Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sherlock Holmes And The Alderney Street Mystery

Gareth Williams

Winter Patriot has an extraordinary and extraordinarily readable fictionalized account of the extraordinary, unexplained 2010 murder of Welsh math wizz and cryptanalyst Gareth Williams. To quote from the preface to this book-length work:
On August 23, 2010, Metro Police entered a well-appointed flat at 36 Alderney Street, in the heart of London. In the flat they found an ensuite bathroom, in the bathtub they found a padlocked bag, and in the bag they found the body of Gareth Wyn Williams.

Williams, a brilliant mathematician from Anglesey, Wales, worked in Cheltenham for GQHC, Britain's domestic eavesdropping agency. He was living in London on a one-year secondment to MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, and the block of flats in which his body was discovered was an MI6 "safe house".

Apparently uninterested in potential national-security angles, the police immediately announced they were looking for clues to Williams' mysterious death in the details of his private life. But they didn't make much headway. A month after his body was found, they still hadn't determined the cause of death, although they had admitted the case was "complex" and "unexplained."

It seemed like a job for Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Fortunately, they happened to be available.
The story begins here with: A letter from Anglesey.

As with any good detective story, most readers will remained puzzled until almost the last page as to how the author will manage to draw together the threads to achieve a convincing denouement. But in this case, the tension is heighten by the realization that this is a true story, but that the identify of the murderer(s) has never been established.

Despite the apparent difficulty, the trick is very neatly accomplished and without, apparently, laying the author open to a charge of libel.

It should be remembered, however, that although artistically well conceived, the identification of the murderers is based not on conclusive evidence but on the the author's imaginative reconstruction of events. Its validity must, therefore, be regarded as far from certain.

According to Winter Patriot's story, which is based on the accurate presentation of publicly available information, Gareth Williams was a remarkable straight-forward, if somewhat naive individual, with a strong sense of right and wrong. It is postulated that as an analyst dealing with intercepted communications of terrorist suspects, he realized that the police account of the liquid bomb plot was fraudulent.

Indignant at the unjust conviction of eight men for their alleged role in this phony plot, Williams in some unspecified way betrayed the British security apparatus. As a consequence, he also became a victim of the fake liquid bomb plot, being liquidated -- literally -- by his own employers.

This, however, is only one of many alternative scenarios, and not the most flattering to the memory of the victim.

An entirely different picture could have been painted on the assumption that Williams, who was seconded to the US to participate in secret work with the NSA, fell afoul of his US hosts who liquidated him and, sending a strong warning to his bosses, returned the body by diplomatic pouch to be dumped with contempt in the bath tub of an MI6 safe house.

Embarrassed, the Brits would have had no option but to execute a cover up, and did so with a story that was neither believable, nor perhaps, intended to be believed.

But that is one of a virtually unlimited number of alternative hypotheses. WikiSpooks offers half a dozen other more or less plausible accounts involving Russians, Israelis and sundry others.

The truth, however, is unlikely ever to be revealed. Williams was a spook and spooks, as Aangirfan reports, have a way of dying under strange circumstances.

Ha! But the game is still afoot.

As Winter Patriot points out (see comment), the story continues. Perhaps, by dint of Holmsean logic, the truth will yet emerge.


  1. Many thanks for the link.

    - Aangirfan

  2. Thank you for the link and the very kind words. A guy could hardly ask for more. However, I beg to point out that the story is still being written. So we may all have to wait a little longer to find out how the various parts fit together.

  3. Winter Patriot, Sorry to have indicated prematurely that your story was complete. I have made a correction, accordingly.

    I look forward with tremendous interest to the future installments.

  4. Thanks very much. I hope you enjoy watching the rest of the story unfold.

  5. Excellent story. Have been reading this one with great interest.