1. Gareth Williams
British intelligence agent Gareth Williams was found dead in August 2010. Williams, suffocated or possibly poisoned, was discovered in the bathtub of his top-secret London spy flat — sealed inside a gym bag. Suspiciously, his government spy co-workers didn’t report him missing for a week. Also suspicious was the fact that the heat had been turned up high in the apartment, speeding up decomposition to the point that determining a precise cause of death would be next to impossible.
Investigators spent the next two years looking into Williams’ background and trying to figure out how in the world he got into the gym bag in the first place. What they turned up was fairly circumstantial evidence that, construed a certain way, could indicate a kinky secret life. This was of course leaked to the press. Investigators discovered that Williams was an avid collector of women’s apparel, though most of what he had didn’t fit him. He took fashion classes and was seen occasionally at gay and transvestite clubs, but never with anyone, and, it seems, never in drag. People both inside the investigation and out began to speculate that Williams had locked himself inside the bag as part of some bizarre fetish, and after two years of trying, a couple of people managed to demonstrate to police that one could actually lock oneself into the make and model gym bag in which Williams was found. At the end of 2012, the coroner reported that Williams had most likely not locked himself into the bag, but was probably murdered. A few weeks later police investigators announced that he probably had locked himself into to gym bag, and died by misadventure. His family, who doesn’t think any of this is funny, continues to pressure the British Government to come out with the truth about Williams’ death.
2. Alexander Litvinenko
Alexander Litvinenko, 43 at the time of his death, started out as a spy for the KGB, and then its successor the FSB. He fled Russia after unbearable political fallout from accusing his superiors of trying to kill Vladimir Putin critic Boris Berezovsky in 1999 by bombing two apartment buildings and killing 300 people. Like Berezovsky had before him, Litvinenko fled to England in 2000. He was granted asylum in 2001, much to the consternation of his enemies, and given the opportunity to spy for the British. On November 1, 2006, Litvinenko was exposed to polonium-210, a radioactive substance that can kill even in minute amounts. He died on November 23.
His doctors detected the polonium-210 in Litvinenko’s urine, and Health Department officials traced the radioactive element to his home and to London’s Millennium Hotel and Pine Bar, which Litvinenko had visited the day he fell ill. The polonium-210 could have been eaten, aspirated or absorbed into a cut. Officials sealed off part of the hotel hoping to get to the bottom of things before more people fell ill. In May 2007, The Guardian reported that 140 people were suffering from polonium-210 contamination in London, including hotel staff, guests, police responders, hospital workers and Litvinenko’s friends and family, 17 of those facing long-term risks.
From the hotel, they traced the polonium-210 to three British Airways planes, two at London’s Heathrow Airport, and one at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport. Authorities wound up alerting the public that as many as 33,000 passengers and 3,000 airport staff could have been exposed. No arrests were ever made and relations between the UK and Russia have been notably strained ever since.
3. James Rusbridger
Retired British journalist, author and MI6 spy James Rusbridger was found dead in his Cornwall home in 1994, hanging from a beam, wearing a protective green radiation suit, a black plastic raincoat, rubber gloves and a gas mask, surrounded by porn involving black women and BDSM. It should be noted that Rusbridger has the distinct honor of being the only person on this list who didn’t die in London. After a formal investigation, officials ruled that Rusbridger had died “due to hanging, in keeping with a form of sexual strangulation.” If his death didn’t seem suspicious then, in light of Gareth Williams’ death, it does now. Actually, there have been more suspicious MI6 agents’ deaths involving autoerotic activities, BDSM and bizarre outfits over the years, which if not cover-ups, certainly show a serious flaw in MI6′s pre-employment screening process.
4. Georgi Markov
Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov worked as a BBC broadcaster and journalist after his 1969 defection. He also did work for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe, and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, using all three as his personal platform for criticizing the Bulgarian regime — good work if you can get it, but not a career with a long-term life expectancy. It seems that by 1978 the Bulgarian ruling party had had enough, and on September 11, while waiting for a London bus, Markov reportedly felt a sharp jab in his thigh, and turned to see a man picking up an umbrella. Markov developed a high fever and four days later, he was dead. Post mortem examination of the body showed that he had been shot with a tiny ricin bullet, presumably from the tip of the umbrella. The only reason investigators found any trace of the highly poisonous bio-terrorism agent is because the outer shell of the tiny pellet failed to dissolve as it should have. Had it done so, there would have been no trace of what had killed Markov. Even so, the case remains open and unsolved.
In shades chillingly reminiscent of the Markov murder, a man, 40, in Hannover, Germany, was stabbed in the buttocks by a stranger with a mercury-tipped umbrella in May, 2011. The victim was unable to describe his attacker before falling into a coma. Authorities reported that doctors thought their patient was showing signs of improvement, when he suddenly and mysteriously died a year later.
5. Roberto Calvi
Italian Banker Roberto Calvi, 62, aka God’s Banker for his ties to the Vatican, was deeply embroiled in a complex web of international fraud and intrigue that was collapsing under its own weight. The players were Banco Ambrosiano, a now-defunct private bank based in Milan, headed by Calvi, the Vatican Bank, the Mafia, and the secret Masonic organization Propaganda Due (P2). It has been theorized that Calvi was acting as an agent for that group, laundering money through his bank. Aware of the bank’s imminent demise, and the fact that his clients would inevitably come after him, Calvi fled from Rome to Venice to London on June 10, 1982, under an assumed name. On June 18, however, his body was found hanging from London’s Blackfriars Bridge near the city’s financial district, with five bricks stuffed into his clothes and about $15,000 in three currencies in his pockets. His death, initially ruled a suicide, was ultimately ruled a homicide when analysis of his neck showed breakage inconsistent with hanging. Additionally, analysis of the bricks showed that Calvi had never touched them, and particulate analysis of his hands and shoes showed no traces of material from the bridge’s scaffolding that he would have had to have climbed in order to hang himself. A later study revealed that at high tide, Calvi could have been tied there easily from a boat and left dangling.