SITTING at the Gareth Williams inquest this week, listening to the
more lurid details of the case, it occurred to me the death of spooks in
bizarre circumstances involving sex games or women’s clothing is hardly
an unusual event.
Disposing of an enemy and making it look like a
perverted fantasy gone wrong is in the training manuals of every spy
agency from MI6 to Mossad.
Codebreaker Gareth, from Anglesey,
North Wales, was found dead in a locked bag, in a flat full of women’s
clothing and wigs, and with his internet browsing history conveniently
featuring bondage sites, sparking a flurry of allegations which shocked
and horrified his parents.
But the fact the 31-year-old’s death
scene was organised in such a way as to suggest a sex game gone wrong
should make us more suspicious not less.
The sex game cover is a
very useful mechanism in a murder. Not only does it provide a disguise
for the actual means and method of death, it also trashes the reputation
of the victim and blunts the energy of any subsequent investigation.
it appears to explain the astonishing number of spies, and other people
who step into their murky world, who turn up dead in circumstances
similar to Gareth.
Take GCHQ personnel for instance, those that work at the vast
electronic doughnut in Cheltenham that is responsible for intercepting
and decoding secret electronic traffic of interest to Her Majesty’s
Government. And Gareth’s ultimate employer.
In 1983, 25-year-old
Stephen Drinkwater, who worked as a clerk at GCHQ, was found dead at his
home with a plastic bag over his head.
In 1997 another worker,
Nicholas Husband, 46, was found dead at home dressed in a bra and
panties – with a plastic bag over his head.
Two years later, Kevin
Allen, 31, a language expert at GCHQ, was found dead in his bed at home
with a plastic bag over his head and a dust mask over his mouth.
One wonders what the Gloucestershire Constabulary make of it all.
be fair, the kind of higher mathematical ability that many GCHQ
codebreakers have is rare and it sometimes comes with some personal
Alan Turing, the Cambridge Don and
founder of modern computer science who became the greatest of the
wartime Bletchley Park codebreakers was a distinctly odd fish – a loner
with sexual hang-ups who seemed to spend most of his waking hours
dreaming of obscure mathematical theorems.
The point was amusingly
made in 60s film The Italian Job in which Charlie Croker, played by
Michael Caine, recruits computer genius Professor Simon Peach – Benny
Hill – to pull off a daring bullion robbery.
But the whole scheme nearly comes unstuck as Prof Peach is unable to control his powerful urges towards large women.
MI6, who recruit a more worldly-wise type than the boffins of GCHQ, have not been immune.
1994 an ex-MI6 man turned journalist, James Rusbridger, 65, was found
hanged at his house in Cornwall – in a green chemical protection suit
including rubber gloves, gas mask, and black plastic mackintosh. Bondage
pictures completed the tableau.
And of course, according to the pathologist, it turned out he probably did it himself as part of a sex game.
same year Stephen Milligan, the Tory MP for Eastleigh, was found dead
with electrical flex tied in round his neck, a black bin liner over his
head and wearing stockings and suspenders.
The 45-year-old was also tied to a chair and had a satsuma stuffed into his mouth.
His boss at the time, then junior defence minister Jonathan Aitken, has since denied suggestions Milligan had links to MI6.
Even if you are not a spook you need to be careful.
1990, the ex-RAF helicopter pilot and editor of Defence Helicopter
World, Jonathan Moyle, 28, was found hanged in the wardrobe of his hotel
in Chile with a pillow case over his head.
At the time his demise
was widely thought to be an auto-erotic accident. He was in fact almost
certainly murdered after uncovering links between Chilean arms dealers
and Saddam Hussein.
The last person to give evidence at the Gareth
Williams inquest was Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire – the
senior investigating officer in the case.
She stated confidently that she was sure that she and her team would be able to unlock the mystery in the end.
she also felt that this, her final appearance in court, was an
appropriate time to remind the assembled audience of Williams’ internet
The last website he accessed probably just a few
hours before his death was connected to cycling – a photo of him
competing in a cross-country cycling race has been seen frequently in
the national newspapers.
But then she went on to deal with the browsing information that had been made much of in the media over the last 20 months.
Williams had accessed bondage websites on four days over a two-year period.
had never accessed so-called “claustrophilia” sites which cater for
people who get a thrill out of being confined in small spaces.
we have it – the view of the woman in charge of the probe. Williams may
have had a passing interest in bondage but no more than that. Even this
passing interest may have a perfectly innocent explanation.
MI6 officers get extensive training before they are allowed out on to
the streets. Much of this takes place at Fort Monckton near Gosport – a
Napoleonic era fortress surrounded by barbed wire and accessible only by
a drawbridge. It includes instruction in basic entry and exit
procedures – buildings and cars mainly.
If you ever get locked out of your flat and know a friendly spook from school or university give them a ring.
should be able to get you back inside and could save you a fortune on
locksmith’s fees. The instruction also includes some
counter-surveillance techniques – how to make sure you are not followed.
some instruction on what to do if you fall into the wrong hands –
resistance to interrogation and crucially what to do if you are
restrained – tied or chained up.
It is possible Williams had some
of this training and it might well account for the episode when he was
discovered tied up in his room by his Cheltenham landlady.
the sex game angle was a simple smear is a view certainly not ruled out
by the Westminster coroner who said, “it is still a legitimate line of
inquiry” Gareth died at the hands of MI6.
In her narrative verdict, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “I am sure a third
party placed the bag into the bath and on the balance of probabilities
locked the bag.
The cause of death was unnatural and likely to
have been criminally meditated. I am therefore satisfied that on the
balance of probabilities Gareth was killed unlawfully.”
I was impressed by Dr Wilcox. She had good judgment and wisdom as can be seen from her verdict in the case.
played down the bondage question and the interest in female fashion –
Williams had an expensive collection of women’s clothing nearly all of
it unworn and most of it not in his size.
She seemed to accept the view of Williams’ sister these were a store of presents for his female acquaintances.
Dr Wilcox pretty much dismissed the idea of any sexual component in his death.
that is the aspect many people will remember. Well, these kinky games
with yourself or other people go wrong – what can you expect – becomes
the prevailing attitude.
There is some consolation, perhaps, that
occasionally the dark arts of postmortem reputation trashing are
employed in a good cause and based on hard facts rather than a set-up.
strange and squalid habits of Osama Bin Laden before his death have
been used to great effect by the US to make him a laughing stock.
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