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MI6 employee murdered in London
August 25, 2010 5:00 AM   Subscribe

A man believed to be a MI6 employee has been found murdered in a flat in Pimlico.

The man's body was found in a sports bag in the bathtub of the flat; it's believed that he had been stabbed, and may have been murdered up to a fortnight ago. He is said to have worked for GCHQ (the signals-intelligence arm of the British state), on secondment to MI6, though his exact job title is unknown. The flat is in Pimlico, not far from the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, in a street where bankers and politicians live.

Assuming that reports of the man being a MI6 agent are true (and the government, understandably, is not forthcoming on the matter), this is the highest-profile murder of an intelligence agent in London since the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
posted by acb (84 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, and the building is owned by a mysterious private company with a Slavic name headquartered in the British Virgin Islands; however, I suspect that that would apply to a lot of buildings in London.
posted by acb at 5:01 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought the point of being a secret agent was the secret part.
posted by crunchland at 5:13 AM on August 25, 2010


The man who is said to have the codename "Naimina"...

OMFG!
posted by seanyboy at 5:18 AM on August 25, 2010 [38 favorites]


"Secret agents" working for SIS (not MI6) work in other countries. The Security Service (what you've probably seen called MI5) work in the UK. It's not very likely that he was an actual active-duty SIS spy given that small fact.
posted by longbaugh at 5:19 AM on August 25, 2010


Google Street View of the building.
posted by i_cola at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2010


with every move he makes, another chance he takes, odds are he won't live to see tomorrow...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:26 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lets just get the terms of reference correct before we proceed shall we?

- Gareth Williams was not an MI6 employee.
- He worked for GCHQ and was on secondment to MI6 aka SIS.


MI5 - Military Intelligence Department 5 - also known as 'The Security Service'
MI6 - Military Intelligence Department 6 - also known as 'SIS' (Secret Intelligence Service)
GCHQ - Government Communications Headquarters
posted by numberstation at 5:30 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Eponysterical

Also, this is why newsfilter is a bad idea.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:33 AM on August 25, 2010


Lets just get the terms of reference correct before we proceed shall we?
posted by numberstation

This is as eponysterical as it gets, folks.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:34 AM on August 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


At the risk of stating the obvious, I want to reply to crunchland's statement that "I thought the point of being a secret agent was the secret part". Some secrets have expiry dates. Once the secret agent is dead, there is really nothing more that can happen to him as a result of this revelation that he had been working for MI6.
posted by grizzled at 5:34 AM on August 25, 2010


ah, hell, beat me by a minute, Dracator.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:35 AM on August 25, 2010


...there is really nothing more that can happen to him as a result of this revelation that he had been working for MI6.

Of course, there may well be plenty that can still happen to any number of dead person's friends/contacts/associates...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:36 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Once the secret agent is dead, there is really nothing more that can happen to him as a result of this revelation that he had been working for MI6.

To him, no, but it may cast a very different light on his activities as well.

"So, this Gareth Williams person had traveled extensively to St. Petersburg under the cover of a company called Allied Widgets. We didn't realize that Allied Widgets was an MI6 front. Good to know."
posted by Etrigan at 5:40 AM on August 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yes, but remember I merely pointed out that SOME secrets have expiry dates. Some don't. Although actually, with enough passage of time, all secrets eventually become irrelevant. But some last much longer than others. In this case it may be that there actually aren't any friends/contacts/associates who are put at risk by this disclosure. Or, perhaps there are, and someone made an unfortunate error in allowing this information to get out. But I am going to give whoever it was the benefit of the doubt. He or she probably did not make such an elementary error.
posted by grizzled at 5:41 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This may also be the perfect opportunity to lure you into an attack on Allied Widgets, where you will be ambushed. You never know how devious James Bond will turn out to be.
posted by grizzled at 5:44 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy crap!!

I lived on Alderney street two years ago!
posted by vacapinta at 5:45 AM on August 25, 2010


with every move he makes, another chance he takes, odds are he won't live to see tomorrow... --- worst. lip-syncing. ever.
posted by crunchland at 5:51 AM on August 25, 2010


Gareth Williams was not an MI6 employee.

Wait, wait, wait. Am I missing something? Where are you guys getting the name Gareth Williams? Or is this just a placeholder name for now?
posted by limeonaire at 5:52 AM on August 25, 2010


Waaaaaah!
posted by Jofus at 5:53 AM on August 25, 2010


Ahh, I see—other news reports mention the guy's name. The one linked above, however, doesn't.
posted by limeonaire at 5:54 AM on August 25, 2010


so vacapinta, which is is? Banker, Politician, ........or.....DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!!! Spy?
posted by Wilder at 5:56 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess the only thing I can add is that the area is not as banker/politician as they make it sound.

