MI6 murder mystery: how the spy got into the bath

Killers aimed to destroy any forensic residue after moving Gareth Williams’ body, says intelligence analyst

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:10 ON Wed 8 Sep 2010

In the James Bond novels, only one of 007's fellow agents is ever killed: in Moonraker, 0011 disappears on a job in Singapore. In the films, a number of 00 agents are bumped off by the bad guys, notably 002, who is shot through the neck in Beirut by "the man with the golden gun".  Roger Moore and Britt Ekland are dispatched to even the score.

But in real life the agents of Britain's intelligence agencies tend, like the rest of us, to die of natural causes in their beds. Kim Philby's bed was unfortunately in Moscow, but it was a bed nevertheless.

The suspicious death of the GCHQ cipher and code expert Gareth Williams is therefore a highly unusual event.

The post-mortems have been inconclusive and the police are currently awaiting the results of sophisticated tests for obscure poisons. It certainly looks like murder - but what kind of murder?

To begin with, it was reasonable for the police to assume that the reason for his death could be found in his private, not professional, life. Statistically this was the most likely option.

In police slang, this was probably 'an ordinary decent crime' rather than an assassination or terrorist-related. At some point an outraged husband or unsuitable sexual partner would emerge.

This is becoming less likely by the day. Go with the facts. If you find a neatly packed suitcase by the door it is because someone is about to leave - ­ someone efficient.  If you find a body in a padlocked bag in a bath, then what you see is what you get. The body is in a bag because it's going somewhere and it's in the bath because once it has been removed it is easy to destroy any forensic residue.

For some reason the disposal of the body was interrupted - but the killer or killers knew what they were doing.
 
Getting rid of a body is difficult for amateurs but easy enough if it's your trade. The IRA were good at it - so good that since the Good Friday Agreement, and as part of the reconciliation process, they have had difficulty in revealing the whereabouts of some of their unfortunate victims. At least some of them disappeared into meat processing factories close to the border. The moors and peat bogs outside Belfast still hold their secrets.

In the case of Gareth Williams, the omens are not good. The police are looking for a couple of "Mediterranean appearance" - what Scotland Yard used to call in less politically correct days 'swarthy'.

Apparently this couple were filmed going into the front door of Williams's flat. Broadcasting CCTV footage on national television is sadly a sign of desperation: the Crimestoppers approach to this baffling crime.

Maybe it was them. Maybe not. Maybe it's related to intelligence. Maybe not. But one thing is for sure: whoever killed Williams has killed before. ·