• Kayla Wren

Spy in a Bag

On the 23rd August 2010 Gareth Williams had not been to work or in contact with colleagues for serval days causing them to alert authorities. This prompted a police visit to Williams’ flat where they discovered his decomposing naked remains inside a red North Face bag that was placed in a bath and padlocked from the outside.

Williams was a Welsh mathematician who worked for the British intelligence and security organisation GCHQ. Originally hailing from Anglesey, Wales, he studied at Bangor University and graduated with a first class degree before going on to the University of Manchester and gaining a PhD. It was after this he went on to be employed by GCHQ in Cheltenham in 2001, but was working on secondment for the foreign intelligence Service MI6 as a codebreaker at the time of his death. Not too much is known about the man himself as he was reported to be intensely private and spent a lot of his spare time cycling alone.

The discovery of his death was picked up by news agencies across the world and baffled anyone who came across it. Not only was his body found in a locked bag but no prints or DNA belonging to Williams were found on the bath, bag zip or the padlock and he was not wearing gloves. A key to the padlock was found inside the bag, underneath his body. The heating in the flat was turned on causing decomposition to speed up, this was unusual as it was the middle of summer and the average temperature at that time was around 21 degrees.

An inquest into his death was carried out with the coroner Dr Wilcox saying she was “satisfied so that I’m sure that a third party moved the bag containing Gareth into the bath” and said it was “highly unlikely” Mr Williams got inside the bag alone. She added that “if the agent had been carrying out some kind of peculiar experiment, he wouldn’t care if he left foot or fingerprints.”

Williams family pointed the finger at MI6 accusing them of a cover up, citing the amount of time it took his work colleagues to report his lack of contact as suspicious. He had been scheduled to attended and chair meetings on the lead up to his body being found but did not show, which was out of character for Williams as he never had any sick days and was always on time. This wasted time, meaning that any potential forensic evidence of poisoning would be near impossible to detect.

Scotland yard carried out a three-year investigation during which they interviewed members of staff from MI6, and in 2013 they said that Williams was likely to have died alone in the flat as a result of a tragic accident after locking himself in the bag.

Since Williams death, unconfirmed reports have stated he was working on a sensitive project that would disrupt a number of criminal groups in Russia. The reports state he was working on technology that would enable MI6 to track money coming out of Russia to Europe. It is claimed that these criminal groups have strong ties to former KGB agents who could have gotten to the MI6 agent with ease.

In 2015 former KGB agent Boris Karpichkov, who defected from Russia and now resides in Britain, claimed he had knowledge of Russians Foreign Intelligence Service involvement in the death. Karpichkov claimed that Williams was killed using an untraceable poison administered in his ear. He also suggested that the reason for the assassination was due to a failed attempt by Russian agents to blackmail Williams, leaving themselves exposed.

It seems the more we look into this case the more questions we have and unfortunately the authorities don’t seem any closer to finding an answer, with the case now being over 7 years old and no new leads emerging. Maybe Williams locked himself in the bag and got stuck or maybe the answer is in a dusty file somewhere in London or Russia and will only see the light of day when all involved are no longer with us.

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