Alderney street intersects with Lupus st. and its council housing. That intersection has cheap markets and the police seemed to be breaking up some fight there every other weekend.
And St. George St., two streets over from Alderney is teeming with run-down budget tourist hotels
posted by vacapinta at 5:59 AM on August 25, 2010


But I am going to give whoever it was the benefit of the doubt.

You have great faith in humanity.

I, however, know that people fuck up all the fucking time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:12 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually have only a small amount of faith in humanity left. If I had none at all, I wouldn't even be able to post messages on this site, on the presumption that everyone reading them is a lunatic anyway, and no useful purpose can be accomplished by trying to communicate with such people. People do fuck things up very frequently, but not quite all the time. If it was all the time then nothing would work ever, and the human race would be, if not actually extinct, at least stuck in the stone age and unable to advance (and even the stone arrow-heads would not be correctly made).
posted by grizzled at 6:17 AM on August 25, 2010


I don't know much, but I do know the "police source" in The Guardian article (at the first link) has given the newspaper a cracking spy thriller quote.

A police source stressed that the man had not been formally identified... He added: "If he really was a spy, you imagine someone would have reported him missing rather sooner."

That's exactly what "someone" wants you to think, Mr Plod!

And

.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:19 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


A police source stressed that the man had not been formally identified, saying that while his employment documentation suggested he had indeed worked for the secret service, "he might have been an air conditioning technician rather than a spy".

Why, yes, that is a very reasonable conclusion!
posted by odinsdream at 6:20 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Note the unfotunate gentleman is likely not an agent. It appears he is a technician, a guy who runs the equipment that is used in signals monitoring.

It still could be connected to his work, however.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:23 AM on August 25, 2010


I can account for my movements over the last two weeks. I was nowhere near Pimlico. I have no knowledge of this man, or what may have happened to him.
posted by Naberius at 6:25 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was he killed with a radioactive teapot? I worked two buildings away from that murder when it went down, and had friends who had to get screened at the NHS for traces of radiation.
posted by msbutah at 6:25 AM on August 25, 2010


I want to know if his demise was related to this; and thirding Dr Dracator.
posted by adamvasco at 6:31 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't it a little early for this? Nobody knows anything.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:36 AM on August 25, 2010


Nobody knows anyone. Not that well.

name the movie. quick
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 AM on August 25, 2010


Miller's Crossing!
posted by zarah at 6:47 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"he might have been an air conditioning technician rather than a spy".

Why, yes, that is a very reasonable conclusion!
"

Why can't it be both?
posted by Rat Spatula at 6:47 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to work with someone who shared a flat in Pimlico with a Gary / Gareth. There's a suspicious looking van outside...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:48 AM on August 25, 2010


Bankers and politicians? What the hell do you expect to happen in such a neighbourhood? Soon as you get that ilk moving in, corruption and murder are sure to follow. Duh.
posted by Goofyy at 6:48 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


MI5 - The Professionals / Spooks.
MI6 - James Bond.
CGHQ - Too boring to have inspired a media property.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:55 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I knew that this FPP was going to turn into a MeFi detective-fiction exercise.

Can we now have some plot or character development?

Dr. Gareth Williams, Ph.D. Math, Cambridge University.

That much is in the papers.

Cassette tapes that he might have used for work...

Gone missing?

"[W]hose body was found stuffed into a sports bag in the bath of his London flat."

Ew.

Forgive the pun, but this could cut several different ways. Was his body in pieces in that sports bag or was it an oversized bag? Cutting up the body is a tell for a plan. It's also pretty cold-blooded. If someone bothered to bag up his remains, there was an initial thought of moving the remains, which was obviously abandoned.

Is this going to be the next Messiah installment?
posted by vhsiv at 6:59 AM on August 25, 2010


If he was seconded over from another intelligence agency, doesn't that rather strongly imply that he was more directly involved with intelligence work?

Or in other words, why would MI-6 need to get its air conditioning technicians from GCHQ?
posted by Naberius at 6:59 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Naberius: Secondments are relatively par for the course in this area and are designed to try and keep a check on the inter-service rivalary.
posted by numberstation at 7:04 AM on August 25, 2010


Miller's Crossing!

Woot!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 AM on August 25, 2010


Numberstation: Sure, I get that for actual intelligence types, (Hey, I watch MI-5 as they call it over here.) But technicians?
posted by Naberius at 7:11 AM on August 25, 2010


Looks like they need Gareth Keenan to investigate.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


seanyboy: The man who is said to have the codename "Naimina"...

