The Sun (UK)
by Miranda Knox
GLANCING at the passport of her boyfriend of six years, Lisa’s* heart pounded and a wave of nausea washed over her.
The couple were on holiday in Italy, and while looking for her sunglasses in the car’s glovebox, she’d stumbled across the document – which revealed, to her shock, that Mark “Flash” Stone was using a fake name.
The discovery sent her life into freefall, as it later emerged the love of her life was actually an undercover Met Police officer, sent to spy on her and her eco-activist friends.
Despite sounding like the plot of a far-fetched film, it would transpire this was far from a one-off case.
Over more than four decades at least 139 police officers were given false identities to spy on more than 1,000 campaign groups.
Each officer lived undercover for up to nine years, forming close relationships and friendships.
Shockingly, more than 20 were known to have had sexual relationships with women who were unaware of their real identities between the 1970s and 2010, and least three fathered children with their unsuspecting victims.
Here, as the public inquiry that was announced six years ago finally began this week, we take a closer look at the scandal, and the women whose lives were left in tatters…
‘He was paid overtime to spend nights with me’
While the Met has claimed officers were not allowed to have sexual relationships with targets, it appears it was a regular occurrence.
Lisa’s partner, Mark Kennedy, actually had affairs with at least two unwitting women in the seven years he infiltrated an environmental group before he was exposed in 2010.
Speaking about the betrayal to campaign group Police Spies Out Of Lives, Lisa said: “He wasn’t just a man who lied to me in a relationship, he was a fictional character, and he was placed in my life by an employer, and his employer was the police, and in order to create that deception he was trained.
“He was trained in manipulation techniques, he was trained in lying. A backstory was created for him by and with his employers.
“He had a backroom team of people supporting him wherever he went, he had a handler, he had people who were issuing him with fake ID.
“He was being paid overtime for the nights that he spent with me, which must have amounted to quite a lot of money.”
A childhood based on a lie
Not only were they left heartbroken, but some of the women even had children with the deceiving officers.
Jacqui*, then a 22-year-old animal rights activist, was tricked into a three-year relationship by undercover officer Bob Lambert – who was married at the time.
Playing the doting partner, when their son was born in 1985 he was even at her side during labour, but she had no idea about Bob’s real identity until two decades later.
For all that time, both Jacqui and her son, now 35, believed Bob – who disappeared without a trace in 1987 – was a political activist who’d been forced to flee the country to avoid jail.
Jacqui and Bob’s son – who has remained anonymous and is known only as TBS – told The Guardian how hard it had been growing up without a father – and later finding out he hadn’t been who he thought.
“It is quite scary to me just how the police can dip in and out of people’s lives,” he said.
“They still seem to struggle with realising the impact of what they have done.
“It seems very bizarre that when I was born there was not someone who said: ‘Right, this has gone too far, there’s a whole new life here.’”
The Metropolitan Police paid Jacqui more than £400,000 to settle a lawsuit she brought, but incredibly both Jacqui and her son have gone on to build bridges with Bob, and are now in touch.
“The other women who were duped don’t understand how I can forgive him,” Jacqui told the Daily Mail.
“People see him as evil but he’s actually had plenty of suffering himself. It’s been horrendous all round.
“There’s a been a huge human cost.”
Spying on bereaved families
It wasn’t just their relationships that caused controversy.
Operations of this nature spanned decades up until 2010, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the true extent of the Met’s undercover operations began to come to light – after it was revealed at least three officers had been sent to spy on the bereaved family of Stephen Lawrence.
In fact, the inquiry is also set to hear how police repeatedly spied on black justice groups, many of which are run by grieving families whose relatives were killed by police or died in police custody.
This included the campaign group fighting for justice for Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, the electrician shot in 2005 after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.
According to former undercover officer Pete Francis who worked for the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and spied on the Lawrence campaign, his “lowest point” while on the job was attending a candlelit vigil for boxing promoter Brian Douglas after he was killed with a police baton in 1995.
Francis also had two one night stands with women while undercover but told The Guardian: “I can rest slightly easier at night than several other SDS officers, because I never promised women I ever loved them or cared about them.
“I never said I wanted to spend the rest of my life with them or wanted to father children with them.”
Harvesting dead children’s identities
In another grim twist, yet more controversy surrounded the force’s other undercover practices.
To conceal their true identities, disturbingly many officers took on the names of children who’d died.
Officer Bob Lambert, for example, was deployed to infiltrate the Animal Liberation Front, and he became “Bob Robinson” in June 1984 – a cover name that had been picked from a list of dead children.
His new identity belonged to Mark Robert Robinson, who died aged seven of a congenital heart defect in October 1959.
Harrowingly, it’s thought over 100 dead children’s names may have been used.
‘They were deceived, pure and simple’
After all of this came to light, in 2015, the Metropolitan Police issued an “unreserved” apology to the activists who were seduced into “abusive and deceitful” long-term relationships, and have paid out substantial undisclosed sums in civil cases.
In an apology issued in November 2015, Met Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said the relationships “should never have happened” and admitted they “were a gross violation of personal dignity and integrity.”