Episode 7: Inquiry
The final episode of Bed of Lies – which you can listen to in two parts on the audio players above – brings us up to the present day. When I decided to make this series, it was with the aim of releasing it to time with the start of the Undercover Policing Inquiry. I wanted to tell some of the personal stories that lay behind the bureaucratic machine of the Inquiry, particularly given that for many this scandal is long forgotten.
As lawyer Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for the women in the series, told me before the Inquiry began: “We're about to start the first hearing and it's very underwhelming. The public has lost interest. People are like, ‘Is that still going on? It's very hard to gain interest.”
Feedback that I’ve received about Bed of Lies so far shows me people do care about this scandal – and they’re shocked at the depth of it.
The timeline for the series turned into quite a moveable feast when the pandemic threw all of 2020’s best laid plans into the air. But like the rest of the country, we quickly adapted – we recorded the series remotely and then, on November 2, the Inquiry began its hearings over the internet.
And so, the Inquiry is now seven weeks into its long journey (some reports suggest it won’t publish its findings until 2026) – what have we learnt so far?
On the second day of the Inquiry, Sir John Mitting, the chair, told the Met Police it will have to answer whether it’s still spying on left-wing political activists. The final section of the hearings will focus on what undercover work happens now – by officers who work in its secretive counter-terror command, SO15.
Undercover police officers
Twelve former police spies who no longer work for the police and who are represented by their own lawyer (including Mark Jenner, Jim Boyling, and James Straven) told the Inquiry they have felt let down by the Met. In their opening statement on day three, they said they have been unfairly vilified and left out in the cold by their former superiors.
Ex-wives of the police spies
On the same day that some of their ex-husbands spoke, three ex-wives of undercover officers told Justice Mitting that they feel betrayed by the police. They said they were expected to support their husbands through this “dangerous” work, which had turned out to be spying on non-violent political groups. In a powerful statement, they said they have been left feeling “shame” about their ex-husbands’ work.
The women deceived into relationships
In the first weeks of the Inquiry, it became clear that there will be a stream of new information throughout proceedings. One former officer, for example, claimed they had no choice over sexual relationships. Another, it emerged, had rekindled a relationship seven years after it ended. And the women who were in these relationships showed they won’t let any of this go quietly. They’ll be watching the Inquiry closely and continuing their campaign.
The women in Bed of Lies, to begin, are pushing for the hearings to be livestreamed. They spent hours reading transcripts from the Inquiry live on YouTube, with the help of actor Maxine Peake.
My colleague Martin Evans is covering news from the Inquiry for the Telegraph. This story is from the third day when the ex-wives of former undercover officers shared their opening statement – the first time they have spoken in any detail about their experiences
For updates from the women featured in this story, you can follow Police Spies Out of Lives on Twitter
Solidarity is a documentary that came out earlier this year about the trade unionists who were blacklisted and their campaign since
Episode 6: Fightback
Bed of Lies focuses on the stories of seven women, each of which reflect a different part of the undercover policing scandal. There’s Lisa whose unmasking of Mark Kennedy lifted the lid on the NPOIU’s work, Rosa who found the SDS headquarters and had children with Jim Boyling, and Jessica whose ex Andy Coles wrote the Tradecraft Manual.
But there are dozens more women who were tricked into relationships with police spies. And they’re all fighting back in their own way, and some of them, together - which you can hear about in episode 6 of Bed of Lies on the audio player above.
I’ll go into more detail about how many other women there could be in episode seven, but for now I want to give you a flavour of some of their stories – and the legal action they’ve brought against the Met Police.
Kate Wilson and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal
Kate Wilson had a two-year relationship with Mark Kennedy before Lisa met him. She was an environmental activist too and is good friends with Jane. After the first legal case and apology from the Met Police, Kate was the only person in the original eight who was free to bring further action against the police. And so she brought a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.
She has represented herself, with Jane’s help, in what has turned into another yearslong battle. Her case is due to be heard in April.
During the course of proceedings to date, she has been given files Kennedy wrote about her, which show how he wrote notes about trips they went on to places like the cinema and concerts. And how he asked for authorisation to buy her a mountain bike as part of his spying. The Met has also admitted that Mark Kennedy’s managers knew about their relationship and allowed it to continue. And in October, it accepted that the surveillance of her was not proportionate.
Jacqui, TBS and a landmark claim against the Met Police
The Met Police apologised and paid compensation to a man known as TBS, who’s the son of Bob Lambert. He was 26 in 2012 when his mother, Jacqui, saw an article in the Daily Mail which pictured her ex, Bob, and said he was a former undercover cop. Until then, she had thought her son’s father was a left-wing activist on the run from the police for his involvement in a plot to firebomb Debenhams.
