25 Aug 2010

  • Body had multiple stab wounds and was decomposing
  • Flat owned by private company called New Rodina, which means 'motherland' in Russian
  • Acting PM Clegg to be briefed on spy's death today
  • Dead man was employed at govt 'listening post'
This is the first picture of the murdered British spy who detectives have said could have been killed up to two weeks ago.The body of Gareth Williams, 31, was discovered stuffed in a large sports bag in his bath in a flat just a few hundred yards from the headquarters of MI6.It is understood Mr Williams had been stabbed, possibly several times, and his body was decomposing when it was found.
MI6 Headquarters

Elsewhere in the top-floor flat - in a bizarre ritualistic scene - his mobile telephone and a collection of SIM cards were carefully laid out.Scotland Yard has launched a murder inquiry into the grim find in Pimlico, Central London. Detectives have told local residents today that the murder may have taken place two weeks ago.

Mr Williams was employed as a communications officer at the Government's ' listening post' - better known as GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.But it is thought he was on secondment to the headquarters at MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, near the flat.MI6 gathers secret information about Britain's overseas enemies, making the spy a possible target of terrorists
Mr Williams was employed as a communications officer at the Government's ' listening post' - better known as GCHQ (pictured) in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Mr Williams was described by neighbours as mild-mannered and a keen cyclist. He joined the University of Cambridge in 2000 to undertake a postgraduate certificate in advanced studies in mathematics but dropped out.

'I'm told the man lived at the top-floor flat but we haven't ever seen him. It's not like you'd tell your neighbours if you were a spy'

A spokeswoman said he was a member of St Catharine's College but left without completing the qualification the next year.The course is described as 'demanding' and normally only accepts students with first-class degrees in physics, mathematics or engineering.He lived in a street where houses sell for more than £1million, and it has been cordoned off at both ends since Monday night. Access is being granted only to residents.

The street remained cordoned off this morning and police officers stood outside No 36, which is divided into three flats.Land Registry documents revealed the block at number 36 is owned by a private company, New Rodina.Its details are hidden because it is registered in the British Virgin Islands and is not listed with Companies House.The word rodina means 'motherland' in Russian and Bulgarian.The property was bought for £675,250 in 2000 with a mortgage from the Royal Bank of Scotland and has been remortgaged twice, in September 2005 and February 2006.

The documents revealed the owner operated through a law firm known as Park Nelson. The firm once occupied a rented office block in Bell Yard, off Fleet Street, but no longer appears to exist.Curtains were drawn in the top-floor flat, where it was believed the attack took place.Public documents revealed that several current and former residents of the freehold block have links to London and Cheltenham.

Police continued to scour the two-floor flat for evidence today and cordons remained in place on the prestigious street where two former home secretaries live.Ex-Tory leader Michael Howard and Sir Leon Brittan are among a host of politicians and bankers who have homes there, residents said.Mr Howard, who lives several doors down the road, was at home when the body was taken away by forensic officers, one resident, Andy Perkins, said.Neighbour Laura Houghton said Mr Williams was an 'extremely friendly' man.The 30-year-old secretary said: 'I have spoken to him only once. I met him in the entrance hall of the set of flats because of a boring plant issue about a year ago.

'He was extremely friendly and had a Welsh accent.'

She said he had an athletic build, and added: 'He was not especially tall. He had medium to short brown hair.'
Mrs Houghton added: 'His windows were always shut and curtains were often closed. I could never tell if anyone was in.

'It was strange that we never saw him come and go. I just assumed he worked away.

'The first I heard of anything happening was when the police knocked on my door and asked me if I had heard anything happening. I told them the walls were so thick that I couldn't hear a thing.

'All they told me was that there had been a serious incident. I'm amazed it's taken this long to all come out.'

A landlady who rented Mr Williams a flat in Cheltenham, said: 'He was polite and mild-mannered and wouldn't hurt a fly. He was forever off on bike rides but never really had friends around.

'Sometimes you could hear tapes whirring from his flat. It must have been audio cassettes he used for work. He never told me what they were.'

Eileen Booth, 73, who lives opposite, said detectives told her the murder may have taken place two weeks ago.She said: 'A few years ago, I would definitely have known who it was that had been killed.

'Detectives came round and asked for our eye colour and height. They said this probably happened two weeks ago.'

Rob Mills, 35, who lives two doors away, said today: 'We've got two children - it's shocking.

'I'm told the man lived at the top-floor flat but we haven't ever seen him. It's not like you'd tell your neighbours if you were a spy.'

Jason Hollands, 41, a City worker, who also lives nearby, said: 'It's truly gruesome - this is a very mixed area of bankers and politicians. I've spoken to the next-door neighbour, who knew nothing.'

The one bedroom flat in Cheltenham where Gareth Williams also lived

The case is being investigated by officers from the Murder Squad with assistance from their counter-terrorist and security service colleagues. No arrests have been made.Forensic teams are continuing to search for clues at the five-storey terraced townhouse.A Met Police spokesman said: 'Officers were called to reports of a suspicious death at 4.40pm on Monday. They attended a top floor flat in Alderney Street and gained entry and found the body of a man in his 30s.'

One resident said: 'My neighbours said it was a stabbing.It sounds like it was really gruesome.'

 Scotland Yard said no cause of death was known. A post-mortem examination is due today.

A Downing Street spokesman refused to comment, saying: 'Any potential case is a matter for the police.' Details of the incident will be contained in the Prime Minister's intelligence briefing which will be handed to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today. David Cameron is also expected to be kept abreast of developments.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'There is an ongoing police investigation.

'It is long-standing Government policy not to confirm or deny that any individual works for the intelligence agencies.'

Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism subcommittee, said: 'This underlines the danger that our outstanding security services have to face on a minute-by-minute basis every single day.'

The last spy to have been killed on British soil was former Russian Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006. He was poisoned with polonium-210.

Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov was killed by an assassin who used an umbrella to fire a ricin pellet into his leg as he crossed Waterloo Bridge in September 1978.A spokesman said the body was yet to be formally identified.A post-mortem examination is due to take place today.

SOURCE: Daily Mail


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