#181 “Deep Deception”: When the Police Targets Women

August 23, 2022 FiLiA Episode 181
#181 “Deep Deception”: When the Police Targets Women
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#181 “Deep Deception”: When the Police Targets Women
Aug 23, 2022 Episode 181

"It was shocking. I felt a great sense of betrayal by the Police. How could they possibly do that to me? What right have they got? I've paid my taxes all my life and they spent that paying a man to come to sleep with me and deceive me. They were playing with our lives because they thought they could get away with anything so they just had a good time while doing it."

FiLiA Spokeswoman Raquel Rosario Sánchez speaks with Belinda, Alison and Helen Steel - co-authors of Deep Deception: The story of the Spycops network by the women who uncovered the shocking truth- who share their experiences of being deceived by the State, the process of writing their powerful book and how they found the courage to move forward.

These five women were targeted by the UK Police, through men who deceived them into intimate relationships in order to get access to their activist networks. 

At the time they were targeted, Belinda was a 24-year-old non-activist who worked as an accounts assistant with the Central Electricity Generating Board. Helen Steel was a 22-year-old gardener and environmental and social justice activist with London Greenpeace. She later became one half of ‘the McLibel Two’ in a gargantuan fight against the McDonalds corporation. Alison was 29 years old at the time and was an English and Media Studies teacher and political activist with the Colin Roach Centre.

Deep Deception is not a book about men. This is a book about women who found a tremendous source of strength within themselves, and with each other. It is a book about women who are fighting an institutional form of misogyny: the infiltration of policemen in activist groups and what happens when the State decides to deliberately target women. 

This could have been a book about women whose lives were destroyed and who were left with no trust in each other or in justice. Instead, Deep Deception is an inspirational story of fortitude, truth and dignity.

You can purchase Deep Deception: The story of the spycop network, by the women who uncovered the shocking truth from the FiLiA Book Shop. Please learn more about the women’s stories at the Police Out of Our Lives website. You can also read more about the Spycops scandal on the website built by the women who were targeted by the Police

At the moment, there is a public inquiry about the Spycops scandal. You can learn more about the inquiry on its website which started hearing evidence in late 2020.

Show Notes Transcript

"It was shocking. I felt a great sense of betrayal by the Police. How could they possibly do that to me? What right have they got? I've paid my taxes all my life and they spent that paying a man to come to sleep with me and deceive me. They were playing with our lives because they thought they could get away with anything so they just had a good time while doing it."

FiLiA Spokeswoman Raquel Rosario Sánchez speaks with Belinda, Alison and Helen Steel - co-authors of Deep Deception: The story of the Spycops network by the women who uncovered the shocking truth- who share their experiences of being deceived by the State, the process of writing their powerful book and how they found the courage to move forward.

These five women were targeted by the UK Police, through men who deceived them into intimate relationships in order to get access to their activist networks. 

At the time they were targeted, Belinda was a 24-year-old non-activist who worked as an accounts assistant with the Central Electricity Generating Board. Helen Steel was a 22-year-old gardener and environmental and social justice activist with London Greenpeace. She later became one half of ‘the McLibel Two’ in a gargantuan fight against the McDonalds corporation. Alison was 29 years old at the time and was an English and Media Studies teacher and political activist with the Colin Roach Centre.

Deep Deception is not a book about men. This is a book about women who found a tremendous source of strength within themselves, and with each other. It is a book about women who are fighting an institutional form of misogyny: the infiltration of policemen in activist groups and what happens when the State decides to deliberately target women. 

This could have been a book about women whose lives were destroyed and who were left with no trust in each other or in justice. Instead, Deep Deception is an inspirational story of fortitude, truth and dignity.

You can purchase Deep Deception: The story of the spycop network, by the women who uncovered the shocking truth from the FiLiA Book Shop. Please learn more about the women’s stories at the Police Out of Our Lives website. You can also read more about the Spycops scandal on the website built by the women who were targeted by the Police

At the moment, there is a public inquiry about the Spycops scandal. You can learn more about the inquiry on its website which started hearing evidence in late 2020.

Raquel: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the FiLiA podcast. My name is Raquel Rosario Sanchez and I am the spokeswoman for FiLiA today.

 We are very pleased to be speaking with Alison, Belinda and Helen who are some of the authors of Deep Deception, the story of the spy cops network, by the women who uncovered the shocking truth. The book has just come out and it is a story of five motivated and independent women who found themselves in an operation that involved policemen pretending to be their partners.

In some cases, the men started to behave strangely, disappeared for weeks at a time saying they needed to go away to clear their heads. But these men were undercover police officers and they targeted the women specifically because of the links they had to activist groups. 

We are, at FiLiA, absolutely delighted to be able to speak with Alison, Belinda and Helen. We are missing Lisa and Naomi.

Let's talk about this very courageous piece of work.  Thank you, all of you for, for speaking with me, I'm absolutely delighted for this opportunity. And I just want to say before we begin, that the book is riveting and it's hard to put it down because you start from a position of, not the story that the world now knows, which is that the UK government had police entering relationships with women to get information about political organising, but you start from the position of how it all began. And you walk us through the start of these relationships and where you were at the time. Some of you were very young.  You spanned like 29, 24, 32 years old, and we meet you as the women there. 

So I want to start by saying women, how are you? 

Alison: We're good. I'm good. Thank you. I'm good. And thank you for inviting us to speak about our book on this podcast. It's great to have FiLiA’s support and just as an opportunity to raise awareness about the book and why we wrote the book. So I'm okay.

Helen: Yeah, likewise. I'll just agree with everything Alison said. Thank you for having us on. 

Belinda: I’m Belinda. Again, it's nice to be able to let people know about our experiences really, and the effect it's had, just to sort of open up the debate about what happened to us really.

Raquel: I just want to give some background around this undercover operation.

So in your prologue you write in 1968, a shadowy undercover police unit was established in Britain, the special demonstrator squad to spy on protestors in mainly left wing and progressive groups. And then the officers from those squads secretly infiltrated organisations by any means necessary, including by forming long term intimate sexual and emotional relationships with women activists, like you. They had children with some of these women and they robbed others of their chance of motherhood.

So the people that we're talking about, we have Belinda, she was 24, a non- activist, and she was working as an accounts assistant with the CEGB central electricity generating board at the time that this happened in her life.

 We have Helen Steel. You were 22 at the time, you were a gardener and an environmental and social justice activist with London, Greenpeace. And throughout the process in the middle of it, you became involved in the McLibel legal case. 

Alison, you were 29. You were an English and media studies teacher and a political activist with the Colin Roach Centre. 

The men that we're going to be talking about here are Bob Robinson, who claimed to be 29 at the time, but was in fact Bob Lambert and he was 35 at the time he was with Belinda who was 24 at the time.

 John Barker claimed to be 27 at the time. And his real name is John Dines and he was 32 at the time he was with Helen. Helen was 22 at the time. 

And then Mark Cassidy claimed to be 27, but his real name was Mark Jenner and he was 31. And he was with Alison, who was 29 at the time.

So you were young women and you were targeted by this very coordinated infiltration by these men. 

Looking back, did you feel that there were elements that made you particularly vulnerable?

Helen: I think the fact that we're female. We now know that actually over 50 women were deceived into relationships by these officers.

