We often hear reports of strange and mysterious deaths that appear to look like accidents or suicide, but upon closer inspection, show signs that more sinister forces may have been at work. Are any of these deaths truly conspiracies, or are they just random accidents that grieving friends and family have latched on to in an attempt to explain the unknown?
Here are my choices for 5 suspicious and unusual deaths that have been linked with conspiracies.
5. Gareth Williams
In August 2010, an MI6 codebreaker named Gareth Williams was found dead in his London flat under mysterious and bizarre circumstances. His decomposing naked body was found curled up inside a red sports bag, which had been zipped up, padlocked on the outside, and placed in the bathtub.
Police concluded that Mr William’s death was most likely an accident and caused by a sex game gone wrong, where he had locked himself in the bag, and then died as a result of asphyxiation, however the official inquest described the death as “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”.
No fingerprints, footprints or DNA evidence was found on the bath, the zip of the bag, or the padlock, despite Mr Williams being found naked, not wearing gloves, and supposedly having locked himself in the bag. His body showed no signs of having been involved in a struggle, and no alcohol or drugs were found in his blood.
Suspicions were raised even further when it was discovered that the heating in the flat had been left on at the highest setting, despite it being the middle of summer. The heat sped up the decomposition of the body, making it impossible for investigators to determine the exact cause of death.
The absence of forensic evidence combined with the heating being set to high led many to suspect that a third party was involved in the death, and some detectives involved in the investigation believed that the crime scene had been intentionally cleaned of any forensic evidence by an unknown person. Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene, and later told reporters “I remain convinced the flat was tidied up after his death”.
Further crime scene anomalies included the flat having been locked from the outside, which pointed to the likelihood that someone else had been at the flat before police arrived, as well as Mr Williams’s phone being found to have been reset to factory settings just hours before he died. In fact the coroner later commented that the phone was likely to have been used to arrange the fatal meeting with his killer.
It has also been argued that it would have been impossible for Mr Williams to lock himself in the bag. Experts attempted to reproduce the scenario 400 times yet failed to do so, and the coroner later concluded that somebody else placed the bag containing Mr Williams’s into the bath, with many experts believing that it was likely that somebody else placed his body in the bag. In addition to this, it seemed odd that if the death was the result of an accident, why had he made no attempt to free himself? Survival instincts would have kicked in, and he would have struggled to break out when he realised he was trapped, yet no signs of damage to the bag or body were found, and his body was described as being curled up inside the bag in a “peaceful” position.
Further unusual circumstances clouded the investigation – MI6 did not check on their employee despite him being missing for over a week, when standard practice for security services is to search for employees within an hour of them failing to arrive at work. The coroners inquest described this fact as having “stretched the bounds of credibility”, and went on to criticise MI6 for withholding evidence and actively obstructing the police enquiry.
In an even more bizarre twist to the mystery, soon after the body was found anonymous leaks to the media began, portraying Mr Williams as man obsessed with bondage and cross dressing, and it was revealed that over £20,000 worth of women’s clothing was found at his flat, as well as a red female wig, and a large collection of cosmetics. A report from his former landlady reinforced these claims when she spoke of having previously found him tied to his bed after hearing screams for help coming from his room. However accusations regarding his lifestyle were rejected by the coroner, who condemned the leaks as an attempt to manipulate the media, and deflect attention away from MI6.
Crispin Black, a former intelligence advisor who attended the inquest, spoke of the ‘sex game gone wrong’ scenario as a favoured method amongst intelligence agencies for concealing murder, as it disguises the real cause of death, destroys the reputation of the victim, and hampers the police investigation.
Evidence such as his internet browser history indicated that Williams had an interest in claustrophilia, which is the love of enclosed spaces, however it is not beyond the realms of possibility that such evidence could have been planted.
