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Nation/World

November 14, 2013

UK police: Spy in gym bag probably died by accident

LONDON — More than three years after the naked, decomposing body of British spy Gareth Williams was discovered stuffed inside a locked gym bag at the bottom of his bathtub, the mystery over his bizarre death lingers, and a police investigation has done little to clear it up.

London’s Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that their investigation had found that Williams likely died in an accident with no one else involved. But the tentative conclusion, which the police hedged by acknowledging many gaps haven’t been filled in, is unlikely to calm conspiracy theories surrounding the case.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said Williams, whose remains were discovered in August 2010, was “most probably” killed in an accident, a verdict which conflicts with a coroner’s inquest that concluded last year that Williams was probably killed by another person in a “criminally meditated act.”

Hewitt said the police position “is that, on balance, it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died.”

“But the reality is that for both hypotheses, there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding,” he said.

Hewitt told reporters at Scotland Yard headquarters that his conclusion was based on the fact that investigators found little evidence of foul play in a death that has spawned a host of theories, from assassination to sexual adventure gone awry.

Williams, a cyberwarfare expert, worked for Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping service and was attached to the overseas espionage agency MI6 when he died.

Some have raised the possibility that Williams locked himself in the bag as part of a sex act gone wrong or an experiment in escapology — the Houdini-like art of wriggling out of restraints or traps. Investigators found that he had visited bondage and sadomasochism websites, including some related to claustrophilia — a desire for confinement in enclosed spaces.

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