It's really quite shocking and it shows the systematic nature of it. And really it demonstrates institutional sexism. But when we started the case, obviously we didn't know anywhere near that amount of information. And I think all of us just kind of lived with the mysteries of the relationships for years. And it was only really when we came together to fight the case, that we started to see the patterns and realised that it wasn't something that we just missed. It was the whole armoury of the state being used to deceive us. Anytime anyone had new concerns, they would all be smoothed over with a whole array of official looking documents and a backup team that could help provide supporting information. 

We talk about that in the book and it was good and important to do the book, to, to sort of bring all those details out and allow the patterns to be seen by anybody reading the book.

Alison: I think as well in answer to the question, like, were we particularly vulnerable? I think as Helen said, you know, we were at risk because we were women primarily, that was the fundamental vulnerability. But I think if we were vulnerable in any other way, it was in regard to our emotional capacity.

We're women who kind of cared about things, cared about the world, cared about making progressive change in the world. And the key part of that was caring about people. And so our vulnerability was that we trusted people, but that's not really a vulnerability, is it? That's kind of like a human quality is trust.

You can't organize politically without trust. You can't have relationships without trust. I think my mum said a few times that, after reading the book in particular, we weren't stupid women, we were bright women and as Helen just explained, this was a state sponsored deception. Bright women are betrayed every day, but this was another level because of the state funding of the operations and that we were dealing with people who were trained liars. 

Raquel: Yes, it is very good that the book walks the reader through your lives at the time and your relationships at the time, it's extremely detailed.

And in the book, what you do is that you are with us as this relationship develops. And what that does is that it allows the reader to see that this could happen to anyone. When you were beginning to feel excited, because you just agreed to go on a date with them, your first date, then as a reader, you get excited because you can relate to that being you and then when things get very challenging and you're going through the grief and the despair over all of the mental machinations that these men are doing on you, as a reader, you absolutely relate to what that feels like.

But as a reader, you also have in the back of your mind, but I know what these men were doing in the background. So you have that level of anger, that things culminate there, but you walk us through how things were at the beginning. And at the beginning, it looks like any other relationship.

Belinda, I wanted to ask you a question because you were not an activist or a campaigner at all when this begun, on the contrary you speak very eloquently about how you were sort of concerned, or you were not drawn to the campaigning work that Bob was involved in and you were in fact encouraging him to leave. So why did you think that the police made you a target? 

Belinda: Well, there's several things I can think of, but the main one is probably I had a very wide circle of friends. And although I wasn't an activist as such, I went on demonstrations and things, but I didn't do any activist things at all, but I had a lot of friends, a wide circle of friends.

I think really that was a really good cover for Bob because his girlfriend appeared to have a full enriched life. It's all about enriching their lives, you know, their imaginary lives. 

And I just wanted to say about the vulnerability side as well. That I think our age was a really important factor. We were all in at that stage of our lives where we're thinking about meeting a partner and settling down and having children well, not settling down, but just at that stage. Most people do meet their life partner between in their twenties or early thirties. 

And I feel that was so unfair, especially angry about the fact that, of all the lies, I feel as angry about the fact that he lied about his age, which is a bit ironic, really, cause it's the least important thing, but he already had his family, he had his children, he had his home. I didn't have those things. And he was stopping me getting those things by throwing a bomb in my life really. And what had I done? None of us had done anything at all.

So the fact I wasn't an activist as such is sort of a red herring because I met him at a party where there were activists there, unbeknown to me, it was just one of my friends. 

I think that's really cruel that they did that to us. And although fortunately for me I did go on to have two children. In fact, I planned a much bigger family than that which is not the same thing as not having any at all. 

But I think the fact of our fertile stage of our lives was really, really important and they just disregarded it completely.

Raquel: And the men would oftentimes pretend to be themselves fugitive from the police. Like they created all of these strategies to sort of calm maybe the red flags that were popping up, the concerns that may have been raising. They revealed all of these details about their lives, such as losing a parent, losing both of their parents that was supposed to make them sympathetic and made you wanting to be more caring, more understanding of what they were going through. 

For example, Helen, John was arrested in Bow Street Magistrate court in April, 1990. And, and it was like he was getting into all of these problems with the law, with the police. Was he intentionally getting into this trouble to ensure you trusted him? Or was this just a massive web of deception that was meant to make you see him as like a legitimate campaigner?

Helen: I think in all honesty; we don't have the answers to those kind of questions. We still haven't had any disclosure either through fighting the court case that we fought or through the public inquiry, which is now underway, into undercover policing. Until we see the documents that were kept at the time, the records that were kept about us and the records that were kept of what the officers were doing, I don't think we'll get answers to those questions. 

But what we do know is that the similarities between tactics both in terms of the emotional manipulation of coming to women with stories about their parents being dead or being unwell or that they'd had a, a tortured childhood or the thing about going on the run, having to go on the run and leaning on you for support, they were all basically designed to manipulate our emotions. 

You start getting invested in their lives because they've come to you for help and as a young person, you see someone in trouble, you think, oh, I better help this person. They were friendly guys when we first met them, why wouldn't we want to help them? They seemed like nice guys. All of those things were a basic process of emotional manipulation to ultimately get us into relationships with them, to help provide them with cover.

Also, for some of the men, they used us for sex. But whatever their motive was, we weren't in a position where we could consent to that because they were lying to us. 

Raquel: Okay. So that's a good point, Helen, would you mind all of you for the, for the benefit of our audience, would you mind introducing yourself and how you met this man, policeman, and then maybe a summary of what ended up happening in the end once you discovered the truth?

Belinda: So yeah, I met Bob Robinson at a party in 1987. It was a friend from university who I knew, who later I found out was involved in political activism, but I, myself wasn't at all.

So I was at this party and Bob came over to me and basically started chatting me up and gave me a lift home with my friend. I didn't invite him in because I just met him and I thought he could be anybody. The next day he put a card through my door and he was for like showering me with sort of romantic gestures and you know, right from the beginning telling me how special I was and he did make me feel special and I thought I found the one really.

So, time went by and eventually we moved in together and there came a point where, quite far on into the relationship, which went on for just under two years, really, or two years and a bit, I think, I can't remember exactly. I did bring up the question of having children and he said he wasn't ready and things like that, but you know, eventually he gave the impression he would be in the future then suddenly, he goes on the run and I was absolutely devastated. you know, also I'd tried to buy the flat for us to live together and he'd kind of stopped that happening. Our life was just torn apart really.

 Soon after that, I gave up my job and started temping because I wanted to be ready for when he sent for me, because you know, that's how he'd left it, that he was going on the run and then I was going to join him as soon as he felt it was safe, but that never happened obviously.

Then years later, Helen came and told me what she knew, what she'd found out, that he was a undercover cop. And again, the rug was pulled from under me, my life again had a bomb put in it and, you know, I ended up sort of destroying, and really making my relationship very challenging of 25 years. And, you know, having just generally another bomb in my life. 

And, and as Helen says, you know, we've never really found out why it happened to us. You know, the fact some of the people were activists, some of the women, but I don't think that's the point of it. I think they were just didn't care about who we were.  I think they just wanted to find intelligence. They didn't care about the women and our lives and what it was doing to us and what effect it would have, at all. And that was what upset me when I found out, you know, the police? I just couldn't believe it. It's just shocking, a body that you're supposed to trust. 

When you're a child, if you're lost, you're told to go see a policeman. Wow. Yeah. So it's shocking. So to this day, the main thing is I want other women to know about it and, and the police to have a real insight into what they did.

I know it's a long time ago, but some of them are much more recent. For all we know it's still happening to left wing environmental groups, for all we know it's still happening now. 