What are you quoting here? The only Google hit for that phrase is your comment.
posted by teraflop at 7:20 AM on August 25, 2010


Naberius: Sorry but I have missed a step. What is the source for the 'air conditioning technician' - I have read the apparent 'Police Source' quote mentioned by odinsdream but this does not specifically state that he was an AC Technician but calls into question the assumption that he was a spy. It is noted in various articles that Mr Williams is a double first Cambridge grad and therefore I would suggest AC Technician is not in keeping with this. To my ears this sounds like an off-duty copper in a pub with a hack who is trying to tap him up for more details. The copper trying to downplay the media assumption that he was a spy.
posted by numberstation at 7:21 AM on August 25, 2010


seanyboy: The man who is said to have the codename "Naimina"...

What are you quoting here? The only Google hit for that phrase is your comment.
posted by teraflop at 8:20 AM on August 25 [+] [!]


read this, linked as "Waaaaah!" above.
posted by mecran01 at 7:33 AM on August 25, 2010


If someone bothered to bag up his remains, there was an initial thought of moving the remains, which was obviously abandoned.

Clearly, they were not smart from the very beginning.
posted by ZsigE at 7:37 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Numberstation: No, I think we're on the same page. The police source was apparently saying something along the lines of, look, not everybody who works for MI-6 is automatically a spy. Someone's got to answer the phones and fix the air conditioners at MI-6 just like at any other office. (i.e. he might not have been a spy and so his death might not be espionage-related.)

Which makes sense, except (to me) for the fact that he was seconded over to MI-6 from another intelligence agency. That doesn't strike me as something you'd bother to do with support types. I don't imagine there's a lot of interservice rivalry between the administrative assistants at MI-6 and GCHQ, or that anyone would much care if there were.

Didn't know the double first Cambridge bit either, but I agree with you that makes it sound even less like he's one of the support staff.
posted by Naberius at 7:39 AM on August 25, 2010


Or in other words, why would MI-6 need to get its air conditioning technicians from GCHQ?

Why indeed!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:42 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats of Naimina - First Lieutenant I First Lieutenant I

Russian Numbers Station UVB-76: serious shit going down.
The most recent voice recording has been transcribed, it appears to be an encoded message with several Russian names spoken possibly as part of a phonetic alphabet.

" UVB-76, UVB-76 - 93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 - 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4 - (repeated twice) "
British spy' found dead in bath
posted by vhsiv at 7:44 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Miller's Crossing!

Woot!
posted by flapjax at midnite


And a slow dirge plays as a hat blows down the lane...
posted by Ghidorah at 7:59 AM on August 25, 2010


MI5 - The Professionals / Spooks.
MI6 - James Bond.


My favorite spy genre show revolving around SIS / MI6 was the British series The Sandbaggers.
posted by RichardP at 8:06 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nobody knows anyone. Not that well.

What's the rumpus?!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:08 AM on August 25, 2010


I lived on Westmoreland Terrace, a few blocks away, only ten years ago. This could have been a message intended for me!

I've said too much.
posted by chinston at 8:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's the rumpus?!

Maybe it was injuns.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2010


An A/C technician would make an excellent spy. Access to all that duct work...

But seriously, if the guy's a PhD, odds are he's not the HVAC guy.
posted by maryr at 8:29 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are the 39 Steps?
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 AM on August 25, 2010


What's the rumpus?!

Are you giving me the high hat?
posted by cucumber at 8:49 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What are the 39 Steps?

Yeah, but more importantly - Is It Safe?
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2010


39 Step classes.
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2010


And now some personal messages:

The cat wears red shoes.

The princess is asleep under the table.
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:21 AM on August 25, 2010


I like the fact the property is owned by New Rodina, a BVI shell company. OK, I made the shell bit up.

It could have been worse. The property could have been in the name of Moose & Squirrel.
posted by warbaby at 9:36 AM on August 25, 2010


It's a cold day for pontooning.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:37 AM on August 25, 2010


A suicide as obvious as David Kelly's.
posted by grounded at 10:09 AM on August 25, 2010


Goldfinger's Horoscope for August 11:

"Today, plan for all your expectations to be met, with little or no discussion"
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:09 AM on August 25, 2010


Eileen Booth, 73, who lives opposite Williams' apartment, added, “Detectives came round and asked for our eye color and height. They said this probably happened two weeks ago.”

How. Very. Interesting.
posted by grounded at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2010


Allied Widgets

They've been spying on us through our Guinness cans all along. I knew it!

