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Wednesday, May 02, 2012 

A nasty taste in the mouth.

There are many things about the investigation into the death of Gareth Williams that leave a nasty taste in the mouth. While the apparent murder of an MI6/GCHQ worker in such bizarre circumstances is always going to invite comment and speculation, it's fair to say that the leaks to the press alleging that Williams was either gay, a transvestite or had come to a sticky end at the hands of al-Qaida, all emanating from uncertain sources were little short of smears. The Met, having to work the case through the counter-terrorism branch SO15, were only able to take statements from MI6 officers that were then "anonymised" afterwards, making the process a travesty. The inquest heard that "assurances were taken" without any further questioning then taking place.

The inquest itself was delayed for over a year, yet this seemingly didn't allow the time for a detective from outside SO15 to be vetted and conduct the interviews again. When it did finally take place, the attitude of MI6 seems to have been remarkably similar to the one taken by MI5 for the 7/7 inquests: challenging every decision made towards openness, demanding anonymity and claiming "national security" would be endangered if almost anything approaching "sensitive" material was discussed in open court. SO15 it seems were similarly awed by their relationship with MI6: Detective Superintendent Michael Broster gave some truly extraordinary evidence, saying that as MI6 had been "very helpful throughout and continue to be" he saw no reason for memory sticks and another North Face bag found in Williams' office to be examined by the Met team, or indeed even told they existed, as the investigating officer only found out about them three days ago.

Most shocking of all is that MI6 didn't investigate why Williams hadn't turned up for work until 8 days after he was last seen. This was according to MI6 a simple error by his line manager, and yet it seems astonishing that an officer of any of the security services can vanish for days, missing appointments and meetings, without anyone attempting to make contact with them or seemingly wondering where he was. This was a man who had worked for the secret state his entire adult life, described as "brilliant", given an award as part of a team for his work on cryptic analysis. He was owed a duty of care, the same that the services offer to agents who have been caught in compromising circumstances without so much as batting an eyelid.

One line of inquiry quickly shut down was that Williams had been working under a separate identity, something that was apparently completely off limits. If this was the case, and he had gone abroad under one, then surely that is something that should have been considered. The police for their part still seem to be focused on the idea that his death his down to his private life, although the coroner appears to have dismissed this. Despite the likes of Mark Urban repeating myths that he was interested in claustrophilia, his internet use seems to have been minor, and his slight interest in bondage websites may well have been down to specific training he was about to undergo at MI6, something else they have declined to comment on.

If he was secretly gay, or interested in dressing up in women's clothes, then there seems to be no evidence that he indulged in either with partners, and no one has come forward to say they were involved with him when you would have expected they may have done. He never discussed either with the two female friends he had, or with his sister, all of whom he was close to. The women's clothes he bought had after all not been taken out of their packaging, more than suggesting they were either gifts or they were part of his interest in fashion.

Despite the coroner also saying there's no evidence that his death was connected to his work, which rather suggests that we're no further than when the investigation began, it's seems remarkable there's been so little comment on how the heating had been turned up in the flat, in spite of how it was August, likewise that there were no fingerprints in the bathroom near to the bath as you would expect. All of this suggests that this wasn't someone panicking at a sex game that went wrong, but as Williams's family suspects, something far more sinister. It's difficult not to think that MI6 knows exactly what happened to Gareth Williams, but they have no intention of letting anyone else know.

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Whether or not he was executed by the security services, this was a very depressing state of affairs. A very private person who apparently always kept to themselves has been posthumously turned into Britain's most famous bondage fiend... Comparable to the illegal-immigrant smears against Jean Charles de Menezes.

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