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British spy found in sports bag 'wanted out of MI6'

Date

Martin Evans, Tom Whitehead, London

Ceri Subbe with her husband Chris.

Ceri Subbe with her husband Chris. Photo: Reuters

THE British spy found dead in a padlocked sports bag in his London apartment in August 2010 hated the ''flash car and drinking'' culture of MI6 and complained of ''friction'' at work, his family told an inquest.

Gareth Williams, 31, told his sister, Ceri Subbe, he wanted to leave London because he did not like the ''rat race'' lifestyle and was unhappy working for the security services. He had applied to cut short his three-year secondment to MI6 and return to GCHQ, an intelligence agency that monitors communications, in Cheltenham but felt his superiors were ''dragging their feet'', Mrs Subbe told the hearing.

A date for his return was fixed for September 2010. His body was discovered in his Pimlico flat a week before he was due to return.

The spy's parents, Ian and Ellen, were on holiday in Canada, celebrating Mrs Williams' 50th birthday when they learned of their son's death.

The long-awaited inquest was opened at Westminster Coroner's Court on Monday to investigate the ''highly controversial'' death of Mr Williams. Dr Fiona Wilcox, the coroner, has promised a ''full, fair and fearless'' inquiry in which no evidence will be heard behind closed doors. Up to 40 witnesses are due to give evidence, including intelligence officers, police, forensic experts and friends.

The family believes that a third party was involved in Mr Williams' death.

The naked and decomposing body of the maths prodigy, a cipher and codes expert, was discovered in a sports bag that had been locked from the outside and placed in the bath at his flat.

Lawyers for Scotland Yard said there was still a ''real possibility'' that criminal proceedings could arise.

Mrs Subbe described her brother as ''the most scrupulous risk-assessor'' she had ever known.

She said he would never have let anyone into his flat who had not been cleared by security.

She said he would turn back a few hundred metres from the summit of mountains if there was ''the hint of adverse weather conditions'', adding: ''Better to be safe than sorry.''

She said her brother never told her he was being followed or felt threatened in any way. ''I cannot think as to why anybody would want to harm him.''

The inquest heard how Mr Williams failed to turn up for a meeting at work on August 16 but the alarm was not raised until August 23 - by his family. After his death, Mrs Subbe described how she had spoken to a colleague about the missed meeting, ''He said Gareth was like a Swiss clock - very punctual, very efficient, and it was very unlike him not to attend a meeting.''

Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, from the Metropolitan Police's homicide unit, said the force's SO15 counter-terrorism unit was called to assist, but its officers would not have had access to the flat without permission from the crime scene manager.

Four intelligence officers will be allowed to give evidence from behind a screen in the coming days after Dr Wilcox granted an application to keep their identity a secret. The request came from MI6 and GCHQ, backed by Foreign Secretary William Hague, amid concerns over a risk to national security if they were exposed.

The coroner will also allow some evidence to remain secret, including any information from foreign intelligence agencies, ongoing operations or details of secret service officers, methods and tactics.

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