So if this was murder, what could be the motive? His work involved codebreaking and was top secret, so its quite possible that he had been captured and killed by foreign agents, and it has been rumoured that he was investigating illicit cash flows out of Russia, however in September 2015 a former KGB agent claimed that the Russian intelligence service, the SVR, had killed Mr Williams after an attempt at blackmailing him into becoming a double agent went wrong. Mr Williams threatened to reveal the identity of a Russian mole inside GCHQ, and was subsequently killed after an untraceable poison was injected into his ear, and then placed in the bag to obscure the cause of death.
4. Karen Silkwood
Karen Silkwood was a chemical technician involved in the production of plutonium pellets used for nuclear reactor fuel rods, and was employed by Kerr-McGee.
She joined the workers union at the nuclear facility where she was based, and was given the task of investigating health and safety issues. Her investigations led to her uncovering several severe health and safety violations including faulty equipment, falsified reports and most worryingly of all, worker contamination. Security at the plant was found to be so lax that it was possible to smuggle plutonium pellets out, and worryingly over forty pounds of plutonium was found to be unaccounted for.
Karen began documenting everything she found, smuggling out any internal documents which proved her claims, slowly building a case against the company. The Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union soon threatened litigation, and in the summer of 1974, Silkwood testified to the Atomic Energy Commission, blaming contamination of workers on poor safety standards which had slipped due to a speedup of production.
On November 5th, 1974, Silkwood performed a routine self check and found herself to be almost 400 times over the legal limit for plutonium contamination. Her home was also checked, where extensive plutonium contamination was also found. She was the only person in the lab to test positive for contamination, and began to believe that the company she worked for may be trying to kill her in an attempt to silence her, however management at the plant accused Silkwood of contaminating herself in an attempt to damage the companies reputation.
By November 1974, Silkwood felt that she had gathered enough documentation, and decided to go public with her findings. She contacted a New York Times journalist named David Burnham, and arranged to meet him on November the 13th along with Steve Wodka, a union official.
On the day of the arranged meeting with Burnham, Silkwood left a union meeting where she had been seen with a binder and packet of documents on her person, and began the 30 mile drive to the spot where she was supposed to meet the journalist. She never made it to her destination however, and that evening her body was found in her wrecked car which had hit a culvert after running off the road, in what would be classified as an accident. Sedatives where found in her car and bloodstream, and the official theory was that she had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Her car was searched by officers, and none of the documents that she was seen with earlier and had planned to share with the journalist were found. Suspicions were also raised by skid marks found on the road – if she had indeed been asleep at the wheel as was claimed, then how could she have applied the brakes? Scrape marks and dents where also found on her rear bumper and later examination would find paint chips that belonged to another vehicle. The car she was driving was new, and no insurance claims had been filed. Family and friends also confirmed that she had not been involved in any prior accidents, and many journalists began to believe that her car was violently forced off of the road by another vehicle in an effort to murder her, steal the documents she was carrying which proved unsafe practices at the nuclear plant, and make it all look like an accident.
Speculation of foul play intensified when her family revealed that Karen have been receiving threatening phonecalls shortly before her death, and after analysing her injuries, a private investigation concluded that she had been awake during the accident, contradicting the official report.
Karen’s family went on to sue Kerr-McGee, and after a lengthy trial, the jury found the company liable for Silkwood’s previous contamination, and an out of court settlement of 1.38 million dollars was reached, however no liability was admitted, and any suspicions of foul play regarding her death remain unproven.
3. Dag Hammarskjöld
In 1960 Congo was gripped by crisis. Having recently gained independence from Belgium, government forces faced a massive rebellion from one of the countries most mineral rich areas. The rebels were backed by several Western governments and large mining companies, as the area they were fighting for contained rich deposits of uranium, which was vital for the production of atomic weapons, and with the world locked in the cold war, the supply of this uranium along with the other valuable minerals in the area was of great importance.
Dag Hammarskjöld was the secretary-general of the United Nations, and from the start he enraged several Western nations with his support for Congo’s elected government, and his opposition to the rebels. Although his support for decolonisation had angered powerful western nations, his position had earned him support at the UN from developing countries, and meant that he was almost guaranteed to be reelected as secretary-general at the next vote.
