Contact Law blog

Coroner finds dead spy was probably murdered

The inquest into the death of MI6 cryptologist Gareth Williams has ended in a narrative verdict. The coroner found that there was insufficient evidence to find that he was murdered, but said an open verdict would not have served justice.

Mr Williams was discovered dead in his Bristol flat in 2010. He had been locked into a North Face bag and placed in the bath.

There was, however, little evidence that anyone else had been involved, except for the serious difficulty he would have had sealing himself in. An expert in confined spaces, Peter Faulding, attempted to mimic Mr Williams but could not do so, despite 300 attempts.

The murky world of espionage has increased the mystery in this case. Mr Williams was a cryptologist with GCHQ, the government’s Cheltenham listening post, on secondment to the Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6.

The clean and tidy flat, and lack of any evidence of what occurred have led some  to conclude that some sort of shadowy clean up job has taken place.

The coroner, Fiona Wilcox, heard evidence that Mr Williams was probably alive when he got into the bag, but that it was conceivable that he had managed to get in himself. More mysteriously, however, was that she said that she was satisfied that the bag had been moved into the bath with Mr Williams already in it.

This leads to the conclusion that someone else must have been in the flat.

There was not, however, enough evidence to meet the criminal standard of proof.  To find that it was a case of murder, Ms Wilcox would have to have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.

Instead, at the invitation of Mr Williams’ relatives’ barrister, Anthony O’Toole, she gave the verdict that it had been murder, on the balance of probabilities.

The police investigation continues though, and this is probably not the last we will hear of this case.

Related news stories:

The Guardian

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