Chapter 121: Remarkably Stupid

"There were two waves,"
said Mycroft.
Sherlock Holmes handed me the clippings one at a time, asking me to read them aloud. When I had finished, he spread the papers out on the table and turned to his brother.

"What do you see, Mycroft?" he asked. "What can you deduce?"

"There were two waves," began Mycroft. "The first was clearly driven by the official statement issued by the police. The second was apparently driven by unofficial statements, given to selected reporters by unnamed inside sources.

"The inside sources appear to have an agenda. They seem to be trying to distract the public, and possibly the police as well. But they've been clumsy about it. Some of their so-called 'logic' is quite the opposite. And they can't even keep their story straight."

"How so?" inquired the detective.

"The logic is inverted," answered his brother. "The second wave of reports seem to imply that the toxicology results confirmed the lurid hypothesis about a 'sex game gone wrong,' when that is certainly not true. Had it been discovered that the victim's body contained poison, for example, this would have disproved the 'sex game' story, or at least made it less likely. For who would poison him if he were cooperating? So the 'sex game' theory probably would not have survived a positive finding from the toxicologists.

"The lack of poison, or anything else indicating a cause of death, does not disprove the 'sex game' story. But that's all it does. It certainly doesn't prove that Gareth Williams died because of a 'sex game gone wrong'. Yet all the anonymous inside sources speak as though it did.

"And I say they cannot keep their story straight because of the conflicting explanations of what they think probably happened. Did Gareth take the key into the bag with him as a lifeline, but then die because he couldn't reach the lock? Or did his 'sex game' partner come back to flat, find him dead, and then put the key into the bag?

"Both versions were reported. In my view, neither seems at all likely."

"What do you think is happening?" asked the detective.

"Let's consider the possibilities," replied his brother. "Are we wrong about the sources? Could someone impersonate homicide detectives and fool journalists into thinking they were getting inside information from the investigation, when in fact they were getting something entirely different? How difficult is it for a journalist to confirm the identity of his source? Isn't that the first thing they do? Maybe once in a while somebody could fool one journalist. But to deceive them all, across the board, and on such a high-profile issue? I wouldn't think that's possible. So we can be very confident that the sources quoted in the second wave are actual insiders.

"So what's happening? Certain individuals within Scotland Yard are extremely concerned about this case, and determined that it be 'solved' as an accident -- a 'sex game' that went horribly wrong, rather than what it appears to be, namely a murder. These individuals got in touch with their favourite reporters -- there's one at every paper, is there not? -- shortly after the release of the official statement, and managed to get quite a bit of exposure for their version of the story, even though it doesn't really make very much sense. What does that tell us? Powerful forces are at work here, and they do not want this crime to be solved. That's what I think is happening."

"What do you think happened to Gareth Williams?" asked Sherlock.

"I can't tell from this mess," replied Mycroft. "I only know what I am reading here. You are far more familiar with the case than I am. But let's look as some possibilities. This is something the second wave of reporting fails to do; it only takes one possibility into account.

"I can't say I agree with
your conclusion," said Sherlock
"In other words, all the speculation masquerading as fact starts with the assumption that Gareth Williams died in his flat, and in the bag, into which he zipped himself voluntarily. From there, the only really interesting question is: Why did he do that? Not that it would matter to the police, because if his death were not the result of a crime, then there would be nothing for the police to do about it. They wouldn't have to care 'why' it happened.

"But it is also possible, is it not, that he could have died elsewhere, either before or after his body entered the bag, and that the bag was moved to the bath afterwards. The reports that say 'sex game' emphasize the fact that no sign of struggle was found in the flat, and conclude that therefore Gareth must have got into the bag of his own free will. But what if he died elsewhere? That would also explain why the police found no sign of a struggle, would it not?

"How difficult would it be to put the body into the bag, and to put the bag in the flat? If somebody killed Gareth Williams, could he not also obtain the key to Gareth's flat? Then he would only have to bring the body to the flat, use the key to get in without leaving any sign of forced entry, drop the body in the bath, and lock the door on the way out. That would leave no sign of a struggle, no indication of forced entry, and -- if elementary precautions were taken -- no forensic clues whatsoever.

"How tricky would that be? How difficult? How likely? Can the police truly rule out such a scenario? They say they have eliminated 'almost' every other possibility, leaving the 'sex game' theory as the 'most likely.' But what is 'almost' supposed to mean? Are they saying that some other possibilities haven't been eliminated? And why not? Because they would require an actual investigation rather than a smear campaign? Who can say?"

"The Mediterranean couple!" replied Sherlock. "They could tell us! They could explain how the padlock was snapped shut on the bag -- in August! -- because luckily they were in the same building in June or July!"

"We'd better find them," said Mycroft, and we all laughed.

"But seriously," continued Sherlock's older brother, "The 'sex game' story is remarkably stupid, and the anonymous homicide detectives would have to be remarkably stupid to believe it. Maybe that's the case; maybe not. If not, then they are deliberately muddying the waters. Why would anyone do that? To smear the victim, or to prevent the crime from being solved, or both. I'm not a conspiracy theorist at heart, but what else could this mean? Does it not demonstrate complicity? As a propaganda tactic, it appears to have backfired. 

"In any case," continued Mycroft, "they are either remarkably stupid or deliberately trying to disrupt both the investigation and the public's perception of it. That is my conclusion."

"I can't say I agree with your conclusion," replied Sherlock, "and that is a shame, because you were doing very well."

"Where have I gone wrong?" asked Mycroft.

"It's not either/or," said Sherlock. "It's both. They are clearly trying to disrupt, and they have gone about it in a stupid way -- pushing a stupid theory that, even to a casual observer, makes them appear guilty."

"It's easy to see why they didn't want their names to appear in print," said Mycroft.

"I didn't say they were insane," said his brother.