Chapter 124: Mycroft's List

"You have me at a disadvantage."
"You have me at a disadvantage," protested Mycroft Holmes. "Which investigation are we discussing?"

"Forgive me," replied Sherlock. "I wanted your initial reaction context-free, but there's no reason you shouldn't know. According to today's Guardian, 'Operation Finlayson' is the code name of Scotland Yard's investigation into the death of Gareth Williams."

"Seriously?" asked Mycroft.

"Seriously," replied his brother. He handed Mycroft the paper.

"If you have nothing important to do," continued Sherlock, "please subject this to your usual analysis. I would certainly value your opinion. I am especially interested in -- one: any claims that seem improbable, or dare I say impossible; two: any hints that the investigation is being hampered; and three: any other details that strike you as particularly remarkable or noteworthy."

"It's quite lengthy," remarked Mycroft, looking it over.

"There's no hurry," answered Sherlock. "Make yourself comfortable, take your time, and make good notes. We can talk later." He handed his brother a notebook and a pen, then turned to me.

"Watson, I need to be away for a while again. I can't remember ever having so many cases on the go at the same time. Maybe it was easier when I was younger. In any event, I will be out for most of the day. So please do your usual fine job of making sure Mycroft is looked after -- he's never more productive than when he's well-fed -- and I will rejoin you as soon as I can."

I rang Mrs. Hudson, who brought us a pot of tea and a tray of food. Then, not wanting to disturb Mycroft while he worked, I curled up with a book.

While I read, Mycroft made the following list:
1. Claims that seem improbable or impossible
[The] townhouse in Alderney Street ... was used by the Secret Intelligence Service as a safe house. A lettings agent who held a spare key showed the policeman in.
Yes, of course, because lettings agents always have spare keys to SIS safe houses.
One [criminal psychologist], who spoke anonymously, thought his death might have been a masochistic ritual that had gone wrong: "For a retentive individual with an ever-green mind like Gareth Williams, always on duty and in control, the bag could have been a furtive release."
I would speak anonymously as well, if I were contributing such nonsense to the discussion.
"If you can imagine it, then we are investigating it," a detective said in late August.
Yes, of course.

2. Hints that the investigation is being hampered
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. ... Once the spooks had departed, it was down to the murder squad to study the evidence. ...
"MI5 agents ... followed by detectives..." In other words, the scene found by the detectives was set by the MI5 agents. And the
investigators ... were being blocked by the security services from probing too deeply into Williams's life.
Detectives had no idea what Gareth Williams really did or who he was, and had been unable as yet to find anyone close to him.
"If you can imagine it, then we are investigating it"
Yes, of course.
The Sun [published an anonymously sourced, lurid] version of events, while other newspapers, quoting similar unnamed sources, reported [equally lurid details]. Senior detectives angrily rebutted the stories.
Where did these stories come from? How did they find their way into print without confirmation from "senior detectives"? The police would seem to have good reason for feeling that
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.
Aside from which, even if he were "queer," what of it? Plenty of people are "queer," but they don't usually end up padlocked in airtight bags. So this is not only a vicious smear but also a red herring. Even if Gareth Williams were "queer," does being "queer" provably increase one's probability of being locked in a bag? any more than being Welsh? or a cyclist? or a mathematician? But the "he was queer" doesn't go away. And all this, even though
the investigation ... failed to turn up the smallest vice
and the
detectives ... had been unable to find trace of any sexual encounters.
In other words, the detectives have been unable to find out anything about Gareth whatsoever.

So: "If you can imagine it, then we are investigating it," really means, "If you can imagine it, then we are investigating it, except if it pertains to the victim, his job, or his private life, about which we still know practically nothing."

If not for all the lurid claims that senior detectives "angrily rebutted," the investigation might have come to a few conclusions that seem more or less obvious. In the first instance, it took them quite some time to figure out that he could not have done this to, or by, himself. And that's why the piece mentions
the dawning realisation that Gareth Williams had not been alone.
The conclusion "that Gareth Williams had not been alone" is based on what little they seem to have gathered in the way of evidence. But by
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.
If the investigation were not being hampered, the police would surely have reached this conclusion much more quickly and easily than they apparently did.

And were it not for all the nonsense from contributors such as our anonymous "furtive release" theorist, it should not have been difficult for the police to reach another seemingly obvious conclusion, namely that they were looking at, if not actually investigating, a murder. After all,
the policeman [who found the body] 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.
3. Other details that seem particularly remarkable or noteworthy

The young man's intellect.

His rate of progress through his education.

The torment inflicted on his family.