*MKILETEWA HAPA NA MISS FB FLORA BAHATI LYIMO*
The exact circumstances surrounding the death of MI6 spy Gareth Williams may never be known, a coroner said today as she refused to rule out the involvement of the British Secret Service.
Dr Fiona Wilcox said she was sure a third party was involved in the agent's mystery death but could not conclude that he was murdered because of a lack of compelling evidence.
Highlighting a litany of mistakes made by police and MI6, she said the case is 'unlikely' ever to be explained, drawing a blank over one of the most debated deaths in recent years.
In the end, it was a bitter-sweet conclusion for the spy's family who have always blamed foul play, insisting the codebreaker was assassinated by shadowy secret agents specialising in the 'dark arts'.
Summing up her two-hour narrative verdict, Dr Wilcox told a packed Westminster Coroner's Court: 'The cause of his death was unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated.
'I am therefore satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that Gareth was killed unlawfully.'
But she stopped short of recording the verdict so desired by the Williams family because she could not be 'satisfied so that I'm sure that he was ... unlawfully killed'.
Mr Williams' decomposing remains were discovered encased within a padlocked sports holdall in the bathtub of his flat, in Pimlico, west London, in August 2010.
But, underlining one of the most puzzling aspects of the case, she said that the bag could only have been placed into the bath by another person.
She noted that there was no sign of forced entry and no foot or fingerprints, including his own, anywhere near Mr Williams' body.
'In my view what was more significant was what was not found rather than what was found,' Dr Wilcox said. 'If Gareth had been carrying out some kind of peculiar experiment, he wouldn't care if he left any foot or fingerprints.'
She backed a professional escapologist's earlier assertion that 'even Harry Houdini would struggle' to get inside and padlock the bag alone, referring to footage watched in court last week of the yoga expert trying and failing to seal himself inside a replica bag.
She said a sinister plot to have Mr Williams killed was not out of the question and pointed out that British Secret Service involvement was 'still a legitimate line of inquiry'.
BRITAIN'S SPY CHIEF' APOLOGISES 'UNRESERVEDLY' AS FAMILY PAYS EMOTIONAL TRIBUTE"
Sir John Sawers (pictured), chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, expressed the 'deepest condolences' of MI6 and GCHQ for the death.
In a statement delivered by MI6 lawyer Andrew O'Connor, Sir John said the service should have acted more swiftly when Mr Williams failed to turn up to work in August 2010.
Mr O'Connor said: 'On behalf of the whole organisation, Sir John regrets this deeply and apologises unreservedly.'
The MI6 chief said 'lessons have been learned, in particular the responsibility of all staff to report unaccounted staff absences'.
Mr Williams 'was a man of remarkable talents, talents which he devoted to the public service', the statement added.
But the apology didn't wash with Mr Williams' family who said their 'grief is exacerbated' by the MI6 blunders.
In a statement read out by their solicitor, read partly in Welsh, they said they were 'extremely disappointed' at the secret services' 'reluctance and failure' to make relevant information available to the death inquiry.
They also attacked the 'total inadequacies' of the inquiry by Metropolitan Police counter-terror branch SO15 into MI6 and called on Scotland Yard's chief to look into how the investigation would proceed in light of this.
'(We) cannot describe the depth of the sorrow his absence leaves in our lives,' they said.
'We love you, Gareth, and will treasure your memory eternally.
'To live on in the hearts of those we love and leave behind is not to die.'
However, she added that 'there was no evidence to support that he died at the hands of' spies.
She said there had been 'endless speculation but little evidence' and that the investigation had been severely hampered because 'many agencies fell short' in their handling of the case.
This prompted MI6 chief Sir John Sawers to apologise 'unreservedly' to family over the way the police inquiry was hampered by his colleagues for failing to realise he was missing until days after his death.
One of the few early clues - a swab of DNA found on Mr Williams' hand - that was initially thought to indicate third-party involvement turned out to have been left by a forensic scientist, she said.
She ruled out any connection between Mr Williams' death and an alleged fetish for bondage and women's clothing that was claimed during the seven-day inquest.
She went on to dismiss speculation that Mr Williams died as a result of some kind of 'auto-erotic activity', also denying there was any evidence to suggest claustrophilia - the love of enclosed spaces - was of any interest to him.
'I find on the balance of probabilities that if he had got into the bag and locked himself in, he would have taken a knife in with him,' she said.
'He was a risk assessor.'
Over the past week, she has heard evidence from 39 witnesses, including anonymous spies, distraught family members, police and scientists. But none could provide a definitive answer.
But detectives leading the probe have vowed to get to the bottom of the riddle, suggesting that Britain's Secret Intelligence Service still have questions to answer.
