Detectives have investigated allegations that police smeared MI6 spy Gareth Williams – but have ruled out taking disciplinary action against any officer.
Scotland Yard’s internal investigation unit examined claims that officers leaked information which led to false media reports that Gareth Williams was a transvestite who was the victim of a sex game that went wrong.
The leaks shifted attention from the spy’s work with MI6 and GCHQ, the Government’s secret listening station, to his private life.
Last night, the Met confirmed its team had ruled out disciplining any officer over the leaks.
In 2010, Mr Williams’s family complained to officers they were learning more about the investigation from newspaper reports rather than from police briefings.
Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Sebire, who is leading the investigation into Mr Williams’s death, told his inquest last week that the leaks diverted resources from genuine lines of inquiry.
The spy’s body was found on August 23, 2010, locked inside a holdall which was placed in the bath at his home in Pimlico, Central London. The victim had last been seen by his colleagues ten days earlier.
Last week, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox questioned the motives of those who leaked details about Mr Williams’s private life, including his visits to bondage websites. His family say the visits could have been work-related.
Dr Wilcox said Mr Williams was not a transvestite and that his collection of £20,000 of unworn women’s clothes were probably gifts for friends.
She also dismissed claims that Mr Williams had entered the sports bag seeking sexual gratification.
The coroner said: ‘I wonder what the motive was for the release of this material to the media. I wonder whether this was an attempt by a third party to intimate a sexual motive.’
Scotland Yard’s internal investigations unit was asked to look at the leaks after concerns were expressed by Det Chief Insp Sebire.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Concerns were raised that information relating to the investigation had been placed in the public domain.
The force initiated an exercise to assess the concerns. A decision was taken not to proceed further.’
Police wasted time on false leads generated by the leaks. Reports that Mr Williams went to gay bars in the Vauxhall area of London, and visited websites on sadomasochism and claustrophilia – the sexual pleasure of confined spaces – proved to be false.
Det Chief Insp Sebire told the inquest that she had seen at first-hand the
distress the leaks had caused the Williams family, but insisted: ‘They did not come from my team.’
A senior police source said that suspicions surrounding the source of the leaks initially centred on counter-terrorism police officers and MI6.
Last night a Whitehall spokesman denied MI6 was responsible for the smears but declined to say whether the Service was also investigating the claims.
A memo released to the inquest revealed that senior officials at GCHQ, where Mr Williams spent most of his career, were concerned about the leaks.
Last night, a GCHQ spokesman declined to comment on the memo or any investigation into the leaks.
MI6 and GCHQ were criticised by the coroner for waiting more than a week before raising the alarm about Mr Williams’s absence.
Dr Wilcox also hit out at counter-terrorism officers who liaised with MI6 and GCHQ, and police officers investigating the spy’s death.
She said evidence that could have helped the inquiry was only passed to detectives once the inquest was in its second week.
Last week it was revealed that police are planning to take DNA samples from up to 50 spies.
Dr Wilcox said the possibility that another spy was involved in Mr Williams’s death was a ‘legitimate line
At the end of the inquest, Mr Williams’s family criticised SO15, the Met’s counter-terrorism branch, for the ‘total inadequacies’ of its investigation into MI6.
The family said: ‘Our grief is exacerbated by the failure of MI6 to make even the most basic inquiries as to Gareth’s whereabouts and welfare.
‘We are also extremely disappointed at the reluctance and failure of MI6 to make available relevant information.’