He’s the first child of an officer to win such a claim.
“They tried to strike it out, they did everything in their power,” Jacqui tells me. “The whole thing’s been horrendous, nothing will ever be the same.”
The Met previously agreed to pay more than £400,000 to settle a lawsuit Jacqui brought against them over her relationship with Lambert.
Monica and the European Court of Human Rights
A group of the women have tried to bring criminal charges against the officers they were in relationships with that allege the deception was tantamount to rape. But the Crown Prosecution Service has so far found there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute.
Monica was an activist in Reclaim the Streets and the first of three activists, including Rosa, to go out with Jim Boyling. She is in the process of trying to bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights. She alleges that she would never have had sex with Boyling if she had known his true identity and that his deception should be prosecuted as a sexual assault.
- Harriet Wistrich writes in the Telegraph about how she her role in the undercover policing scandal – and the justice she still wants for the women she represents
- This feature from the BBC about Kevin Crossland's family, who are suing the Met Police for stealing the identity of their deceased relative
- For more about Jacqui and TBS' story I'd recommend this thorough longread in the New Yorker from 2014
Episode 5: Tradecraft
It’s time for something a bit different – to look at this story from the other side and hear from the police. Rather than relying on people’s testimonies for this episode, I decided it would be interesting to base it on a document. The Tradecraft Manual of the SDS, which was written in 1995 by Andy Coles (former undercover officer, who had a relationship with Jessica). You can see the full document here.
There’s news this week that’s pertinent to our episode – four bereaved families announced they’re suing the Met Police for stealing the identity of their deceased children and using them as the cover for their agents. “They feel the memories of their loved ones have been forever tarnished by undercover officers using their identities in this way; so that now the images of the police officers are mingled with the images of their dead relatives,” their lawyer, Jules Carey of Bindmans, told me. “And they feel the reputations of their dead relatives have been sullied by the conduct of these officers.”
That brings us to the conduct of officers in the SDS and NPOIU. As you’ll hear, some of the practices were scandalous. In addition to identity theft, the manual also advocates “fleeting disastrous relationships” and tells officers the “boundary between right and wrong” isn’t always that “clear cut”.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the shocking things other officers we haven’t heard from yet did while they were undercover.
This is the cover name of an officer who worked for the SDS from 1997 to 2002. He infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front and the Brixton and Croydon Hunt Saboteurs. He’s also known to have had relationships with two women (we’ll hear more about that in episode seven). But pertinent this week is the fact that this undercover officer, whose real name hasn’t been released, took the name Kevin Crossland from a child who died in a plane crash in 1966. Killed alongside his mother and sister on the way to a holiday, the real Kevin left behind a devastated father.
Kevin’s half brother, who was born after he died, said this week: “It’s the most irresponsible thing an officer could have done… We’re looking for a proper apology from someone who actually means it.”
‘Bob Robinson’, aka Bob Lambert
One-time head of the SDS Bob Lambert worked for the unit from 1993 to 1998, before going on to become a lecturer at St Andrews. During his undercover deployment Bob is known to have fathered a child – who recently won compensation from the Met. And he’s been accused of planting a firebomb at the Debenhams store in Harrow in 1987. Activists have accused him of acting as an agent provocateur when he infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front. He has denied committing a serious crime.
This officer, whose cover name remains anonymous, is known to have worked for the SDS and infiltrated Peter Hain’s anti-apartheid campaign group, Stop The 70 Tour. His secret was blown by former undercover agent Wilf Knight in a BBC documentary from 2002 called True Spies. Ferguson is said to have worked his way up to becoming Hain’s ‘number two’.
Undercover cops from the SDS are known to have spied on 11 members of Parliament in total.
Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police, by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, is required reading on the spycops scandal. Meticulous reporting that helped bring the news to light.
My full interview with Neil Woods on what goes on inside the mind of an undercover officer
I recently watched Netflix film The Trial of the Chicago Seven, which provides a fascinating context to Bed of Lies. It’s set in America, but shows what’s going through the minds of Western authorities in 1968.
Episode 4: Uncovered
I’ve been immersed in the Bed of Lies story for months, but shivers still shoot up my spine when Alison discovers the truth about Birkenhead Mark; I’m infuriated when Jim tells Rosa she mustn’t be angry with him; and I feel heartbroken when Lisa describes the sheer hollowness after Flash Mark leaves for the final time. Apologies up top if this week’s episode is an emotional listen.
What I want to talk about here is what it’s like for the men to be uncovered. Do they feel the same heartbreak as the women? Did they really love them? Or was it all an act? Many of the women in this story have accepted they may never know the answer to these questions. And unless one of the officers agrees to speak to me (do get in touch!), we may be left guessing.
