Could DNA solve the mystery of dead MI6 spy Gareth Williams found naked in a padlocked holdall?

AFTER more than a decade, the death of “spy in a bag” Gareth Williams could finally be resolved using new technology to examine unidentified DNA samples.

The astonishing case of the 31-year-old MI6 agent drew global attention and baffled criminal experts after his naked body was found inside a holdall — with the zips padlocked and the key underneath him — in a bath in London in August 2010.

In 2013 the Metropolitan Police closed the case after concluding that the GCHQ codebreaker’s death was “probably an accident” — despite  his family believing he was murdered and the inquest ruling that he may have been unlawfully killed.

Later in 2013 Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said that up to 15 DNA samples had been found at the flat where Gareth died.

In a new review, the force can  now use updated forensic and DNA techniques. There are also tens  of thousands more people on the national police DNA database.

No sign of forced entry or struggle

Anthony Glees, an intelligence and security expert at the University of Buckingham, told The Sun on Sunday: “If a DNA profile of another person is identified in his flat,  this will be a very significant breakthrough.”

Gareth grew up in Anglesey, North Wales, and was a maths genius who took his GCSE in the subject while still at primary school. He passed  A-levels by the time he was 13 and had a part-time place at university.

While at Manchester University, he was scouted by the security services who had spotted his remarkable online gaming skills. But as soon as Gareth signed the Official Secrets Act, everything changed.

As his brother-in-law Chris said in a eulogy at Gareth’s funeral: “The world was ours for the taking. Yet here I am three months later to the day, trying  to describe your rich life with my poor words.”

Keen cyclist Gareth, who lived alone, was last seen on August 15, 2010. Police visited the Security Service  flat in London’s Pimlico a week later, after colleagues said he had been out of contact for five days, and found it was locked from the outside. His decomposing naked remains were found in a red  North Face bag, padlocked from the outside and left in the bath of the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom.

There was no sign of forced entry, there did not appear to have been a struggle and there were no marks on his body, leading experts to believe he got into the holdall himself — either of his own free will or at the suggestion of someone else.

There were none of the intelligence officer’s own fingerprints, palm prints, footprints or traces of his DNA on the rim of the bath, the bag zip or the bag padlock, leading some to speculate that someone later  cleaned up the scene.

The key to the padlock was inside the bag, underneath Gareth’s body.

Detectives found no traces of poison and the spy’s £500 iPhone had no data because it had been wiped  on August 15. The heating in the flat was turned up, even though it was August, which his family’s barrister, Anthony O’Toole, said meant the  body decomposed faster and ruined potential evidence.

At an inquest in May 2012, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said the cause of death was “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”.

She ruled that Gareth had probably been killed unlawfully and she criticised police for mistakes in the investigation, and MI6 for failing to report him missing for five days.

His sister, physiotherapist  Ceri Subbe, told the inquest Gareth  was disillusioned with the Secret Intelligence  Service, and confided that there was friction at MI6. She  said he would never  have let a potential killer into his upmarket flat, saying: “I cannot emphasise enough his conscientiousness.”

She added that he “disliked the flash car competition and post-work drinking culture” of MI6, and had already applied to return to GCHQ but his bosses were slow in approving his move.

Ceri and her husband Dr Chris Subbe, a consultant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, had seen Gareth three months before his death when he took them for tea at the Ritz  to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

Gareth would not tell them anything about his work, but when he failed to respond to calls weeks later, Ceri contacted police. There were claims that Gareth paid for male escorts and used cocaine. It was suggested he liked bondage  and fetish websites and looked at images of drag queens online.

In his flat, police found  make-up, wigs, 26 pairs of high-end women’s shoes and £20,000  of women’s designer clothing,  stored in six boxes in a spare bedroom.

‘As the years pass, doubts are piling up’ 

Since Gareth’s death, speculation has swung between claims of an assassination to a sex game gone wrong. Campaigning ex-MP Norman Baker once described the rumours about the spy’s death as insulting, saying: “MI6 knows what happened on that terrible August night but prefers to hide it — drowning the truth about a loyal agent in a sea of sexual fantasies and smears. The claims made about his death are so ludicrous as to be insulting.

“The authorities would like us to believe that it was nothing to do with his employment at GCHQ, and nothing to do with his work for MI6. But this account is wearing thin, and as the years pass the doubts are piling up.”

The family’s barrister Anthony O’Toole insisted that “undoubtedly” Gareth was murdered — as the inquest heard from an expert who said “even Houdini would struggle” to lock himself inside a holdall in the way Gareth was found.

Dr Wilcox dismissed speculation that he died due to some kind of “auto-erotic activity”, and denied he had any interest in claustrophilia, the love of enclosed spaces. Five years after his death, it also emerged that Gareth had illegally hacked into secret data on former US President Bill Clinton. And it was revealed that he had made and received unexplained payments in the days before  his death.

 Three lots of £2,000 were paid into his bank account,  then withdrawn shortly afterwards. Two piles of bank notes, each totalling £500, were found in his flat.

But for Gareth’s parents Ian and Ellen, this remains a horror story from which they will never recover.

It was not even possible for them to have the closure of identifying their son’s body because it was so badly decomposed.

Instead, police asked them for family photos to help piece together what they could.

The clues

DNA on lock and holdall

DNA from two unknown people was found on the holdall but never identified.  If a third party helped ­Gareth get into the bag,  this could be from one of them. 

Tests on the padlock revealed weak stains believed to be the spy’s blood – as well as someone else’s.

DNA on a green towel

SOME experts said this ruled out a hit by the Russian state because it showed Gareth may have known his killer – and could add to the theory that he died as part of a sex game.

 Forensic expert Ros Hammond told Westminster Coroner’s Court in 2012 that there was DNA evidence of at least two people, other than Gareth, on the samples tested.

Bloodstain on the bath

THIS could be evidence of a ­struggle with a third party before Gareth’s body was put into  the bag. One expert said this was one of a number of stains which were said to be “aged in appearance”.

Strand of hair

ADVANCES in DNA and forensic techniques now mean a strand of hair found on Gareth’s  hand – from which experts could not extract  a DNA profile – may now shed new light  on the case.

 Experts previously needed the root of a hair to determine a DNA ­profile.

However,  leading forensic scientist Professor Angela Gallop said recently that this was no longer the case, and investigators only need as little as a 2mm length of hair.

The door of the flat

THE flat door was removed by police before the inquest but forensic experts believe it should be tested for the DNA of any visitors to Gareth’s flat in the days before his death.

Forensic science expert Angela Gallop says new technology such as DNA-17, which examines 17 aspects   of DNA, should be used on the door. She said: “It is the sort of outlier that should not be dismissed.”

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