Hammarskjöld was thought to be on the brink of ending the civil war and reunifying Congo under the elected government, when on September 18th, 1961, while heading to negotiate a ceasefire with the rebels, the plane he was flying on crashed under mysterious circumstances, killing all on board.
A British run investigation blamed the crash on pilot error, however many believe that Hammarskjöld was murdered by European industrials, with help from the British and other Western powers. His death certainly benefitted several powerful interests, and there is plenty of evidence which points to the crash being more than an accident.
Several local residents reported seeing Hammarskjöld’s plane shot down by a second aircraft, and went to investigate the wreckage at around 5am only to find Northern Rhodesian troops already sealing off the area, despite the official report stating that the crash site was not found until 3pm. The residents were ordered to leave the area, and many of the witnesses were taken away to prison. Unusually, no appeal for information was made for witnesses to come forward.
Bizarrely, several people who saw Hammarskjöld’s body reported seeing a round wound in his forehead that looked like a bullet hole, however the autopsy report mentions no such wound, and official photographs of the body either do not show the area around the right eye where the wound was, or show evidence of being touched up to conceal something. Did Hammarskjöld survive the crash only to be executed by the soldiers sealing off the crash site? The autopsy report does note that bullets were found in the bodies of Hammarskjöld’s bodyguards, however blames them on the fire causing ammunition to explode into their corpses, and despite the plane being engulfed in fire, Hammarskjöld’s body was the only one without burns.
A US citizen named Harold Julien survived the crash, but died of his injuries in a poorly equipped local hospital five days later, but not before telling doctors that he had seen sparks in the sky and heard an explosion before the plane crashed. His evidence was dismissed by the inquiry on the grounds that he was ill and sedated, however the doctor treating him said that he was lucid at the time, and that he could have survived his injuries if he had been moved to better facilities. Why was a US citizen working for the UN left there for 5 days instead of being evacuated?
2. Jonathan Moyle
28 year old Jonathan Moyle was the editor of the magazine ‘Defence Helicopter World’, and was visiting Santiago in Chile to attend a defence conference. This would be his last trip however, and he was found dead in his hotel room, hanging naked inside the wardrobe with a pillow case over his head. British foreign office officials were quick to spread information to the media stating that Mr. Moyle had died while involved in auto-erotic sex, which involves gaining pleasure from asphyxiation to the point of black out.
The scene at the room was truly bizarre, and the official version of events seemed to have major flaws. A needle mark was found on Mr Moyle’s leg, and blood was splattered on the bed and appeared as though somebody had tried to wipe it clean. Both of these factors were glaringly missing in the initial police investigation.
Mr Moyle’s family refused to accept the official version of events, and his father believed that his son had been murdered because he was about to expose an illicit arms deal taking place between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and a Chilean arms dealer worth £300M. He alleged that his son had been killed by a local hitman after being sedated with drugged coffee, and then injected with a lethal dose of poison. During the autopsy, powerful tranquillisers were found in Jonathan’s stomach, and a witness at the hotel testified that he was seen arguing with an unknown visitor to his room. After the argument the visitor was seen leaving, before returning later on with two accomplices.
The hotel room was messy and turned over, as though somebody had performed a quick but thorough search – many believe that it’s likely the three unidentified men were looking for any incriminating documents Mr Moyle may have had relating to the arms deal.
To add to the mystery, initial reports rejected the idea that Mr Moyle had links to the intelligence services, however it was later proven that he had been secretly recruited by MI6 while at university, and may have been investigating the secret arms deal on their behalf. Had MI6 covered up the murder to hide their involvement in espionage? Jonathan’s family certainly think so.
Further incriminating details emerged when an un-redacted version of a CIA report blamed Mr Moyle’s murder on a British government agent, explaining that he was killed because he possessed hard evidence of UK covert arms deals.
Some semblance of justice for the Moyle family was granted in December 1991 when a Chilean investigation ruled that Jonathan had indeed been assassinated, but who was responsible, and why he was killed remain unproven.
