Discuss as:

UK coroner: Body-in-bag spy death a mystery, but likely criminal

For nearly two years, investigators have been trying to determine what happened to a brilliant, 31-year-old British spy whose body was found in August 2010 stuffed in a padlocked duffel bag and placed inside his bathtub. After a 21-month investigation, a British coroner announced this was probably a criminal act, but there are no clear signs of who was behind it. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.

The death of a British spy -- whose body was found in a padlocked bag in a bathtub in his London apartment -- may never be explained but was likely a criminal act, the coroner investigating the case said Wednesday.

The coroner, Fiona Wilcox, said that it was a "legitimate line of inquiry" that other spies were involved in the death of Gareth Williams, 31, a member of the U.K.'s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.


Wilcox said the spy was likely killed either by suffocation or poisoning in a "criminally meditated act."

She also said she did not think Williams' passing interest in sexual bondage was behind his death, The Telegraph newspaper said.

Two years after a British spy died under unusual circumstances, police still don't know what led to his demise. NBC's Keir Simmons reports from London.

NBC News

The body of British spy Gareth Williams was found in a bag in his bathtub.

Wilcox said that if Williams, a math prodigy who worked as a code breaker, had got into the bag by himself, foot and fingerprints would have been found around the bath, the paper reported. 

"It is unlikely this death will ever be satisfactorily explained," she said, according to the media reports.

Spy death inquiry looks at bondage link

The coroner also said the large number of women's clothes in the apartment did not show that Williams was a transvestite, The Telegraph noted. The case, she said, had produced in "endless speculation but little evidence."

However, she added that the circumstances of the death "immediately raised the possibility of foul play," according to the Guardian.

UK cops close to arrest over British spy found dead in a bag?

Williams' body was found in his apartment in Pimlico, London, in August 2010.

Metropolitan Police / Reuters

A combination of still photographs taken from video shows a man trying to lock himself in a holdall in this undated image received from the Metropolitan Police in London on April 27.

A forensic pathologist, Benjamin Swift, testified Monday that Williams probably suffocated or was poisoned, saying a precise cause of death could not be established because the body had decomposed. Williams died more than a week before his body was found.

Watch World News videos on msnbc.com

Other experts have said that it was highly likely that another person, or two, were involved.

The case has spawned any number of conspiracy theories that Williams may have been assassinated by foreign agents or terrorists.

MI6 has said it believes his death was  nothing to do with his work.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world