Lead detective Jackie Sebire said: 'My strongest belief is that a third party was involved and I would ask people to search their consciences and come to us to find some resolutions to this case and some peace for his family.'
Pathologists said he would have suffocated within three minutes if he was alive when he got inside the 32in by 19in red North Face bag and most likely asphyxiated or was poisoned.
But secrecy surrounding his job at MI6 and the GCHQ eavesdropping station had proved a stumbling block.
The hearing reached a dramatic climax yesterday when Dr Wilcox angrily accused Scotland Yard of undermining the inquiry into his death by giving MI6 special treatment.
In a day of drama, a senior detective was accused of failing to be ‘completely impartial’ when he dealt with potentially vital evidence and another as being 'as helpful [to the investigation] as a London pea-souper'.
And the coroner raised deep concerns over the failure of police to seize all of 31-year-old Mr Williams’s possessions from his MI6 office.
Nine computer memory sticks and a black bag were overlooked in the inquiry until the Ms Sebire, was made aware this week.
Another detective was forced to admit he only made a ‘cursory search’ of the office. Detective Constable Colin Hall was accused by barrister Anthony O’Toole, who represents the Williams family, of being ‘as helpful as a London pea souper’.
Mr O’Toole said: ‘If this had not been the Secret Intelligence Service [MI6] and it was the Kray twins or someone else you would have gone into this in far more detail wouldn’t you?’
The final hours of evidence at the inquest into Mr Williams’s mysterious death were dominated by claims that police failed to put MI6 under the spotlight.
Scotland Yard murder detectives were not able to speak to his MI6 colleagues directly. Instead, their questions were channelled through counter terrorism detectives, who only replied with general and anonymous summaries.
And MI6 confirmed for the first time that his laptop was checked by spies before being handed to police.
Dr Wilcox said Detective Superintendent Michael Broster, who acted as a ‘firewall’ between MI6 and police because of his high-level security clearance, had failed to pass on relevant information.
She said: ‘Don’t you think the murder inquiry and those responsible for it should have been investigating that evidence and not the person providing the evidence to you?
Over the eight days of information gathering, Dr Wilcox has heard how the fitness fanatic, originally from Anglesey, north Wales, crammed his life with secrets - in and out of work.
He excelled as a spy, producing 'world-class' codebreaking intelligence for MI6 and the GCHQ.
But the teetotal fitness enthusiast lived a solitary personal life that was dramatically removed from the world of espionage.
Police, who painstakingly pieced together his unlikely interests, discovered a fiercely private bachelor fascinated by women's clothes and drag queen culture.
He enrolled on a fashion course and collected £20,000 of unworn designer women's clothing at his pristinely tidy flat, including 26 pairs of women's shoes designed by Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney, Christian Dior and Chloe.
Small and medium-sized dresses were also hung up in pristine condition wrapped in tissue paper in his wardrobes along with women's wigs, including one Mr Williams had bought on a recent trip to Las Vegas.
Over the next two days he was spotted shopping in Fortnum and Masons, Benetton and Harrods before eventually being seen returning to his flat at 3.05pm with bags of shopping. He was not seen again.
Internet searches by Mr Williams and a video taken on his Apple iPhone suggested he wore the shoes.
Mr Williams was unhappy living in London at the time of his death and complained to family of 'friction' at the intelligence agency.
He hated the post-work drinking culture and 'flash car competitions' and was due to move back to the West Country a week after his naked body was discovered.
Colleagues, friends, family and police queued up to pay tribute to his extraordinary ability, which saw him land a first-class mathematics degree at 17.
Stephen Gale, his boss at GCHQ's Cheltenham base, said Mr Williams stunned fellow intelligence specialists with his codebreaking talents when he landed his first job at 21.
He cycled around the Gloucestershire hills 'like a red bullet' but won the respect of his colleagues for his 'warm smile' and sense of humour under pressure, Mr Gale said.
Bosses were so impressed that they paid for him to gain further qualifications in advanced mathematics at Cambridge University.
Mr Gale said: 'He was considered something of a prodigy and it was quite remarkable that he had achieved those levels of qualifications at such a young age.
'Colleagues recall a young man who was very close to his father - he spoke about their climbing trips together.
But the keen cyclist and fell runner missed the countryside after arriving in London.
His sister Ceri Subbe said: 'He disliked office culture, post-work drinks, flash car competitions and the rat race. He even spoke of friction in the office.'
Ms Subbe said her brother was immensely close with his family, from Anglesey, Wales.
'In terms of a big brother figure, Gareth was perfect,' she said. 'It's impossible to do justice to Gareth's impressive character without meeting him.'
Mr Williams and Ms Subbe 'had a truly magical time' during their last meeting for 'dainty finger sandwiches' at the Ritz hotel, she said.
'As a family we were incredibly close,' her statement said.