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Mistakes over GCHQ codebreaker's death crippled inquiry

Inquest into spy-in-a-bag death

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Forensic investigators have apologized for the bungling of the inquiry into the mysterious death of a codebreaker employed by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

In August 2010, Gareth Williams, described as a mathematical genius by his peers and employed at GCHQ since leaving university, was found dead in his flat in London. Williams, who had recently qualified for deployment with MI6 – Britain's version of the CIA - was found naked and partially decomposed in a sports bag that had been locked from the outside and placed in the bath.

In the pre-inquest hearing on Friday, the court heard that the investigation into Williams' death had been botched from the start. LGS Forensics said that DNA found on Mr Williams' body was investigated, but later turned out to have been transferred there from one of the forensic scientists investigating the death, and a search of the apartment turned up no clues as to his death.

"Having made further checks, LGC identified the partial profile as matching that of a Metropolitan police scientist who was involved in the original investigation of Mr Williams' home," a LGC spokeswoman said. "The Metropolitan police service was immediately notified. We are sorry for any pain this error may have caused Mr Williams' family."

Lawyer Anthony O'Toole told Westminster Coroner's Court that the family of Mr Williams had still not been told what his actual job was, and would also like to know why MI6 took so long to raise the alarm after he failed to turn up at work. The body showed no signs of violence, toxicology screenings were negative, and there was no sign that he had tried to get out of the bag.

"The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specializing in the dark arts of the secret services – or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in the dark arts," he said, according to the Guardian.

While the police initially said that they thought it was unlikely that Williams had managed to lock himself in the bag, they did not rule it out. At the time of his death there was speculation that the death was part of a sex game gone wrong, and the coroner Fiona Wilcox said the likelihood of Williams being able to get in the bag and lock it would be central to the inquest, which is due to be held next month. ®

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