-in or struggle on the premises; there was no forensic evidence to link anyone to the crime; and the coroner could not determine the cause of death. Because it was determined that Mr Williams could not possibly have locked the bag whilst he was inside it, they labelled the death ‘suspicious and unexplained’.
International spies and murder form a potent agar upon which the conspiracy theory bacterium can flourish, and flourish it did. Mr Williams had been murdered by MI6 because he had uncovered some nefarious shenanigans there; or he had been ‘iced’ by a foreign power who believed he was getting too close to cracking their codes. But the truth may be more prosaic.
It was found that Mr Williams had frequented gay and transvestite clubs, and had visited bondage websites. Womens’ clothes to the value of £15,000 were found in his flat, all in his size. Perhaps it is this aspect of his life that led to his death, not the spying. Perhaps he found a friend at one of these clubs and took him home to indulge their mutual peccadilloes, he climbed into the bag and there expired, perhaps of asphyxiation. The friend panicked when he realized what had happened, so he locked the bag and left.
There are a couple of facts which seem to militate against that explanation. The door, together with its lock, were missing when the forensic team arrived to begin their investigation. I don’t think it reasonable that a panicked sex partner would remove a door from its hinges and tuck it under his arm before making his escape.
Mr Williams had been missing from work for a whole week before the MI6 HR department alerted the police. I find it hard to believe that MI6 would be so lax when an employee in such a sensitive post went missing. the conspiracy theorists would have it that they waited so long to allow decomposition to set in and thus obscure the cause of death.
The inquest continues. There may be twists in the tale yet to be revealed, but I doubt that the whole truth will ever emerge.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.