It was a case that had everything: a young intelligence agent, a mysterious death, baffled authorities. But the demise of Gareth Williams, whose body was found inside a duffel bag in 2010, may turn out to have been a suicide after all.
Williams, a 31-year-old code breaker for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI6), was found padlocked inside a bright red North Face bag in his London apartment on Aug. 23, 2010. The keys, interestingly enough, were found inside the bag, underneath his body. He had been dead for nearly a week before neighbors and co-workers noticed he had gone missing.
Following a high-profile investigation, a British coroner originally reported that it would not have been possible for Williams to lock himself inside the bag, prompting rumors of murder, skullduggery and general international intrigue. But in a subsequent probe, authorities determined that it was indeed possible for Williams to climb into the bag and lock himself in. According to the Daily Telegraph:
Two experts tried a total of 400 times to lock themselves into the bag and one claimed that even world-famous escapologist Harry Houdini “would have struggled” to squeeze himself inside.
But days after the inquest verdict a retired Army sergeant showed how it was possible to climb into a similar North Face bag and lock it from the inside.
Local authorities have managed since to replicate Williams’ results with a fair degree of success.
Williams reportedly loved self-bondage websites and was obsessed with claustrophilia, or the love of being enclosed, and had been researching (ahem) both interests on his computer just days before he died. Despite the evidence, the original inquest discounted the possibility of accidental death. After tracking down and ruling out several murder suspects, an examination of forensic evidence indicated that Williams was alone at the time of his death.
Police, however, have refrained from making any official determination in the case. “This remains an active investigation and officers continue to explore a number of lines of inquiry. Officers retain an open mind in relation to the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Williams,” a Metropolitan police spokesman told the Guardian.