*reaches for tin-foil hat*
posted by ob at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2010


Jeepers!
I was kinda joking with an earlier woo-hoo comment about spy thrillers, but the recently updated story at The Guardian (first link) now reports:

"This morning, the man's former landlady, Jenny Elliott, said that he had lived in a flat in her house near Cheltenham for 10 years while working nearby...Elliott, 71, said the man had been due to move back in to her house next week after spending a year living and working in London....Elliott said he was a quiet man who enjoyed cycling and running and kept himself to himself...

She added: "This awful thing is happening and he was a lovely man, very well-mannered and very likeable. He was very clever and had been to Cambridge and had a very important job at the Foreign Office. Although he didn't belong to me, I was quite proud of him. It's like losing one of my own children."



I've only just finished expiring with expat pleasure watching the brilliant UK TV version of Le Carre's A Perfect Spy (1987) on Netflix...

wiki synopsis: "A Perfect Spy is the tale of Magnus Pym, a long-time spy for the United Kingdom. After attending his father's funeral, Pym mysteriously disappears. His fellow secret agents (not unreasonably) suspect he might have betrayed them — throughout most of his career, Magnus worked for the Czechoslovak secret service. Although intrigue, wit, and suspense compose the novel, the story of Magnus Pym is partly an unadorned recollection of Magnus' childhood and memories of his father Rick Pym.

No, no - there's more...(spoilers)!

You see - best I can recall in a hurry -the TV adaptation climaxes with Pym (Peter Egan) fleeing from London to the secret digs he has long rented in the house of an elderly, mother-substitute landlady (stunningly played by Peggy Ashcroft) who has no idea that her lovely, terribly clever, Oxford-educated on-and-off lodger who claims ONLY to have an important but dull job in Whitehall and simply wanted a quiet bolthole to do his memoir writing - is actually a....
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:20 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fake Passport To Pimlico
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:26 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Somebody really wanted to use the word "fortnight"
posted by tehloki at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2010


Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats of Naimina - First Lieutenant I First Lieutenant I

Russian Numbers Station UVB-76: serious shit going down.

The most recent voice recording has been transcribed, it appears to be an encoded message with several Russian names spoken possibly as part of a phonetic alphabet.

" UVB-76, UVB-76 - 93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 - 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4 - (repeated twice) "

British spy' found dead in bath


Not to mention that the message was broadcast on the same day as the body naimina aka. Gareth Williams was discovered.
posted by Authorized User at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2010


I know someone who lives in a flat in Pimlico who would be useful in a situation like this.

Jack Regan.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:29 AM on August 25, 2010


My favorite spy genre show revolving around SIS / MI6 was the British series The Sandbaggers.

One of the all time greatest ever TV shows, sadly largely forgotten. All Le Carre (as opposed to Bond) fans should seek it out immediately. Neil Burnside is the un-Bond, and yet sexier and more ruthless.



I don't understand the numbers station thing. Can someone 'splain?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:29 PM on August 25, 2010


Check the first hit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:34 PM on August 25, 2010


I meant, how do people know that one had anything to do with this?
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:39 PM on August 25, 2010


Oh hell, I think that's mostly a joke by seanyboy. Other than that, a little coincidental timing is all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on August 25, 2010


how do people know that one had anything to do with this?

They don't. They're just being nerds.
posted by Ouisch at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2010


5 - 17 - 103 - 22 - 22 - 47 - 103 ...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:47 PM on August 25, 2010


The man who is said to have the codename "Naimina"

Just to clarify for everyone, this is not actually the case
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on August 25, 2010


To clarify further to any spys or intelligence officers reading this. I was joking. I know nothing. Please do not kidnap and torture me.
posted by seanyboy at 11:50 PM on August 25, 2010


>>MI5 - The Professionals / Spooks.
>>MI6 - James Bond.
>>CGHQ - Too boring to have inspired a media property.

GCHQ: ....Public Key Cryptography - secretly and several years before anybody at MIT.

But regrettably no exploding cars or girls in bikinis appear to have been involved.
posted by rongorongo at 1:08 AM on August 26, 2010


The cover page of The Sun seems to claim that he was a cross-dresser. Which means there may or may not be any truth in it, but it panders to the prejudices of white van drivers and sells papers.
posted by acb at 2:45 AM on August 26, 2010


Police investigate possibility that murdered British spy may have died at hands of gay lover.
posted by ericb at 7:40 AM on August 27, 2010


"he might have been an air conditioning technician rather than a spy".

Why, yes, that is a very reasonable conclusion!"


As usual, the Guardian flubbed it. He's a vacuum cleaner salesman.
posted by whatzit at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2010


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