Questions Remain In The Case Of Gareth Williams, A British Spy Found Dead In A North Face Bag

In August 2010, authorities discovered British spy Gareth Williams dead inside a North Face duffel bag in his London apartment. London police found the duffel bag in a bathtub, and though it was padlocked from the outside, the key was inside along with Williams's naked body. While investigators initially suspected murder, police ruled his death an accident in 2013. Only Williams's fingerprints were found on the scene. Investigators reportedly considered the case one of sexual mishap and did not believe there was foul play.

Even so, the investigators' ruling leaves room to wonder what really happened to Williams, who worked with British intelligence as a codebreaker. Some speculate the MI6 spy got into trouble with Russian spies, who then assassinated him. For years, conspiracy theorists and experts alike have been fascinated and perplexed by the case of "the spy in the bag."

Photo: BBC / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Williams Was Found Padlocked In A North Face Bag

    On August 23, 2010, police went to perform a wellness check on Gareth Williams, who lived in a Pimlico flat in central London and worked nearby in Gloucester. No one had seen or heard from Williams in about two weeks, and friends and family were concerned. When authorities arrived, nothing seemed amiss in the apartment - until they reached the bathroom.

    In the bathtub, police found a red North Face duffel bag that had been padlocked. Williams's nude body was found inside the bag, along with the padlock key located underneath his body. Williams appeared unharmed, and investigators suspected he died while inside the duffel bag, not prior.

  • Williams Worked As An MI6 Spy And Codebreaker

    Described as a gifted mathematician, Williams worked as a communications officer at Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Gloucestershire, where he reportedly worked as a spy. Williams's work life included code breaking, frequent travel, and a secondment (assignment) with MI6. At the time of his death, he lived close to MI6 headquarters.

    According to his family, Williams never discussed his work with others, and he was a fiercely private person. Williams had a few close friends but was not known to have any enemies, and he was not known to be in any sort of romantic relationship at the time of his death.

  • Investigators Found No Sign Of A Struggle At Williams's Apartment
    Video: YouTube

    Investigators Found No Sign Of A Struggle At Williams's Apartment

    Although Williams's flat was described as cluttered, there was little forensic evidence to be found. There were no signs of forced entry or a struggle. Investigators determined no one else was present at the time of death as there was no evidence to corroborate otherwise.

    Coroners deemed it more probable that Williams entered the bag willingly, since there were no traces of drugs or alcohol in his system. In order to be loaded into the bag without leaving DNA evidence, Williams would have likely been incapacitated. However, Williams's body indicated no evidence of trauma except some bruises on his elbows, and the only DNA discovered on Williams's person belonged to a forensic worker.

  • Williams Death Was Eventually Ruled An Accident

    Williams's death perplexed authorities because the key to the padlock was found inside the duffel bag, underneath his body. Investigators reported that the bathtub as well as the duffel bag's exterior contained no fingerprints. There was no forensic evidence indicating anyone else had been there, and surveillance footage revealed no unusual activity around the apartment complex.

    Although coroners initially considered the death a criminal act, they could not identify a cause of death and suggested suffocation. Authorities determined Gareth had locked himself inside the duffel bag and ruled the death an accident, stating that while murder could theoretically be possible, it was "more probable" that Williams had zipped himself into the bag and could not get back out.

  • Some Still Suspect Foul Play In Williams's Death
    Video: YouTube

    Some Still Suspect Foul Play In Williams's Death

    Although Williams's death was ruled an accident, some have suggested over the years that there was some sort of foul play involved. The Williams's family lawyer claimed items were stolen from the apartment, indicating someone else must have been there. Some speculate that the lack of DNA on Williams, the duffel bag, and the bathtub in which the bag was found suggest that someone cleaned the crime scene after killing Williams, but police denied the allegation. 

    A claim that a man and woman had been seen entering Williams's flat over the summer of 2010 went nowhere.

    The initial investigation reportedly considered that Williams's MI6 colleagues may have been involved in his death, or possibly individuals from another agency. Williams had worked with the US National Security Agency and the FBI in the past. Research into these known covert agencies yielded no further information on the circumstances surrounding Williams's death.

  • Expensive Women's Clothes Were Found Throughout Williams's Apartment
    Video: YouTube

    Expensive Women's Clothes Were Found Throughout Williams's Apartment

    During their search of Williams's flat, investigators uncovered wigs, expensive lingerie, and women's designer clothing totaling nearly £20,000. After a search of Williams's browser history, authorities confirmed that he had sought and purchased the items himself.

    A video found on Williams's phone showed him wearing nothing but a pair of leather boots. He had also reportedly attended a drag show shortly before his death.

    The media sensationalized all these facts, but they didn't answer the question of how Williams died. It also did not appear that Williams had worn any of the clothes he purchased.