A retired murder squad detective who attended the scene of ‘body in the bag spy’ Gareth Williams said he believed the MI6 man could have been poisoned.
Former Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton was the most senior officer on the scene when he arrived at Mr Williams’ flat in Pimlico on August 23, 2010.
An inquest at Westminster Coroner Court found Mr Williams was most likely ‘unlawfully killed’, but police officially believe the spy died after padlocking himself inside the bag.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox ruled that the spy would not have been able to lock himself in the bag and was therefore likely to have died at somebody else’s hands.
She concluded: ‘The cause of his death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated. I am therefore satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully.’
However, speaking about the case, former DCI Sutton told The Sun he thought the flat was unusually warm when he arrived, claiming the heating was turned up to its maximum setting, possibly to assist with decomposition.
He said: ‘If he had been poisoned, then the chemical compounds might have vanished by the time toxicology results were conducted.’
The inquest had heard that there had been significant delays between the report of Mr Williams’ disappearance and the eventual discovery of his body in his flat, leading to fears of a possible cover up.
According to Mr Sutton if some unusual form of poison had been used it would have been difficult to detect.
He added: ‘ I remain convinced the flat was tidied up after his death. that may have been to protect national security or it might have been something more sinister. If that’s the case, then it could have been the perfect murder.’
Scotland Yard chiefs said they thought Gareth Williams died alone – but were forced to admit that gaps in the evidence made it impossible to be sure.
His furious parents rejected that verdict and said they stood by a coroner’s ruling that the brilliant codebreaker was probably killed unlawfully. They also accused MI6 of allowing the circumstances of his death to be covered up.
The body of the 31-year-old lay undiscovered in a red holdall in the bath of his Pimlico flat for a week before security service bosses raised the alarm. Significantly, ten to 15 DNA traces found in the apartment are still unidentified, despite the efforts of leading forensic experts.
Police have also been unable to explain why his DNA was not on the lock on the bag and his prints were not found on the rim of the bath.
In a statement, Mr Williams’ parents Ian and Ellen said: ‘We are naturally disappointed it is still not possible to state with certainty how Gareth died, and the fact that the circumstances of his death are still unknown adds to our grief. We consider that on the basis of the facts at present known, the coroner’s verdict accurately reflects the circumstances of Gareth’s death.
‘We still, however, remain very disappointed over the failure of his employers at MI6 to take even the most basic inquiries concerning Gareth’s welfare when he failed to attend for work on August 16, 2010.’
‘If proper steps had been taken in the same manner as any reasonable employer would have undertaken, further information relating to the cause of his death might have become apparent and not have been lost due to the length of time before Gareth’s body was found.’
Mr Williams’ naked body was found on August 23, 2010.
Dr Wilcox said it ‘remained a legitimate line of inquiry’ that the secret services may have been involved – and Mr Williams was probably killed unlawfully by a third party.
But Martin Hewitt, a deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, insisted his investigation showed Mr Williams probably locked himself inside the bag without help.
He admitted however that ‘evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding’ meant no theory – police or coroner’s – could be proved ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.
Scotland Yard accepted that its investigation had been flawed from the outset.
Detectives were unable to access the spy’s personnel and vetting files and formally interview GCHQ and MI6 staff until after the inquest because all liaison with MI6 was carried out through the counter-terrorism squad.
But Mr Hewitt said it was ‘beyond credibility’ that the secret services had covered up the death.
‘I do not believe that I have had the wool pulled over my eyes,’ he said. ‘I believe that what we are dealing with is a tragic unexplained death.
‘I am absolutely satisfied that every question we have had to ask has been asked, and every person we felt it necessary to talk to we have spoken to.
‘No evidence has been identified to establish the full circumstances of Gareth’s death beyond all reasonable doubt.
‘With the conclusion of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police’s position is that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died. I’m convinced that Gareth’s death was in no way related to his work.’
Mr Hewitt added: ‘We didn’t get it right at the beginning and the way that we did it was cumbersome and didn’t allow us to do the investigation in the way that we wanted to.
‘We recognised that fact and we changed it fundamentally for the subsequent two years of the investigation. I don’t think that process stopped us getting any evidence that we needed to get.’
‘Three years of extensive investigative activity have developed a very clear profile of Gareth. He was, without doubt, a private person who was very close to his family and had few other close friends.
‘That said, the universal view of colleagues was of a conscientious and decent man with a few well-known hobbies such as his cycling and climbing. There is no evidence of any animosity towards Gareth, and it has not been possible to identify anyone with a motive for causing him harm.’
The investigation included interviews with 27 officials from both MI6 and GCHQ, from where Mr Williams, who was originally from Anglesey, had been seconded.
Police said that Dr Wilcox has accepted their findings, but decided that there is insufficient new evidence to justify re-opening the inquest.