1. Dr. David Kelly
The UK entered the Iraq war on the premise that Saddam Hussein’s regime presented a clear and present danger to UK national security. The Prime Minister at the time, Tony Blair, publicly stated that he had received intelligence that Iraq was capable of striking UK forces with weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
Such intelligence was later proven to be false, and a journalist later publicly reported that private sources had told him that Blair’s government intentionally hyped up the danger posed by Iraq in order to justify war. His private source was later revealed to be a Ministry of Defence weapons expert, and former UN weapons inspector, Dr. David Kelly.
On July 15th 2003, Kelly was questioned by a parliamentary committee regarding the leaks, and just 48 hours he would be found dead. The official story was the Dr Kelly had committed suicide by overdosing on painkillers, and slitting his wrists, however due to to the circumstances of his death, many believe that darker forces were responsible.
According to the official story, Dr. Kelly killed himself due to the strain of public exposure, however on the morning of his death he sent several emails to friends whom describe him as sounding anything but depressed. He seemed keen to get back to work and had made plans to travel to Iraq the following week. In one unusual email, he ominously spoke of “many dark actors playing games” suggesting that there was more going on behind the scenes that the public did not know.
On the afternoon of his death, Dr. Kelly took a routine walk in local woods, and never returned. A massive manhunt began, however some wonder how such a high profile individual could have gone missing in the first place. There is good reason to suspect that he had been under surveillance by security services since the media storm had broken, and he was even questioned at an MI5 safe house. The police investigating his disappearance even stripped the wallpaper in his house, supposedly looking for listening devices, before his body had even been found.
At 3am a police helicopter fitted with heat seeking camera flew over the spot where Kelly’s body lay, yet somehow failed to detect him, despite his body still giving off warmth. Either the police failed to do his job, or his body was not where it was supposed to be. Many have theorised that he was killed elsewhere, and his body was dumped in the woods at a later time.
The mystery deepened when a freedom of information act request revealed that a helicopter hired by police had landed at Kelly’s house for 5 minutes, shortly after his body had been found. It remains unknown who was on board and what the purpose of this flight was, as the flight log has been heavily censored.
Kelly’s body was found slumped against a tree in local woods by a search and rescue volunteer, however by the time paramedics had arrived, the body had been moved and was now laying on the floor away from the tree. Detective Constable Graham Coe had been guarding the body, and was seen accompanied by a mystery man who to this day has never been identified. Those who question Kelly’s death point to the possibility that the detective or the unidentified man who was with him may have altered the crime scene.
Further points of debate include what was found at the scene, and how Dr Kelly died. Many prominent Doctors felt that the injuries to Kelly’s wrists, and the painkillers he had taken, would have been unlikely to cause his death. Very little blood was found at the scene, and the medic who first examined Kelly’s body said “I’ve seen more blood at a nosebleed than I saw there”. In fact it takes 3 or 4 pints of blood loss for an adult male to die, however nowhere near this amount was present at the scene. The official story is that Kelly’s existing heart disease combined with an overdose of painkillers would have meant that a smaller amount of blood loss would prove fatal, however this is still hotly debated.
Along with the body police found a water bottle, knife and painkillers, however none of these items contained any fingerprints, despite Kelly supposedly drinking from the bottle, taking the painkillers, and cutting his wrists with the knife, all while not wearing gloves. Abrasions and cuts were found on the body at autopsy, indicating a struggle, however they were dismissed as a result of Kelly “stumbling”.
In the media, Kelly was portrayed as having been depressed and suicidal prior to his death, however the close friend commonly being interviewed actually turned out to be just a work contact, who Kelly did not consider a friend at all. Was this media campaign part of an effort to portray Kelly’s murder as a suicide, and was he in fact murdered in an effort to silence him and prevent his rumoured tell all book from being written, or did he simply end his own life, fearing the destruction of his reputation and career?
So those are my choices for 5 strange and mysterious deaths linked with conspiracies, but what do you think? Which of these cases do you think was most likely to be the result of a conspiracy? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll see you again on the next video.