Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
March 2, 2013
He was a burly, funny scouser called Mark Cassidy. His girlfriend – a secondary school teacher he shared a flat with for four years – believed they were almost “man and wife”. Then, in 2000, as the couple were discussing plans for the future, Cassidy suddenly vanished, never to be seen again.
An investigation by the Guardian has established that his real name is Mark Jenner. He was an undercover police officer in the Metropolitan police’s special demonstration squad (SDS), one of two units that specialised in infiltrating protest groups.
His girlfriend, whose story can be told for the first time as her evidence to a parliamentary inquiry is made public, said living with a police spy has had an “enormous impact” on her life.
“It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationship and other subsequent relationships,” she said, adopting the pseudonym Alison. “It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”
Alison is one of four women to testify to the House of Commons home affairs select committee last month.
Another woman said she had been psychologically traumatised after discovering that the father of her child, who she thought had disappeared, was Bob Lambert, a police spy who vanished from her life in the late 1980s.
A third woman, speaking publicly for the first time about her six-year relationship with Mark Kennedy, a police officer who infiltrated environmental protest groups, said: “You could … imagine that your phone might be tapped or that somebody might look at your emails, but to know that there was somebody in your bed for six years, that somebody was involved in your family life to such a degree, that was an absolute shock.”
Their moving testimony led the committee to declare that undercover operations have had a “terrible impact” on the lives of innocent women.
The MPs are so troubled about the treatment of the women – as well as the “ghoulish” practice in which undercover police adopted the identities of dead children – that they have called for an urgent clean-up of the laws governing covert surveillance operations.
Jenner infiltrated leftwing political groups from 1994 to 2000, pretending to be a joiner interested in radical politics. For much of his deployment, he was under the command of Lambert, who was by then promoted to head of operations of the SDS.
While posing as Cassidy, he could be coarse but also irreverent and funny. The undercover officer saw himself as something of a poet. A touch over 6ft, he had a broad neck, large shoulders and exuded a tough, working-class quality.
By the spring of 1995, Jenner began a relationship with Alison and soon moved into her flat. “We lived together as what I would describe as man and wife,” she said. “He was completely integrated into my life for five years.”
Jenner met her relatives, who trusted him as her long-term partner. He accompanied Alison to her mother’s second wedding. “He is in my mother’s wedding photograph,” she said. Family videos of her nephew’s and niece’s birthdays show Jenner teasing his girlfriend fondly. Others record him telling her late grandmother about his fictionalised family background.
Alison, a peaceful campaigner involved in leftwing political causes, believes she inadvertently provided the man she knew as Mark Cassidy with “an excellent cover story”, helping persuade other activists he was a genuine person.