We do need disclosure, like Helen says, I've never found out what happened, why, why that happened to us and why I was targeted. I definitely was targeted once he started talking to me, but I don’t know if it was just for his own gratification or what it was all about. 

Raquel: Something about your case that I think shows the real misogyny behind all of this is that you had a stable job and at one point you felt sort of embarrassed because Bob was supposed to be like this real campaigner who cares so much about the environment, like a legit person who had principles and who cares so much about the environment and you felt self-conscious because you were working for an electric company and then you were willing to sort of, because of all of the lies and the way that they drew you in, you were willing to like give up that job and start taking all of this temporary work that was not giving you any stability, but you thought he's a fugitive, I need to be ready to sort of be on the move in case I have to go join him. 

So there's an element of it that was about destabilising the lives of women and, and women like you so how do you come to terms with the fact that these very structural misogyny coming from the police is being directed at a woman, Belinda, with no concern for how this is going to impact her in the moment, but also like for the rest of her life. 

Your job situation was about the stability that you have as a person. So the fact that they were willing to play with that I thought was really shocking.

Belinda: I felt a great betrayal by the police. How could they possibly do that to me? What right have they got? I've paid my taxes all my life, and then they spend that on paying a man to come and sleep with me and deceive me. 

The thing is they felt they would never get caught. They were just playing with our lives and they thought they could get away with anything. So they just had a really good time while they were doing it as well. You know, they really made sure they did that. 

And I think it must have been one long party for them. I bet they couldn't believe they were getting paid to do this stuff. And like when he was spending time with me and when we were sleeping together, he was being paid to do that. 

How does that make you feel? Oh gosh, you know, all these little things, as you say, it has lifelong little tiny effects that sort of come up every often when you're least expecting them to.

Even before he left and even before any of that happened, I could have done an accountancy course and I was going to do it. Again I sort of thought, oh no, you know, that kind of thing isn't important to me anymore because Bob was what was important to me and he was an anti-capitalist and yeah, it all was very confusing.

Raquel: Helen, would you like to go next? 

Helen:  I get involved with an environmental and social justice campaigns in the eighties. In 1987, I got involved with a group called London Greenpeace, which is actually independent of the big well known Greenpeace, but it also campaigns on environmental issues.

Not long after I'd started going to the meetings on a regular basis, John Barker started coming to the meetings. I don't actually remember him initially, but within a short space of time, he was offering people a lift home from the meetings and I used to be the last person who was dropped off and over the course of the journey we would chat and gradually kind of got to know each other better.

Then he asked me out and initially I said, no. And then he came to me with this sob story about the death of his parents. Actually, that was on two separate occasions. First, he told me about the death of his dad. And then about 14 months later, he told me about the death of his mum.

And he lent on me for emotional support. And then we ended up in a relationship together that was very, very intense. And like Belinda describes, he showered me with attention and affection told me that he loved me. He told me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. We ended up moving in together. We discussed having children, he said that he wanted to have six children. At that stage in my life, I hadn't really thought about having kids but I thought it was a sign that he was genuinely committed to the relationship. So I took it as a good sign.

A little while after that, he started seeming to go through a breakdown and it, we went through a very, very, for me, it was a torturous process, where he would leave saying he was having a breakdown and then he would come back and say that he wanted to be with me. This went on for quite a long time. We moved out of London, kind of coinciding with that. And then he disappeared properly, not long after that. 

He told me he was going to South Africa to clear his head. And I had a couple of letters from him posted from South Africa. I was actually very, very worried about his mental state as well as not really understanding why we weren't together because his reasoning didn't really make sense.

He was kind of telling me he wanted us to be together, but simultaneously kind of saying that he couldn't handle it. And because of the deaths of his parents and saying that he felt all alone in the world, I was worried about his mental state. So I started searching for him and pretty much everything that I traced about him turned out to be false.

And I started to become worried about who he was, didn't really have any answers. And then about a year and a half later, while the McLibel trial was going on, on the way home, I just decided to go into the Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages. And I looked through the records and discovered that he had actually been using the identity of a child who died aged eight.

And that kind of really pulled the rug out from under me. I was just so shocked. It meant that I didn't really know who I could trust anymore, because if my partner who I thought I knew really well turned out to not exist, what did that mean for anybody else around me? How could I know that they were real? How could I know who I could trust? 

It was while McLibel was going on so initially I couldn't really do any more research, but many years later I found his marriage certificate and his marriage certificate gave his occupation as police officer.

The marriage was about 10 years before we were actually in a relationship. So I talked to a couple of people about it. And my dad, for example, said that he thought I was being paranoid thinking that John might have been an undercover policeman. He thought it was more likely he'd been embarrassed that he'd been in the police. And so he'd kind of given a false name to me to kind of cover that up. 

I tried to like research more and couldn't get anywhere. And then eventually, I think it was about 18 years after John had disappeared, a woman who I knew who had been involved with Reclaim the Streets, which was another environmental group, and her partner had disappeared who he was also in that group. She managed to get a message to me and, and I went to see her. And at that point she told me that as well as her ex-partner being an undercover policeman, my ex-partner had been an undercover policeman. And she told me about Bob Lambert.

And when I looked up, Bob Lambert, I thought he might have been Bob Robinson. I wasn't sure. Which is why I went to see Belinda and Belinda said yes, for sure, it's the same guy. 

And when I was trying to find John, the police were moving him so that I didn't find out the truth and it was only really due to this other woman, Rosa, getting a message to me that we found out the truth in the end.

Raquel: And, and something that I wanted to mention about your case Helen, is that it came across like psychological torture. You know, the ups were so up and the downs were so down. So for example, you write in Deep Deception: ‘there were all of these letters’. He would write all of that and he would disappear and then kept writing you letters to sort of keep you on this hook.

You said: another letter arrived from John. He seemed in a state again, but said he tried to explain why he left. Although he wasn't sure it would make sense. He blamed the hangover for his messy writing and said he had the shakes. I worried he was turning to alcohol rather than talking things through. I had blamed myself when he disappeared, wondering what I had done or missed. So I was relieved that his letters, that it wasn't my fault. He said that when his head wasn't all over the place at working at our relationship was the single most important thing to him. And that he couldn't feel more strongly about me.

He wrote: when I say all the love I have is yours. I mean, just that, I mean, I don't think it's possible to feel any stronger about someone than I do for you. 

So to any woman who is in love, especially to a woman in her early twenties, that situation is consuming, is all encompassing. It dominates your entire brain.

So there's an element of sadism in the way that these men kept talking about the love that they felt for you, but then kept putting you through the psychological torture. You know, it was like he would in, and then he would leave. And for a while you didn't know if he came across, maybe intentionally, but he would come across like he was maybe having a mental breakdown. He was suicidal. And you would be sitting there worried, constantly about whether he was harming himself. What else could you do to accommodate someone who was in fact being a sadist.

Helen: Yeah. I mean, it wasn't obvious to me at the time, but when we looked back, when we were writing the book and I looked back through all my old letters and diaries, it became very obvious, with a bit more age and kind of understanding of the way the world works, just how gratuitously abusive he'd been. 

They shouldn't have deceived us into relationships in the first place, but he could actually have left at the end of his deployment quite simply by saying, I don't love you anymore. And this relationship isn't working, let's end it. And that at least would've been a kind of final, you know, I've got to get used to the fact that the relationship's over, but I can get used to it because there's nothing, there's nothing there anymore. There's no feeling.

 The fact that he kept telling me that he loved me and that he wanted to be with me, but that he couldn't be with me, meant that I was left trying to solve a problem and feeling that he might come back if he solved the problem and just investing so much more of my life into a completely fake person. 

Actually it really rammed it home when I went and confronted him in Australia. After we had finished fighting the court case, I just, by chance I looked up on the internet one day, I searched his name and discovered that he was about to be delivering some training to Indian police officers in Australia.

I went over there and it wasn't actually intentional to confront him. I was just going to protest and alert the public in Australia and India of his past and what he'd done in the past because I didn't want them training, future police officers in the same kind of tactics that they'd used on us, but I ended up confronting him.

And when I asked him why, why he'd had the relationship with me? He said, what did I have? All I had was a van. And what he meant by that was that I was part of his cover. That he was using me to prop up his fake identity because I had a reputation as a political activist. People knew who I was. If I was in a relationship, it gave him credibility and made him more kind of trustworthy to everybody else.

So that answer in itself demonstrated that it wasn't because of love because some of the men have claimed that it was for love, even though if you actually love someone, you don't deceive them and use them in this way. For him, it was absolutely clear that in fact it was, just to use me to improve his cover.

Raquel: You're right. You know, he could have said something simple to the point that doesn't torture you, yet he kept this facade. It feels gut wrenching to read all of this back and forth and then you feel like everything's over and then you're devastated, but then you get a letter saying that there's hope, you know, like that was unnecessary.

You were going through this back and forth, him leaving then coming back, your intuition was telling you something. And you said that at one point you were very close to saying to his face back then in 1992 that you were starting to think that he might be an undercover police officer. So can you explain to us how you started to have those doubts. 

Helen:  It basically came from, at the time in, I think in November, 1991, when we were planning a March against McDonald's because they'd issued the libel writ against, against us, so as part of that, we were trying to fight that. 

At that point in time, he'd said that he didn't want to stay in the house with me. he was going through this breakdown and he felt funny about staying in the house with me and he told me that he'd gone off to stay in hostel, and I needed to speak to him about something to do with the March or something, the placards or something like that. So I tried to ring him in the hostel and when I rang the hostel, they said he wasn't there. I don’t know what it was, it set off alarm bells that he was lying to me. I can't really put my finger on it. And I did actually think about other possibilities as well. I think quite a few of us kind of contemplated whether they might have been sort of drug smugglers engaged in some kind of crime that meant that they had to keep things hidden from us. later on I thought he might have been a private investigator because we had private investigators, infiltrating London Greenpeace on behalf of McDonald's as well. So that was kind of the thing that had sparked my concern, the ringing


 the hostel, and him not being there when he'd said he'd be staying there. And then I don’t what it was that made it come into my head at that moment when we were on holiday in Barra trying to patch up the relationship.

But yeah, it was very much on the tip of my tongue to say to him that I was worried he was an undercover police officer and I just kind of completely held back because I just thought I can't do that, that's such an outrageous suggestion to make to someone who you know, well, I loved him still at that point and I thought he loved me. So it just kind of like, it seemed too outrageous to even say it, so I didn't say it and that turns out to be the truth.  

Raquel: So the McDonald's thing, just one final thing on this point, Helen, you know, you were so worried about his mental health, but anyone reading Deep Deception was worried about your mental health at that time, because you were going through this legal case that ended up becoming the largest legal case in UK history. And you talk in the book about how there were in the McLibel case, 40,000 pages of documents, 20,000 pages of testimony. You were doing this essentially as a campaigner against this massive corporation. And it was like he was trying to destroy your mental stability and at different points that you thought that you were having a breakdown or that you were losing your senses. 

Helen: Yeah. I mean, actually at that stage, we didn't have that many documents, but still we were being sued by a huge multinational corporation that had endless resources. We knew nothing about libel law. It was quite an intimidating and worrying experience, having to meet legal deadlines and get everything in order and get it served.

And yes, here he was, trying to completely destabilise me by provoking arguments and disappearing and seeming to be going through a mental breakdown. So I invested all my energy in worrying about him rather than looking after my myself and the court case. 

Raquel: And the fact that this was going parallel, I am surprised that you didn't end up having some sort of breakdown because it was just too intense.

Helen, do you mind if I ask, what do you do with all of these letters that this person who was pretending to be someone else wrote? 

Helen: Well, we actually wanted to have them in the book and we had put them in the book. So we'd included the text, me especially, I had included a lot of the text of the letters in the book because they really do demonstrate just how gratuitously emotionally manipulative he was.

I was actually shocked. I hadn't read them for years. And when I read them for the sake of the book, I was really quite shocked by just how manipulative they were. He talks about being physically abused as a child and describes scenes and talks about his parents but in the same breath, he'll talk about his parents being dead when actually I know they're still alive. So much of what was in the letters I now know for sure was false. So the only reason for writing those letters was to emotionally manipulate me because it wasn't like he needed emotional support. He was inventing those things to ask me for emotional support. And that is really, you know, serious emotional abuse. 

 I wanted to put the letters in the book to demonstrate that and most of us had quoted letters from our partners. We were then told at the last minute that they had to be removed because apparently the writer of a letter retains the copyright. We can only quote limited extracts of it. 

I mean, actually we wanted to just challenge it and say, look, the men are not going to sue for ownership of those letters, they'd have to admit that they wrote them to start with, which would be extremely embarrassing for them. But the publishers, as always, are risk averse so we had to take the letters out, which I think was a shame really because they really give an insight into just how manipulative the men were. 

Raquel: It demonstrates that this was a psychological experiment on women. At one point in the book you write about having a court hearing, a very important court hearing, in which McDonalds was trying to strike out your legal case. And then instead of sort of supporting you through this process, he just became more erratic and you write: 

‘The stress was all too much and I broke down crying and trembling with pins and needles, shooting down my arms and legs. Eventually after telling John that I was scared, I was going mad, he gave me a hug and things calmed down for a bit’.

There's no purpose to the rollercoaster that you were put through. It came across like he was working for McDonalds rather than for the police. 

Helen: We actually sued the Metropolitan Police after the McLibel case finished because it emerged that they were sharing information with McDonalds. So there was this collusion between huge corporations and the police.

And we've seen that with the blacklisting of trade unionists as well. Some of the information on the files of blacklisted trade unionists can only have come from the police. And so, you know, they're sharing information that is supposed to be private and confidential and they're sharing it with corporations and it shows that the purpose of these units is basically to prop up the status quo and protect the wealthy and powerful.

Raquel: Alison, what about you? How did you become involved in all of this? 

Alison: So, I was a young idealistic school teacher in the 1990s and spending most of my time, leaping around classrooms and trying to teach Shakespeare and Coleridge to alienated kids. I was also a member of the Colin Roach Centre, as you said earlier, which was like a nonaligned political group that did particular work around trade unionism and anti-fascism and anti-racism and police monitoring, and Mark joined that group. I think Helen mentioned that many of them had vans and they would drive after the meetings and take people home.

And so I got to know Mark like that he used to give me a lift home or we'd go to the pub as a group afterwards. This was in 1995. And not long after he joined the group probably within about, I really don't know, six weeks a month, quite soon after he joined, we started to go out together and he lived very near to me, but his flat was a bed sit with not much in it. And so he spent a lot of time round at my flat and within a year he officially moved in and we had a five-year relationship. I haven't got as many letters like Helen has from John like some of the others because he was there. We lived together. 

He was a joiner. He used to get up early to go to work in the morning and get back about five ish. And we had a very nice life together. We travelled, he had a passport that looked the same as mine and worked. We went to Crete and we went to Israel and we went to Thailand and Vietnam and Holland and I thought we had a really solid relationship. Belinda mentioned about like being showered with love, Mark didn't do that. He wasn't overly demonstrative. It's a difficult one because we could talk a lot about the men and in a way, I don't want to talk a lot about the men because I just sort of think, yeah, Okay, we get what they did. They were sociopath of some sort with this triangle of narcissism Machiavellianism and sadism, as you said before. 

Anyway, so we were together for five years in what I thought was a good relationship. Obviously we had rows at certain times. In the last 18 months I was mid-thirties, early thirties and I wanted to start family with him and he said, he did -  

Raquel: This was how many years into the relationship? 

Alison: A couple of years maybe three years. And lots of my friends were having children. I met him when I was 29, so three years. And I was like, you know, 31, 32 and he really didn't want to, well, we found out later that's because he was married with his own children already but he really didn't want to, but didn't say, no, I never want them. It was kind of a bit like saying, well, not now I'd be throwing in the towel if I have them now. And I was like, okay. And that was one of the things that we rowed about. 

And then eventually I managed to persuade him to go to counselling with me and he really didn't want to do that. But he did go for about a year and a half. We went every week. And one of the things that I was saying in the counselling, I was like, look, I could get my head around, not having children If that's really what you want, but I want to do something because if we are not going to have children, then our lifestyle is very conventional and it doesn't need to be, we don't need to kind of have this nine to five life, we could do something else. And we were going around in circles until eventually he disappeared one day. 

He left a note on the table saying that he was having a breakdown, he didn’t say breakdown, he said, I've got stuff I need to deal with in my head. You had to read Deep Deception to get the full story of the exit strategy.

But soon after he went he came back. And then he went again, came back for about 10 days and he went again. And soon after that, I started to think and I met with somebody who kind of was like someone in one of the groups he was involved in, who said, I think we need to go through just a couple of crosschecking, some information just to check he’s not a spook.

And I came out of that meeting and thinking no, and this bloke was like, no, I don't think he is. He said, that sounds like a man trapped, that’s what men are like. And I came out of that thinking, that makes sense. And that led me on to what I describe as a Miss Marple path where I just did all this detective work and obsessed, I was obsessed, totally over focused, hyper focused, very paranoid. And by the end of a year, really, but properly by the end of two years, by the end of a year, I had not convinced myself because I thought I was right. I felt like I'd proved that he was an undercover cop, but I didn't know for a long time whether it was undercover agent. So I didn't know if it was MI5 or Special Branch.

And then like around 2002/2003 two or three years after I just decided I'm not going to know anymore. I know why he was in my life, in terms of spying on the group that I was involved in and then other groups that he got led to through that. And I then felt that I then had to move on.

And then I met Helen and we shared our stories. I mean, I knew Helen already because the Colin Roach Centre supported the McLibel campaign. We shared our stories and I still didn't really think we'd ever get any more answers.

 But then like eight years later from when I met Helen, but 10 years after Mark disappeared in 2010, you know, I was still searching. It was like an itch that you can't help scratching. So I was still searching on the internet, found Mark Kennedy's story and that this woman, Lisa, had unasked an undercover cop. It was all over the internet and all over like independent media. And at that point I was like, oh, okay, this is what happens when you uncover this stuff in 2010, as opposed to in 2000 where there's no internet. Although having said that, I, at the time, I think I would've been nervous about putting anything out there, because I thought that he was my narrative to myself and I didn't know Belinda at the time. I didn't know Belinda's story.

 But even when I'd got my head around the idea that he was an undercover agent of some sort within a matter of weeks and months after he left, I then told myself that he was an undercover agent who'd fallen in love with me, like some big romantic Hollywood film and he was on the run. So I wasn't going to necessarily do what Lisa and the other activists did around Mark Kennedy, because I didn't want to tell everyone about it because I thought maybe he was in danger.

So there are so many similarities between so many of our stories. 

Raquel: I was just going to say, Alison, that you did have an inkling pretty early on. I think it was around after the first day or something like that. You said you write in the book:

 Members of the calling Colin Roach Centre were acutely aware of the possibility of being infiltrated. And the thought suddenly crossed my mind. He turned up not knowing anyone he fitted in quickly. He was interested in getting to know the radical London left. I didn't really believe it, but yeah, I asked anyway, it's like, you've just dropped out of the sky from nowhere. You're not a cop are you? Mark’s smile broadened as he broke into a chuckle. Yeah. I got a report back to the handler later I laughed at the ridiculousness of the idea along with him.

 So something was there kind of from the beginning saying. I don't know, what are these dynamics? This man just sort of appeared. You all describe them as been very charming and winning the trust of people very easily.

Thank you, Alison, because you make a very important point, which is: Deep Deception, the book is really not a book about the men. This book is about the resilience of remarkable women.

 I want to ask each of you, you know, after you mentioned Alison, that it wasn't, that you found out one day the whole truth in one single box, there was this information that was drip dripping year after year after year.

And I want to know, number one, how did you cope with the fact that these men that had promised you so many things suddenly left at that point and then realising it was all a state enterprise all along. This was all about maintaining the status quo. How did you cope with the dawning of that realisation?

Belinda: Well, I'd just like to say that for me. I didn't have any inkling over the years that he was an undercover cop. I mean, someone had suggested it as again in a sort of jokey capacity, which I completely discounted. So it wasn't until Helen told me that I actually found out. And from that point onwards, I had the support of the other women in the group, which was so important because it made me realise that it wasn't just me. I wasn't stupid that this, and as everyone said, there was so many similarities as we talked to each other and it gradually, I think it took, it took each of us a different amount of time to actually internalise that they didn't actually love us. Because we did, for a long time, all of us secretly, even then though, we didn't want to admit it. We secretly still thought they loved us really, so that was a kind of gradual thing. 

Alison: I think that the coping for me was to do with in the first instance, very close friends and family and then as Belinda said, I think when we came together as a group and had our fantastic legal team and then started making links with other organisations, finding other women and actually then, you know, this sort of irony of, they picked on a load of activists or people connected to activists.

I mean, maybe it's not irony, but then obviously, so we kind of go back to default mode. Or some of us certainly did of what we used to do, what we were doing. So, and I think one of the other things that has been very powerful about our coming together is that we all come from really different places.

We are different ages for a start which span a number of decades and we have different political traditions. We come from different political organisations and that's been a real strength because we've got this shared bond across these movements. Back in the nineties, when I was with Mark, there was a lot of political sectarianism, where people were really iffy about working with certain groups or, oh, I don't want to work with them, or, oh, they're just a bunch of life stylist or whatever the slur might be. And the undercover officers, they benefited from that and exploited those divisions. They played on that. 

One of the absolute strengths, I think of our campaign as a group of women and more broadly is how we have managed to keep a kind of a very broad coalition together with people from very different views, with a common focus in sight, which has been good and, and enabling and empowering. And that's partly, I think how we've coped.

 And also, I would say for me as well, that I've met some amazing people. People I probably wouldn't have met. I don't just mean the women. The women are amazing. I mean Helen I knew a bit, I wouldn't have met Belinda. I wouldn't have met Lisa and Naomi and had an insight into those worlds and those political ways of organising and then other people that we've met through, you know, some of our press stuff and our publicity stuff and other organisations and other groups that has been really very validating and, and then carrying along with us people who we've known for years.

I have met over the weekend, a friend of mine who I don't see that often, you know, she lives quite nearby, but I don't see her that often. But she was there on the day Mark disappeared. She was coming around for dinner with me and Mark. I don't think I've written about it in the book, but, you know, she came for dinner and I was in a state because he'd just left. He left the letter on the table. 

So we've got old friends who've watched this journey and some of them we've kind of brought along with us as part of the campaigning as well, so overall, and I hope it comes through in the book as well, it's an inspirational story.

It's a story of women who, yes, we were duped. Yes. We were deceived. Who wouldn't be because it was a very professional operation. Some of us turned into these kind of mini detectives and then we've all been involved in trying to hold the state to account and amplifying our own voices and each other's voices and hopefully, contributing to a culture where this is unacceptable.

There are a couple of challenges really with that. One of them is, which is quite straightforward, which is linking with other examples of police misogyny. And the other is linking up the significance of what happened to us, which sometimes is seen as something historic, but the significance of what happened to us with current legislation and the current surveillance capacity and how we ensure that women are kept safe today, women who are and who aren't politically active.

Raquel: I'll come back to that point in a second, but Helen, before we move on, let's talk about how you coped with the realisation that this had happened. I mean, this was after you had started McLibel. So you were already going through a lot. 

Helen: Yeah, I mean, for me it was a gradual process. When he first disappeared, I started to investigate and everything that I was investigating was turning out to be not true.

I first started with trying to find out because he told me when his parents had died. I started by trying to find their death certificates, thinking that if I could find them, I would find out where the house was that he'd inherited. And I could maybe get in contact with him through the solicitor or the estate agent or something like that. And the deaths didn't turn out to exist. 

And, and so I had this process of gradually finding out very gradually. And also because it overlapped with McLibel and I had to focus so much on McLibel. I didn't really process it properly, I don't think. 

Some people I'd talked to had actually suggested that even if he had been an undercover cop, he might have actually genuinely loved me.

And I think it was sort of slightly more comforting to believe that than to think it had all been done to use me for whatever reason, I kind of held that idea in my head that something was genuine about the relationship. And I think as Belinda said, we all sort of held on a bit to the thought that they did genuinely care about us.

So it was a very, very slow process. And, and as I say, it was 18 years before I found out the truth. And because over the course of those 18 years, actually it became almost a form of torture in itself. Not knowing whether or not he was alive or dead, not knowing whether or not he might come back.

It kind of felt like I couldn't move on with my life. 

So that the, at the point when I did get told he was an undercover policeman, it was almost like a relief because now finally I knew the truth and I didn't have to keep wondering about who he was and what he was doing in my life and whether or not he might come back.

But it was very soon after that, that Lisa uncovered the truth about Mark Kennedy. And that was then being portrayed in the media as though Mark Kennedy was like a rogue officer who'd deceived Lisa into a relationship off his own bat and had been acting without kind of the authority of the police. And so on, more widely in his political involvement. 

I knew by then about obviously that Belinda had been deceived and that Alison had been deceived and I thought they just shouldn't be able to get away with claiming that Mark Kennedy was a rogue officer when we know that he wasn't the only one.

And so I spoke to the other women about bringing a case, because I was angry. I wanted to prevent it from happening to anybody else and really pleased that everyone got involved because there's no way that I would've fought it on my own. It would've been way too intimidating. And you know, it was the last thing in the world that I wanted to sort of talk about my personal love life and have it splashed over the news or whatever. The fact that there ended up with eight of us coming together to fight the case, just made it more bearable. It gave all of us strength to be able to hear each other's experiences and learn the similarities, but there were differences as well.

And I think it also strengthened the case against the police, because they couldn't say that it was a rogue officer because there were five different police officers who had deceived the 8 of us into relationships. And those relationships spanned the period of 25 years. So, you could see just from the case that we were bringing alone that this was an institutional practice and that it needed to be tackled and stopped.

Raquel: Could you all explain to our audience, the thought process behind deciding, you know what, we need to fight this as a legal case. It's not just enough for us to know the truth. The public has to know the truth. 

Alison: Helen told us to -

Helen: In fairness, Alison had actually tried to get the story in the media quite a while before. And been told that you can't print that story without proof. And I knew from my experience with McLibel, that once you've got a court case ongoing, that becomes something that the media can report on.

And so I also knew that if we could get a court case off the ground, it would mean that this would suddenly become a story in itself rather than just like, oh, there’s some women making an assertion that they had relationships with cops, they might be making it up, or they might be delusional or whatever.

The fact there was a court case made it real and it made it something that could be reported on. And when I talked to the others, I think for all of us, we just wanted to make sure it didn't happen to anybody else again and this was the way to do it. 

Alison: Can I just add for the record -  It's not quite somebody I trusted. There was a journalist who I knew and trusted who said it all sounds very odd, but without like hard proof, it's libel, but there was another journalist who, I didn't know who now I do know who did want to go with the story back in 2001 or something and I was too nervous for the reasons that I said before, but even if I had done that, I don't think it would've had the same impact as bringing the legal case collectively. So it was the right thing, not to have gone with that with hindsight, but I think it was a combination of Helen and Harriet.

You went to Gareth Pierce and then things were just in motion, really. Helen and I met each other in 2003 and talked about this, but it wasn't until the Mark Kennedy stuff, you know that Lisa uncovered with the others. I think that the idea of a court case really came together.

 Helen: I actually tried going to a solicitor in 2003, I don't know now whether or not it was because, because the reaction I'd had from other people, including my dad was like that wouldn't happen in this country. And you know, you're just kind of becoming paranoid. I was worried that maybe I was paranoid and maybe there was some other innocent explanation, but I went to see solicitors. And somehow when I talked to them about the possibility of bringing a case, they also gave me the impression that they thought I was going a bit mad.

And so I kind of backed off until I had proof. I did, and I didn't, I had the marriage certificate, but the marriage certificate was from 10 or slightly more years before that I was in a relationship with him. So it wasn't proof of what he was doing at the point when we were in a relationship, it was strong evidence, but it wasn't proof and it probably wouldn't have been enough had I tried to bring a case, it could have been torn apart as that's inadequate. but it was really when Rosa had got in contact and had the evidence of her relationship with Jim Boyling and Lisa had unasked Mark Kennedy and had the evidence of that relationship. There were two clear, clear relationships that had happened. And then with ours as well, it makes the case for a pattern. And it's not just like one woman making an assertion. You can see the pattern and it makes it stronger. 

Raquel: Belinda, tell us a little bit, or any of the women tell us about the court process? What was it like for all of you? 

Belinda: Yeah, I just, I just wanted to add, before I move on to that about the proof, there was also the video, there was a video clip that Helen had of Bob as a policeman, it was 100% him. I had the letters from him in his handwriting and photos of him and me, so that was proof.

So moving onto the court case. As the others have said, we all felt very strongly that we needed to stop it happening to anyone else. That was our main aim that we all had in common and, and our main motivation. But like, to this day, as far as I'm aware, you know, it's still not an offence for a policeman to have intimate and long relationships and even having children. So, you know, I'm not sure how much we have stopped it with all we've done, but hopefully what we're trying to do is let as many women know so that they can look out for it because if I have known that it was possible for them to spend that much tax payer’s money on putting somebody undercover for years, just to search around for things they could find. And they didn't find anything much. So anyway, it was just that drive that kept us going. That that's what we wanted to do. It wasn't about us. It was about, about the other women were going to stop getting into this relationship. 

