By: Yolanda Leigh
Political Assassination & The ‘Dark Arts’
More proof, if proof were needed, of the dark heart of the secret services. In what looks like a classic ‘wet’ operation, person or persons unknown are believed to be behind the murder of mathematic genius and secret intelligence worker Gareth Williams. In a case that is threatening to expose the workings of secret service agencies, the current inquest seems to be doing a reasonable job of exploring the facts behind the case, but it is unlikely the truth will ever be fully revealed. Mr Williams’ family want answers, and the bizarre nature of his death, after a blameless life, have caused much uneasiness. Is he a victim of a classic smear campaign, an assassination and clean up of the most professional kind? And what is it he could have seen to make agents wish to kill him? Assassination has always been a tool of government that they are naturally unwilling to discuss. Perhaps this time they will have no choice.
Gareth Williams was an exceptional child, who took higher level exams whilst still at primary school. Going to University early, he graduated as he peers were just arriving, and went on to study for an advanced mathematics PhD at Cambridge University, which he eventually left because ‘he felt he had learned all he could’. An extraordinary mind, then. Already spotted as having huge potential to the intelligence agencies he was recruited to work as a code expert for GCHQ in Gloucestershire, the British government communications surveillance organisation. He was happy here, working with other gifted mathematicians, cryptologists and analysts and developed faster ways of encrypting information which were of great use. After a period of work there he was seconded to MI6, the secret intelligence service, where he qualified for “operational deployment” in the field. In 2003 he was sent to Menwith Hill RAF base in Yorkshire, and in 2006 he was sent for training at the head of the US NSA in Fort Meade, Maryland. He is known to have clocked up further air miles when made trips to Afghanistan. He was clearly a highly valuable asset to the intelligence services, and six months prior to his death he was seconded to the London headquarters of MI6. He was put in a MI6 safehouse, at 36 Alderney Street, Pimlico – a prestigious area, which one imagines, would have been kept under surveillance for security reasons. What is known is that Gareth Williams was due to take up a position in the Cyber Security Operations Centre at GCHQ, but he never made it.
Gareth Williams’ death is a total mystery. He failed to appear for a meeting he was supposed to be chairing, in August 2012, but was not reported missing for a week. His sister became concerned and his employers to investigate on 23rd August 2010. When police arrived at his flat it seemed totally undisturbed except for a red holdall in the bath, which was padlocked from the outside. In the bag was Gareth Williams’ naked and decomposing body. The flat showed no signs of forced entry and was clean of prints. But it was soon proved that it would have been impossible for Williams to have locked himself into the holdall. It all pointed to a dark arts operation. By why, and by whom?
At the inquest this week some interesting new evidence has emerged. Early on in the investigation police had pointed out a collection of women’s clothing at Williams’ flat. His family denied that he had been a cross-dresser. Were the clothes planted there in an attempt to damage his reputation? It is a classic ploy, but police turned up more information after further detective work. They believe Williams’ lived a double life, visiting drag clubs and bondage websites. But they were unable to trace any sexual partners at all, either male or female. Williams was said to be awkward socially, enjoying solitude, cycling and the countryside over socialising and ostentation. For this reason he was not happy in London, and was keen to get back to Gloucestershire where life was a little less flashy and hard-edged.
The Mystery Deepens
The mystery surrounding his death deepened. Murder detectives stated they were looking into the possibility that Gareth Williams may have been killed by a foreign intelligence agency seeking to stop his work on intercepting messages, code-breaking and encryption. He is known to have returned from a foreign trip on the 11th August, but government officials have refused to discuss his work. Four witnesses from the security services, identified only as K, F, G and SIS F, will all give evidence from behind a screen at the inquest and it is unsure how much of their evidence will be reported. One issue raising questions is the inability to establish a cause of death. The first post-mortem was inconclusive, with no sign of drugs, alcohol. There were no marks on his body and he appeared to have a calm expression on discovery. There were no signed that he struggled to escape from the bag, which suggests he was dead when placed in there – possibly with a view to the body being moved to another location. There was no property missing from the flat. Toxicologists are still struggling to find out what killed Gareth Williams, who was extremely fit and strong. The only clue is the sighting of a ‘Mediterranean couple’ who were known to have visited Mr Williams in the weeks running up to his death. He is known to have mentioned that he believed he was under ‘hostile surveillance’ a short while before his death.
As the inquest into ‘gentle and solitary’ Gareth Williams’ death continues, one is again left with the sense that the truth will never be fully revealed. It is unthinkable that a top intelligence code breaker could be murdered in an MI6 safe house, and the government know nothing about it. Did his handlers find out more about his double life and want him silenced? Was he just too good at his job for foreign agent to be allow him to continue it? There have been rumours that he was working on equipment that tracked the flow of money from Russia to Europe. We know the Russians are quite comfortable with striking at agents right in the heart of London. Crispin Black, a former intelligence officer, adviser to the Government and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), is convinced Mr Williams was murdered by foreign agents, and is not afraid to go on record saying so. He says that all the evidence points to a foreign hit and a government cover up. There were virtually no signs of anyone having been in Williams’ flat. It had been ‘dry-cleaned’ by MI6 before the police arrived, to hide evidence of a sexual relationship between Williams and a senior colleague? Or to cover their embarrassment that foreign agents had taken out one of their top men in an MI6 safehouse? They took five hours to contact the police after his sister reported him missing, plenty of time to ‘dry clean’ the flat.
Just as with the political assassination of the weapons inspector Dr David Kelly, there will always be assassinations that are covered up and evidence ‘lost’. It has happened before and it has been proved to have happened. We should not be surprised at the lengths government agencies will go to in order to protect themselves. There are forces at work within every government which will act to protect the power structures with extreme prejudice, and they get away with it time and time again. We should not be surprised, just outraged that the family of Gareth Williams will probably never know the truth of how he died. He was a small cog in a very large machine, and possibly an inconvenience that someone wanted to remove.
The hearing continues.
Gareth Williams – Photo courtesy of Associated Press
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The ‘Mediterranean Couple’ Police want to trace - Photo courtesy of This is London
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