(LONDON) — Of the myriad of questions surrounding the case of the British code breaker who was found naked and stuffed into a duffle bag in 2010, expert witnesses on Friday gave at least one answer: he most likely didn’t put himself in there.
Gareth Williams, who worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, was discovered nude inside a padlocked duffle bag that had been placed in the bathtub of his London apartment in 2010. After a nearly two-year investigation, Scotland Yard has been unable to solve the case.
A new courthouse inquest is readdressing the case and Friday video footage was shown of two experts attempting — and failing — to lock themselves into a bag identical to the one in which Gareth Williams was found.
Peter Faulding, an expert in rescue from confined spaces, said Friday he failed to lock himself into the bag after 300 attempts.
“I couldn’t say it’s impossible, but I think even Houdini would have struggled with this one,” he said. “My conclusion is that Mr. Williams was either placed in the bag unconscious, or he was dead before he was in the bag.”
A second expert, yoga specialist William MacKay, also failed in the task, but refused to completely rule out the possibility that the spy had locked himself in the bag unaided.
Police said they have found evidence on a phone belonging to Williams of very occasional visits to bondage websites. Examination of his computer also showed he had visited websites about claustrophilia or the love of enclosure, the inquest has heard. No classified information was found at his apartment. A fellow spy told the hearing that an internal review had concluded that Williams’ death was not connected to his work.
Police said thousands of dollars worth of women’s designer clothes were discovered at his apartment, as well as wigs and makeup. Two friends of the dead man have testified that, to their knowledge, Williams had no interest in cross-dressing.
The inquest has been told by police that there was no indication of a break-in at the apartment, and nothing to suggest evidence at the scene was destroyed. Williams’ body showed no signs of struggle, drugs, or poison. Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire said police had been working under the assumption that the spy would have been unable to enter and lock the bag by himself, and that a third party must have been involved. She revealed on Tuesday that “two minor components of another contributor’s DNA” were found on the zip toggle and padlock. Williams’ family has said they believe another person must have been involved in his death.
Crucial forensic evidence may have been lost because it took a week for detectives to visit the apartment after the code breaker failed to show up to work at the headquarters of Britain’s intelligence service in mid-August 2010. MI6 have blamed a “breakdown in communication” for the delay in raising the alarm.
Williams was working in London after being seconded to the British spy agency by GCHQ, Britain’s secret electronic surveillance agency, where he had previously been employed. His former boss at GCHQ, Stephen Gale, told the inquest he was a “world class intelligence officer.”
“He was considered something of a prodigy,” Gale said.
His manager at MI6 has called him “a fully deployable, highly talented officer” who had passed exams to do some of MI6’s toughest covert work six months before he was found dead.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN