Chapter 122: More Detail

The Guardian ran this graphic with
the article "Who was Gareth Williams?"
Three weeks elapsed before we obtained any additional information about Gareth Williams. Once again our source was a London paper, but this time it was The Guardian, which ran a long and apparently well-researched piece by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy called "Who was Gareth Williams?" As usual, Holmes found it before I did. I knew this because I found the paper folded open to the page, with a circle around the headline.

The piece began by talking about the family, and said that Ceri had raised the alarm after not being able to reach Gareth by phone.
Now she contacted the police; the security services were already concerned, as Gareth had failed to show for work. On 23 August, at 6.30pm, a uniformed officer was sent to Williams's top-floor flat in a Georgian townhouse in Alderney Street, Pimlico. It was only a few hundred yards from the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall, and was used by the Secret Intelligence Service as a safe house. A lettings agent who held a spare key showed the policeman in. He was asked to wait downstairs as the officer went up and entered the curtained rooms. The place was "spotless": two iPhones, some sim cards and an Apple notebook sat on a table. Then he entered the bathroom, and found a holdall in the bathtub. Red liquid seeped from it. Inside was a body, in such a contorted position that he thought its "legs and arms had been cut off". Radioing for assistance, the policeman noted that there were no signs a struggle. This was not a robbery or home invasion. It was a "neat job", a euphemism for a professional kill.

Given his clearances and access to classified material, Williams's death triggered alarm across Whitehall. MI5 agents swept through the Alderney Street flat, followed by detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, assisted by SO15, Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command. Alderney Street was cordoned off as Home Office scientists began processing the scene. Once the spooks had departed, it was down to the murder squad to study the evidence. So far, they had a body in an "advanced state of decay". There was no weapon and no sign of forced entry or a struggle.

Concentrating on the holdall and its contents, detectives established that Williams had not been stabbed, shot or hacked to pieces. On August 25, Home Office pathologist Dr Ben Swift carried out a post-mortem that, together with the first batch of toxicological tests, came back "inconclusive". "If we don't know what to look for, and are not guided by what we see or smell on the body, we cannot find it," says a forensic scientist who worked on the Litvinenko case. "We do 50 obvious poisons. Fifty rare. We can do the isotopes. Litvinenko alerted us to that. But in the absence of a specific direction, the possibilities are as limitless as a killer's imagination… and we cannot test for that."
There was more detail here than we had seen in one place, ever. I wondered how much of it could be true. It was all well and good for "the security services" to claim that they "were already concerned," but why hadn't they done anything on their own? How long would Gareth have remained missing if he hadn't enjoyed such a close relationship with his sister?

And yet the description of the scene demanded attention.

What did it all mean? Scott-Clark and Levy continued:
Detectives set out their theories. One reading of the crime scene pointed to a forensically aware hit man. Slender 5ft 7in Gareth had been stuffed inside the near-airtight red North Face sports bag and placed in the bath, containing any spillage and minimising odours, too. The heating was on, increasing the rate of decomposition, which significantly lessened the chances of retrieving evidence from the corpse.

Or perhaps the body in the bag was evidence of a stage-managed "personal event", masterminded by a controlling individual. Was this a suicide (with Williams acting on his own)? Or a sadistic or masochistic sexual act gone wrong (with Williams engaging in some kind of auto-erotic asphyxiation?). "If you can imagine it, then we are investigating it," a detective said in late August. But what would shape police inquiries was the dawning realisation that Gareth Williams had not been alone.

Returning to the holdall, studying the zips and lock, police became certain that he could not have locked himself inside. And there was further proof that someone else must have been in the flat with him: his front door had been locked from the outside.
The piece went on to discuss Gareth's life, from childhood to the "character assassination" that followed his death.
"Murdered MI6 worker Gareth Williams was a secret transvestite who may have been killed by a gay lover, detectives said yesterday… Cops found women's clothing that would fit him at his Pimlico flat in central London." The Sun ran with this version of events, while other newspapers, quoting similar unnamed sources, reported that cocaine had been found, a cache of gay pornography, a small armoury of S&M paraphernalia. Williams was also said to have frequently paid for male escorts.

Senior detectives angrily rebutted the stories. Uncle William in Anglesey thought they read like a concerted smear, and wondered why anyone would want to destroy Gareth's reputation after he was dead.

Like most well-constructed character assassinations, however, this one was founded on a grain of fact that made it that much harder to quash. Detectives had been quietly investigating whether Gareth Williams was gay. They had canvassed witnesses in the Vauxhall Cross village of gay clubs and bars, a short walk from Alderney Street. They had also studied Williams's computers and reading matter, his journals, magazines and computer cache. Despite outright denials from his family, detectives were privately certain that Gareth was gay, although they had been unable to find trace of any sexual encounters. They had also come to believe that his sexual orientation was not central to the inquiry (although his sexual preferences might be). There was no evidence of Williams paying for escorts, buying S&M equipment, using porn or drugs of any kind. "This man didn't really even drink," one frustrated detective said.

The police felt they were being hurried along by other parties, keen for the scandal to go away. "Someone, somewhere, who has access to case material, is saying, 'He's queer and asked for it', rather than waiting for the outcome of the case," one veteran detective said.
Even at a distance, it was obvious that someone was trying to avoid "waiting for the outcome of the case." But once again I wondered how much of the other assertions could be true. It would be so much better to have a source inside the investigation.

Scott-Clark and Levy wrote that Gareth had worked for GCHQ, was with MI6 at the time of his death, and had also been working with the Americans at NSA. The article seemed to confirm our suspicion that Gareth had been involved with "foiling" the so-called "Liquid Bombers":
Williams's elevation within GCHQ came with the "Liquid Bomb" plot, where a group of British radicals of Asian origin were found to be planning to detonate home-made explosives on board seven flights to major north American cities. Intercepting emails and phone calls between these plotters and their contacts abroad, Williams flew between the UK and the US, working at Fort Meade (the NSA HQ, in Baltimore).
If, as it appeared, this were a case of murder, there would be no shortage of work-related suspects:
Williams was brought into close proximity to US intelligence, Islamic radicals and Middle Eastern agents. He would rub shoulders with the Russians, too, according to a foreign intelligence analyst based in the UK, who described how technology and software honed by GCHQ was deployed in tracking a Moscow-backed sleeper cell to which Britain had been alerted as early as 2003. The case blew up in June 2010 when 10 people were arrested in the US and accused of being part of an espionage ring. One of them, a glamorous 28-year-old called Anna Chapman, had lived for five years in the UK. According to the former GCHQ contractor, "Williams had been obsessed by the case, its methodology and characters."
Rogue individuals and nation states, Islamist terror groups and radical loners, extortionists and organised criminals – these were just some of those Williams had observed, investigated, disrupted and provoked. Any one of them was capable of reciprocating, lethally.
I wondered how many of these potential enemies were capable of both "reciprocating lethally" and arranging a massive "character assassination." It seemed to me that Scott-Clark and Levy had allowed this important question to slip through their fingers, and disappear without having been raised.

It occurred to me that this could have been deliberate, and I wondered how many other questions had been allowed to slip away without having been asked, let alone answered.

I wondered what else Holmes had seen in the article. I was certain there must have been at least a dozen pertinent details that I had missed. So I re-filled my pipe, sat back in my seat, and began to read the piece again.