Alison: Well, I've never been in a involved in a court case before, so, it was an extraordinary experience and again, it's one of the strange things about this whole situation that we found ourselves in, there was a lot of dark stuff, but there was a lot of light as well. And the court case, working with Helen who had this huge reputation, like you said earlier with Dave Morris, being part of one of the longest legal cases in British history and the intellectual challenge and seeing these women again, like seeing some of the news reports that were really awful about us, when our story came out, you know, about these dirty women and these hippies and actually seeing the women and being in room with them and the brain power, the collective brain power was extraordinary.

It challenged me in lots of different ways. It challenged me intellectually because so much of the documentation was so impenetrable in places or the arguments, the legal arguments are complicated, really twisting my brain but also it was a challenge because I'm not vegan or vegetarian.

 Many of the women of the original eight of us came from an environmentalist and a much greener political tradition than I did. So that was a challenge. And, but in a good way. 

When we started the case we were in our forties and to meet new people at that age in my life, in such an unusual context was amazing. It was amazing. And I'd never been in the Royal courts of justice. I'm not a lawyer, why would I go in there and then to be going into those places. I don't want to trivialise it because it was heavy stuff as well. And there were heavy times we were in those rooms, with our solicitor Harriet's office, when we did come to meet together, we could be there for hours and hours and hours and hours.

And the way the police behaved, of course, predictably, you know, was appalling. They tried to strike it out at first and then they changed their defence, anything to kind of make it go away really and make us probably give up eventually, which we didn't. But that side of it obviously was very difficult.

But as I said earlier, everybody comes to it differently. And for me, I had put this all behind me, eight or nine years earlier. And I never thought I was going to find out anything. I managed to connect with somebody I grew up with I'd started a family. I had a partner, I had two children.

I mean, that brought its own challenges and its own difficulties. But in terms of what was happening with the case here, here I was suddenly with some people, some support the people who not only was looking at me and saying, yeah, that happened to, yeah, I know what you mean. Yeah. I recognise that not only was that happening, but also people were saying, you know, we might actually be able to do something about this.

And even if we don't win a case in as happened, the police eventually decide to make it go away by settling because we were forced into settling, really, because unless you're a very, very, very, very wealthy person, if you're offered the money, I won't go into the legal details for it, but really you're in a position where you really have to accept.

So all we could do was then make a noise about it and, and have a campaign and a media campaign and a campaign to have an impact. And I think, you know, that's what writing Deep Deception is exactly about. You know, we've done podcasts, we've written articles, and now hopefully we've kind of written one of the key books, key texts about this scandal.

Helen: So I just like follow on from what Alison was saying, which is that one of the things about the court case was that basically the police spent the entire time trying to get our case thrown out of court. And despite all the proof that we had, they were refusing to confirm or deny that any of the men were undercover Police officers. 

Well, actually, initially they had confirmed that Mark Kennedy was a police officer, and then a few months later they said, oh, it's completely against our policy to confirm or deny whether any of these men are officers. And therefore it would be unfair to expect us to fight the case and therefore the case should be struck out.

So we had like a whole series of hearings where the police were applying to get our case struck out or get it heard in a secret hearing in the investigatory powers tribunal. You know, it went on for ages. Eventually there was a ruling that, because Mark Kennedy's identity, Bob Lambert's identity and Jim Boyling’s identity had all been already confirmed either by the police or in the media that the police could no longer rely on ‘neither confirm or deny’ in relation to them.

But they said that in relation to John Dines and Mark Jenner, and almost as soon as that happened the police were again like trying to stop the case from going ahead. But anyway, eventually they then made an offer to settle the case out of court. And as Alison explained, we had no choice really because it wasn't possible for us to get legal aid. So we had this insurance and the insurance meant that if our lawyers thought that we were being offered more than we might get if it went to a full hearing, they had to advise the insurers. And that meant that we couldn't carry on fighting it. If we did, we would risk that not only would we have to pay our own costs, but we might have to pay the other side's cost. And it would be considerably more than we would get in damages.  

Raquel: You were coerced into accepting the settlement.

Helen: Yes. We had no choice really. What then happened was, I mean, we can't talk about the detail of the settlement, but there were settlement meetings and they eventually agreed to make, what was an unprecedented apology, that Alison largely wrote, is really brilliant, where they acknowledged that they had violated our human rights and that the relationships had been abusive, manipulative and wrong. And that these sorts of relationships shouldn't happen again. We thought that that was a good victory.

 The main thing was that they had been forced to publicly admit that these relationships had taken place and that they were wrong. We've seen since that other women who have since discovered that they were also deceived into relationships and who are bringing court cases against the police, but, you know, it feels a bit like their apology is a bit empty because they are forcing those women to go through psychological evaluations and they are disputing that those relationships caused any harm so they're responsible for more ongoing harm against women who were deceived by those officers. 

Raquel: So there was a power in you doing your case collectively? 

Helen: Yes, I think very much so. I think as well as putting all the stories together and kind of seeing the bigger picture I think we all drew strength from each other, if one of us was having a rough patch, the rest would kind of help get through it and make it possible to carry on really.

Raquel: And then comes an inquiry. 

Helen: So in 2015, myself and Belinda were interviewed for Dispatches, a Channel 4 documentary. We met with Peter Francis, who was an undercover officer in the Special Demonstration Squad. He talked about that this unit had been spying on the grieving family of Steven Lawrence, who was a black teenager who'd been murdered by racists in 1993. And the police had done a completely useless investigation into the murder and his parents had been campaigning for a proper investigation into the murder and for the killers to be brought to justice. And rather than cracking on with a proper investigation into the murder, the Special Demonstration Squad were spying on the grieving family and friends of Steven Lawrence and reporting back to try and undermine the family campaign for justice. 

So all this went out on television on Channel 4 and within a short space of time, then home secretary, Theresa May, ordered a review by Ellison who had judged the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in the first place. He did a review and reported back his concerns.

 And then off the back of that Theresa May called for a public inquiry into undercover policing. That was set up in 2015. It was supposed to report by 2018, and it's only just started taking evidence. It started right at the end of 2020. So far it's only heard up to 1982 and we've now got another two year wait before we hear more evidence, which is when myself and Belinda will be expected to give evidence about the relationships. And Lambert and Dines will be expected to give evidence as well. 2024 we will be expected to be there the period from1982 to1992, and then Alison's got away even longer. And, the other women even longer after that. 

The police are basically demanding secrecy at every turn. And that is what is costing a fortune and also basically kicking it into long grass. 

Raquel: The State is protecting itself, saying we are being forced to have this investigation, but we will make sure that it comes drip by drip instead of actually having some sense of justice, it's about draining the women who are going to be coming forward and talking about this.

So speaking of which I wanted to say, four out of the five women in the book are anonymous and only go by first names or anonymous and you are writing in Deep Deception:

 ‘Those spied on have a right to anonymity in a way that was never afforded to them by the police. We do not accept that any of the police officers who have perpetrated the kind of abuses described in this book are entitled to anonymity. Those who commit such serious abuses should have to answer for their actions’. 

Did it worry you that you could be sued or pursued for defamation or for libel? 

Alison: We had a good libel read. So, no, not really. And also Harriet was very clear from the beginning what we could say. We knew who they were, why is it libellous or defamatory? We just talked the truth. We just said what they did. 

Raquel: I'm talking about the men, you know, you’re right. The four undercover police fight who targeted the women are Bob Robinson. That was his fake name. His real name is Bob Lambert. John Barker, his real name is John Dines, Mark Cassidy, his real name is Mark Jenner and Mark Stone, his real name is Mark Kennedy. 

