A Welsh lad achieves A grade Maths and Computer Science A-Levels aged 13. He gets a first class degree in Maths aged 17 and at 18 he begins his PHD in Manchester. When he is 22 he starts working for GCHQ, the government’s listening station at Cheltenham. He’s quiet. A country boy. He doesn’t go out a lot. He likes his own space.

Then one day in 2010, Gareth doesn’t turn up to work. Nor the next day. A week goes by. Eventually a policeman is sent round to the Pimlico flat where Gareth has been living for a year. The officer lets himself in with a spare key to find the curtains are drawn. The flat is extremely neat and tidy. Everything is in order except a padlocked North Face holdall in the bath of the ensuite bedroom, containing the naked body of Gareth Williams.

His DNA is not found on the padlock, zipper or velcro handles, which have been fastened. In fact there is hardly any DNA in the flat except for traces belonging to an unidentified person on the zip and padlock. Neither are there any finger, foot or palm prints on the bath. There is no evidence of a struggle apart from a little bruising on Gareth’s elbows as he lies curled in the foetal position. The shower curtain has been drawn and the lights are off. A doorknob has been removed and one of his four phones has been reset to factory settings. The flat has been locked from the outside. The key for the padlock is in the bag with Gareth.

The toxicology reports come back inconclusive since the body has been left decomposing for a week, with the central heating set on full despite it being midsummer. It is too late to prove whether Gareth died whilst he was in the bag or before. No cause of death is found.

Despite this, Dr Fiona Wilcox says in the coroner’s final report that Gareth’s death was “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated” and that the lack of hand and footprints in the bathroom is “significant”.

In addition, Dr Wilcox voices concerns about why it took so long for Williams’ disappearance to be reported. She says that the evidence given by Gareth’s line manager at GCHQ “begins to stretch bounds of credibility” and that the delay could have caused key evidence at the scene to be lost. Robyn Williams, the Williams’ family solicitor, says that “[Gareth’s] employers [failed] to make even the most basic inquiries about his whereabouts and welfare”.

Dr Wilcox also flags up the lack of co-operation on the part of the Met’s SO15 Counter Terrorism Branch. The officer from the SO15 who was meant to be liaising with the Secret Intelligence Agency was aware of the presence of nine memory sticks in Gareth’s office, along with a North Face bag, similar to the one in which Mr Williams was found. Yet the officer failed to make the lead murder detectives on the case aware of this, saying that he had been assured by the intelligence agencies that the items weren’t relevant. The coroner queries whether the officer is really impartial in the case.

Meanwhile, the tabloid press runs what members of the Williams family describe as a smear campaign against Gareth. Quoting unnamed sources, it is incorrectly reported that the flat contains cocaine, gay pornography and S&M paraphernalia, and that Gareth cross-dressed and paid male escorts for sex. The detectives refute this.

It does emerge in the course of the investigation that Gareth had visited bondage websites and looked up “bondage training”on Youtube. His internet history suggests he had an interest in fashion and there was £20,000 of women’s clothing in the flat. During the inquest and subsequent police investigation it is postulated that Gareth died in some sort of sexual act. Much delving is done into his private life. A video is found by the police on his phone of him “wagging his rear end” at the camera. His landlady admits that she once found Gareth tied to his bed when he called for help after getting stuck.

But the fact remains that very little is known of Gareth’s sex life. He seems to have been a private person and not a great deal is discovered to substantiate why he would padlock himself in a holdall in his bath with the lights off. Certainly his family and friends believe it is unlikely he would have done such a thing.

It is known, however, that in the hours after Gareth’s body is discovered, the head of the MI6 and Britain’s most senior policeman meet together to discuss the investigation. According to The Daily Telegraph, Sir John Sawers from the MI6, “sought assurances [that the investigation] would not stray beyond [its] remit during the investigation into the discovery of Mr Williams’s body”. Very little has been revealed about what Gareth did for GCHQ and the SIS. It was probably to do with hacking. That’s about all the intelligence agencies have allowed into the public domain.

Using Occums Razor, it follows that the most likely theory is the one that requires the least assumptions. Despite the recent revelations about the extent of GCHQ’s snooping, there is so little evidence supporting the hypothesis that Mr Williams killed himself accidentally. Indeed, the professionals tasked with analysing his phones seem to have been woefully inept at doing so, suggesting they did not expect to find anything. Only evidence pointing to the fact that Mr Gareth Williams was murdered by a professional has surfaced so far.

But if it was the British intelligence agencies, why would they have done so in a way that has caused this amount of scandal? If it was by another party then the intelligence agencies seem to have acted to prevent any information emerging about the case.

That’s what the result of the three-year police investigation points to. In a briefing marking its conclusion earlier this month, the Met concluded that Gareth’s death was just an accident, and that no-one was present when he died – in direct contradiction with the coroner’s verdict, the view of the Williams family, their lawyer and the various experts who assisted the investigation and attended the scene. Clearly, the establishment are avoiding the most obvious explanation for Mr Williams’ death. What is not clear is why.

Was MI6 spy Gareth Williams killed by ‘secret service dark arts’?
Gareth Williams’s death was ‘criminally mediated’, says coroner

Andy Owen Cook.