Oh my aching sides …Stop it MI6

The  public attempts by the police  to explain the death  of the GCHQ  operative Gareth  Williams on secondment to MI6 hurtle towards  absurdity.  Their latest theory is that Williams died in an sado-masochistic sex game in which he allowed himself to be locked (with a padlock) into  a holdall to role-play a situation of complete helplessness, a situation which included the person who locked him into the holdall leaving him alone in the flat.  When the person returned,  the police surmise ,  he found Williams to be dead, probably of asphyxiation and dehydration.  That person then re-padlocked the holdall and fled leaving the body to be found.

Even from the details of the death which have been released this seems an explanation on the outer margins of improbable. The body was found in the holdall in the bath. Why on earth would the putative role-play have included being left in the bath? If the holdall and body was placed in the bath after the death, what could possibly have been the motive? If it was an accident presumably the person who discovered the body would have been in a panic and simply concerned to get out of the flat as quickly as possible.  Similarly, if the death  was an accident why would the person who discovered him re-padlock the bag?

Then there are the questions of whether the holdall would have been secure enough to both hold Williams if he wanted to get out  and airtight enough to either asphyxiate him and/or dehydrate him enough cause death. The holdall was made by North Face so it was reasonably robust. However, I doubt whether  it would robust enough to withstand a determined attempt by a very fit man (Williams was a fitness fanatic addicted to cycling) to break the seams or split the material, especially one driven by the manic energy of panic which he would presumably have experienced if he found himself suffocating. The largest North Face  holdall I could find on theNorth Face website is this :

Description The Rolling Thunder – Large with 138 litres of capacity is the big daddy of wheeled luggage built with robust TPE tarpaulin.
    86 cm x 43 cm x 36 cm

    Phthalate-free TPE fabric laminate, 840D Jr. ballistics nylon

    138 liters

If this was the holdall used, then the body would have had to be placed in the foetal position to fit. Even then it would be a remarkably tight fit because 86cm is a shade under three feet in length. If Williams was alive when he was put into the holdall, would he have been likely to agree to such an incarceration even if he wanted to play a bondage sex game?

As for the holdall being airtight,  that would seem  improbable.  The material of used by North Face is a laminate and that might be impermeable. However, there has to be an opening point which would be something like a zip or Velcro fastening which would allow air get in. Note that the bag specifications above have it as a top access bag which suggests a zip or velcro running along the entire top surface. Moreover, if there was insufficient air that would become apparent rapidly and the person would soon attempt to make an escape.   It is noteworthy that  there are no reports of evidence that he struggled to get out of the bag  such as damage to the bag or injury inflicted on him which could have plausibly been the result of such a struggle.  The police have suggested that he may have become unconscious without realising what was happening and died without regaining consciousness. However, if that is the case,  why the re-padlocking of the holdall after his body was discovered? It is worth adding that Williams was a very bright, scientifically inclined man into high-level  exercise who almost certainly would have assessed the likelihood of suffocation or  dehydration before voluntarily  allowing himself to be locked in the holdall.

Finally,   there is  the failure to identify the cause of death. Tests for alcohol and drugs have proved fruitless, there is no bruising suggestive of strangulation.

What is a plausible explanation for the body being found without obvious cause of death in a locked holdall in a bath? Try this for size.  Williams died  naturally, by accident  or was killed somewhere other than his  flat. The body was placed in the holdall to transport it. The padlock was used to make it secure during transit from where Williams died to his flat , especially during the  moving of the body  from the place of death to a vehicle and from the vehicle to Williams’ flat.

If that is what happened the probability is that he was murdered rather than died a natural death or died by accident. If  it was a natural death, there would have been reason to get rid of the body. If he died by accident in embarrassing circumstances such as a sex game,   it is unlikely that a person or persons who were simply ordinary people would have had the presence of mind to return him to his flat. Much more probable that they would have  at best attempt tried to make the death look like a natural one by a ploy such as saying he had been found dead in his bed or by calling 999 and saying someone had collapsed.  If an attempt to get rid of the body was made, it would most probably have been dumped in the nearest river or canal or buried somewhere.

If Williams  was murdered by someone other than a person or persons acting directly or indirectly for some security organisation,  it would again be most improbable that the body would have been returned to the flat, either because the people who killed him would not know where her lived – he was living in temporary accommodation – or because the killer or killers would have a similar panicked response as the normal person would who found the body after death from an accident in embarrassing circumstances.

The return of the body to Williams’ flat would have great advantages  for a killer acting for a security organisation.  It would greatly reduce the possible  forensic evidence because all  there would be from the site of the killing would be the body and the  bag itself. By leaving it in the flat the killers could probably rely on it not being discovered for several weeks. Placing it in the bath would have kept it out of sight of any casual inspection. (It would interesting to know whether a bath was run to cover the holdall with water to destroy forensic evidence. )

Alternatively,  if it was a security organisation killing, the body may have returned to the flat to send a message to our security services.

Facts taken from :


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  • Tony  On September 26, 2010 at 12:19 am

    My belief is this could not have been a suicide by virtue of the holdall being padlocked. The holdall must have been exceptionally large or the body exceptionally small and the body rolled up into a ball ( foetus position ? is there a clue there ? ). However, I think it was a murder by an organisation which wanted to put a stop to what the victim was working on, a phenomna not unknown in ” intelligence circles ” but not readily publicised, and that the Authorities know or have a strong belief as to the indentity of the killer organisation and their country of origin and do not want a futher confrontation with that country, Russia.

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