Despite my intrigue in the case of Gareth Williams, I realise that for a lot of people the story was an brief, if bizarre, story that ran for a short while before disappearing off the news radar to be replaced by other more pressing matters; notably a woman putting a cat in a bin.
So here is a quick recap of the events.
Gareth Williams was born in 1970, in Anglesey, North Wales and was a native Welsh Speaker. For those not in the know, Anglesey is the island off the northern tip of Wales. Compared to other rural parts of Wales, Anglesey is somewhat more affluent.
Williams started studying mathematics and graduated from Bangor University with a 1st class degree while only 17 years old. He then followed this up with a PhD from Manchester University. Making him Dr Gareth Williams.
A post graduate course at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge clearly didn’t appeal and he left to start his career at GCHQ in Cheltenham. GCHQ is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces. This is not to be mistaken for HMGCC which is is tasked to provide electronics and software to support the communication needs of the British Government.
Whilst at GCHQ I think we can assume that Williams’ duties at GCHQ centred around code breaking.
His career in Cheltenham lasted over ten years, during which time he rented a one bedroom flat in the area (pictured).
The average salary for this role is around £30-45,000. Remember this is a Government position and while Williams had some seniority, it was made clear that he wasn’t a senior manager. The role would require a minimum of Developed Vetting (DV) security clearance, which is very likely to have been done for GCHQ by FCOS.
At some point in 2009 Williams was then seconded from GCHQ to work directly for the SIS (MI6), who are based near Vauxhall Bridge, in Central London. It seems unlikely that Gareth Williams was required for his cycling skills (though you never know), so we can assume that it was his expertise in encryption that was the key factor.
Either as a result of this move (or previous) Williams travelled to America on regular visits. This is likely to have been to either the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency; or more likely both. Source: Interviews with Williams family.
From reports at the time and new information from the inquest it has transpired that SIS didn’t inform Williams’ GCHQ “Welfare” provider that he was AWOL. It wasn’t until Monday 23 August 2010 that they place the call. At which point he’d been missing from work for between 5 to 10 days (depending on the report). Given he’d not called in sick, why did it take so long for a “reliable” and “conscientious” worker to be missed?
I mean how unobservant ARE these spy guys?!
GCHQ then contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services (FCOS) department who provided the welfare service and requested they look into the matter.This later led to the initial speculation that Gareth Williams was in fact a Foreign Office member of staff (in reports like this).
To clarify, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services (FCOS) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are two separate organisations. FCOS is a Government “trading fund” which basically operates as a “sort of” private company outside Government, while the FCO is a Government department.
The FCOS welfare office tried repeatedly to contact Williams via phone and eventually sent a couple of welfare officers over to the flat registered with them as Williams’ address. To get a prospective on the geography, FCOS’s central London address is between St James’ Park, Trafalgar Square and The Mall. Williams’ flat was less than a mile from Vauxhall Bridge. By London Underground, they were just 30 minutes away.
Upon reaching the flat the FCOS staff were unable to get Williams to come to the door.
Then for reasons we can only speculate about, they immediately contacted the police and in a matter of minutes the police had the door open and called a major incident.
Within hours Gareth Williams name is released to the press.
So our questions are;
- Why did it take two weeks to notice he wasn’t there?
- Why did FCOS officers call the police so quickly?
- Why was his name given up so quickly to the press?
And we’ve not even got into what happened next…..