Relatives of an MI6 spy found dead in a holdall will demand to find out this week if he was killed in a sinister cover-up by secret services.
A coroner will hear from fellow agents, police and friends of Gareth Williams as an inquest beginning today attempts to solve a 21-month mystery.
Family members fear “some agency specialising in the dark arts” leaves them with no way of knowing how and why he died.
Scotland Yard has drawn a blank in its bid to explain his death. Relatives believe someone was either present when he died or broke into his home afterwards to destroy evidence.
Coroner Fiona Wilcox, who has expressed frustration at police over a DNA “error”, is expected to hear from about 30 witnesses over at least five days.
She says that whether Mr Williams was alive inside the bag and locked it himself “was at the very heart of this inquiry”.
The naked and decomposing body of Mr Williams, 31, was found in the bath of his home in Pimlico, central London, in August 2010.
The discovery sparked a painstaking investigation, worldwide media frenzy and several outlandish conspiracy theories.
Mr Williams, of Anglesey, North Wales, was found in a large North Face holdall, sealed by a padlock, at his top-floor flat in Alderney Street.
A battery of post-mortem tests failed to determine how he died and police originally found it would have been impossible for him to have locked himself inside. Family lawyer Anthony O’Toole has said the inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court must establish why there was no evidence of another person in his London apartment.
He told a pre-inquest review: “The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services, or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in those dark arts.”
The mathematics prodigy worked as a cipher and codes expert for GCHQ, the government listening station, but had been on secondment with MI6 since March 2010. Mr O’Toole added: “In our submission, to properly explore the circumstances of the death, we need to establish the deceased’s work.”
Relatives want to know why the alarm was not raised when Mr Williams initially failed to turn up to work. By the time officers arrived at his flat, his body was so decomposed that evidence had been lost. It emerged last month that forensic teams mistakenly flagged up a spot of DNA on Mr Williams’s hand in 2010, before realising just six weeks ago that it matched a scientist working on the crime scene.
It also emerged that a Mediterranean couple police wanted to speak to were irrelevant to Mr Williams’s death.
Dr Wilcox has indicated she may want to see a practical demonstration of how Mr Williams might have got into the bag and locked it himself.
Experts agree that locking the bag from the inside “would have been very difficult, if not impossible”, Metropolitan Police lawyer Vincent Williams said.
The inquest will hear that Mr Williams may have died after breathing too much carbon dioxide. There were no signs of struggle on his body and blood tests have not shown any drugs in his system.