Did you worry about writing their actual names and talking to the media, doing all this podcasts, publishing a book. Did you worry about backlash or persecution from the men themselves? 

Alison: In my case, I didn't, because I'd already been talking about it without any of the other women for nearly a decade.

When I suspected what and who Mark was, and there's an incident I write about in Deep Deception where I found a credit card in his name. So I had a clue. when it kind of all starts to unravel, I had a clue as to his real name. I told anybody who cared to listen.

 The scary time, the time where I was frightened of repercussions and any persecution was back in the year or two years after he disappeared, by the time I'm with the other women and our legal team, that was empowering that we were taking advice and we weren't on our own.

So I don't think there was any concern at that point. And also, as I said, we were just telling the truth. 

Raquel: Helen, what about you? Did you worry about being targeted by John himself? 

Helen:  Not really, like Alison says, I knew it was true for him to sue for libel he would've had to come forward and admit that he was the person I was talking about and be subject to cross examination and I had ample evidence of what he'd done. So, no, I wasn't really worried. 

Raquel: Oh, sorry. Belinda, before we move on, I was going to ask you, if you ever worried about being personally targeted by this man? 

Belinda: I was more worried about somebody listening on my phone or looking at my messages or following me about even, I mean, I know it sounds a bit bizarre, that they might follow you about, but like that kind of thing, I felt quite safe because I'm a respectable member of the public and they've got no reason, they would get into a lot of trouble if they did anything to us. I don't think they'd dare. That's how I felt. And I felt I was in the right. I felt so in the right that it had to be told, it had to be done. And I had to fight against any fears that I had, but yes I did, and also, as Helen says, Harriet was very reassuring and went through it all with us and yeah, she did tell me there were risks, but we couldn't keep quiet about it. 

Helen: Another thing about the anonymity to tie in with the public inquiry is, as well as secrecy about documents, one of the things that has been delaying the inquiry is that the inquiry has been granting anonymity to many of the undercover officers. And we were arguing strongly that their cover names ought to be released because without the cover names being released, then other women who were deceived into relationships, aren't able to come forward to give evidence about that deceit nor can anyone else give evidence about what campaigns they were involved with and what they did in those campaigns.

But despite that, the inquiry has chosen to allow significant numbers of the officers to retain complete anonymity, not just their real names, but as I say, the cover names. It's just outrageous because it means that in a lot of cases, only the police will be able to give evidence about what they did. They've got no pressure to tell the truth because they can lie through their teeth and don't forget as well that they are trained liars. They are professionally trained liars. That's how they operated within the groups by lying about their identity, by lying about their feelings, by lying about what they were doing.

So, the inquiry is basically just given a green light to significant numbers of the squad to lie through their teeth.  

Raquel: So tell us about the point in which you decided after this very long journey, we want to write a book. We want to get together. We want to publish our stories. How did Deep Deception come about? 

Alison: So we talked about writing a book right at the beginning when we first brought the case and we came together, we knew we had a big story on our hands, and we knew that it would lend itself to some kind of a book and we brainstormed ideas for titles and what the book might include.

But our focus at that time was completely on the legal case. And so we didn't really have the time or the energy to pull it off. And once we'd settled our case, we were able then to really focus on the campaigning element beyond the case, you know, the more-broader campaign issues. And we were able to continue to source some funding for our campaign.

We have a couple of paid part time workers of which I'm one and you know we had to come up with ideas of how we're going to keep this story alive. And also the other part of our organisation is about supporting the women. It's not just campaigning. It's about supporting each other, but also new women who discover through the public inquiry or through other ways that they were subjected to this abuse as well.

So one of our ideas was to organise a wellbeing writing retreat. And we went away, quite a few of us, to the seaside for a weekend. And we worked with a couple of really good writing mentors. And we thought we'd try to put something together ourselves. You know, we tried to kind of maybe make an anthology of our writing. We didn't really know at that point, but we were very lucky that one of the writing mentors introduced us to somebody who loved the idea. And a little while later here we are as published authors with this story out there, but it came about like from a long genesis of campaigning and support and sourcing funding.

We got the funding in the first instance from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, a discreet amount of funding specifically for this writing retreat and it was brilliant because it's allowed us to have the time to work with Veronica Clark, the co-author who helped us structure our stories. And then we worked with each other, a lot, editing and rewriting and trying to tell as powerful and impactful stories as we can. 

Raquel: The book is tremendous. It really is riveting. You want to keep reading every page. 

So my final question to all of you is, having gone through your experience and I'm so grateful that you made this point earlier, Alison, this is not a book about men. This is a book about women who found a tremendous source of strength within them and with each other and who are fighting an institutional form of misogyny. I mean, your situations are about the state going against women. So what is the message that you would like to say to other women who your experiences?

Alison: It's difficult, isn't it? I think one of the things that I'd like to say is to show how much strength you can get from each other. And that through some kind of collective resistance, you are able to keep that flame alive.

It's not easy taking on the State and you need to do it with other people, but it's also about joining up the dots. And I suppose one of the big asks is we are asking people to watch the public inquiry, to talk about the public inquiry, to read the book, tell other people, to read the book, read other books that there are on this topic, check out our website, and educate yourselves and others about why this happened and what it means about our democratic right to protest.

And it goes back to what I was saying earlier, as well about linking it to understanding legislation that's coming through today. We were trying to participate in society really. We were trying to participate in making a positive impact, making some kind of however, large or small, some kind of contribution to improving society that is so unequal.

If you look at, certainly from when I was politically active in the nineties, to today, the gap between rich and poor is even bigger. The inequalities in the world are even greater. So we want it to be an inspirational story of how we came together to claim the truth. And the old adage of ‘don't let the bastards grind you down’.

Belinda: I haven't got much to say, but I'd just like to say, you know, it really is wrong for one person to do this to another let alone for the police to do this. So it's about betrayal, really. It's about trust and betrayal and, you know, I just feel fortunate that I've found such a group of women that I can trust, rebuild my sense of trust in.

Helen: We raise these issues because it's important that people are aware that this happens and it could happen again. And we want to make sure it doesn't happen again. The flip side of that is that is it can feel a bit overwhelming that the forces of the state rage against you.

But the other side of that is that the police officers are being sent into these movements because the police know that when we get together to try and create a better world, to create change in the world and talk to other people about our ideas and experience and the kind of world we want to create, that inspires people. And that's how change starts to come about. 

The fact that they infiltrate those movements means they recognise that it does have an effect to get together and fight to change for a better world. 

The other side of it is that we know throughout history that lots of movements were infiltrated, the anti-apartheid movement, the suffragettes were infiltrated and spied on, lots of groups were spied on that still went on to have an effect and to bring about change.

And so really although this can seem a bit depressing we must carry on fighting for a better world and especially for women and girls.

Belinda: I just feel it's important to mention other women that were affected by this, including the wives of these men and their families and how their lives were affected by all this as well. By the pursuits of their husbands by the state. 

Raquel: Thank you very much, Alison, Belinda and Helen. And thank you also to the other women who participated in the book who are not with us today, Lisa and Naomi. Deep Deception, it could have been a story of women's lives being destroyed and left with no trust in each other or in justice.

Instead, Deep Deception is an inspirational story of fortitude, truth and dignity. So thank you so much for writing such a fantastic piece of work that I really, I trust that it will open the eyes of many people and it will raise awareness so that what happened to you doesn't happen to other women or to anyone else.

So thank you. Thank you.