That said, we have some insight into how Mark Kennedy (the one with the flashy shades) feels in the weeks and months that follow his break-up with Lisa. Because in 2011, when his face is splashed across the front pages, he starts giving interviews . He hires notorious celebrity publicist Max Clifford (later imprisoned for indecent assault) and talks to BBC Radio 5 Live, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and more.
The most emblematic of these interviews is a 50-minute Channel 4 documentary called Cutting Edge: Confessions of an Undercover Cop. Narrated by Kennedy himself, it features dramatic reconstructions, overblown music, and tears – not to mention those Oakley sunglasses.
“I liked the life Mark Stone had, but I also enjoyed the job Mark Kennedy had,” he says.
His story is fairly typical: his dad was a traffic officer and he joined the City of London Police when he was 20. He started working undercover as a test purchaser in the drugs squad – “We must have been good because one time in Stoke Newington a dealer was arrested” – before joining the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
And so he becomes Mark Stone, growing his hair and adopting the personality of an eco-activist. He acts the part of passionate leftist, being beaten by the police and seriously injured on more than one occasion.
But then, Kennedy falls in love with Lisa. “These things just happen,” he says. “I’m with this person who means the world to me and yet I can’t tell her about my family, my school, all those things you share with a partner. I didn’t like talking about the past because I didn’t want to lie to her.”
He adds, “She fell in love with somebody who was lying about who he really was. But the love and care and affection I showed to her really existed.”
And then Kennedy cries, lamenting the loss of his relationship and saying how he regrets deceiving someone who meant so much to him. “I do miss her so much, it’s hard to work that through,” he says. “We shared so much and despite everything I still lied to her and everybody else.”
It's certainly moving. But the thing is, when Kennedy gave that interview, it looked like he was the only undercover cop to have had a relationship. It sounded like he had gone off brief, fallen in love and kept secrets from his superiors. But what we now know – after hearing the stories of all the women in our story – is that isn’t true. In fact, it seems like he behaved in the same way as many of undercover cops in his team. We’ll unpick more of those lies in the next episode.
For more on Mark Kennedy’s perspective, here’s an interview with the Guardian from 2011
And the documentary he made that year with Channel 4, Cutting Edge: Confessions of an Undercover Cop, is available to watch here
SPOILER ALERT: This long-read from Wales Online about Rosa’s and Jim Sutton
Episode 3: Breakdown
It should be no surprise to discover that everything we’ve heard until now from the men in Bed of Lies is a fabrication. After all, at its heart, this story is a quest for the truth. A hunt for what’s real in a knotty web of lies. In episode three, which you can listen to in the audio player above, you’re going to hear the incredible lengths Rosa, Lisa and Alison go to in order to discover what’s behind the strange behaviour of their boyfriends, Jim Sutton, Mark Stone, and Mark Cassidy. And, at the end, a final piece of the puzzle: a document that means the game's up, they’ve been caught out (pictured below).
As I’ve reported on this series – on the machinations, investigations, and public outcry – something that I am constantly struck by is how normal the relationships sound on the surface. The holidays, arguments and couples' counselling. Many of us will have experienced bad breakups or have friends who have been put through the wringer of love.
But there are a couple of terms I mention in this episode that will help us understand the psychological toll of what's happening here: ‘ghosting’ and ‘gaslighting’. The first, ghosting, is when someone ends a relationship with no warning and little explanation. It’s fairly common in the early stages of online dating, but when it happens in a serious long-term relationship, as is the case for Rosa and Alison, it can be traumatic.
Later in this series, you’ll hear from Georgina Clifford, a clinical psychologist who has worked with the women in our story. She has a good understanding of how the experience of being ghosted affects them. “A sense of loss, sadness and grief are normal reactions to a relationship ending,” she says, “but there’s something about the abrupt nature in which these men left that resulted in high levels of anxiety, lots of unanswered questions, and a real lack of closure. And so the women do a lot of searching to try and find out what’s gone on.”
It’s that feeling of needing to know the truth which drives everything that happens from here in Bed of Lies.
Gaslighting, meanwhile, is when someone manipulates a partner to such an extent that they start to question their sanity. It has only come into common use in recent years, so it isn’t on the minds of our characters, but it’s a helpful frame for understanding what’s going on.
Take Lisa and Mark Stone, for example. At the very start of the series, Lisa discovers Mark’s passport is in the name ‘Kennedy’ rather than ‘Stone’, and he has a second phone that contains messages from two children calling him ‘Dad’. When she confronts him, Mark spins a story about being a drug dealer. The name’s fake, the kids belong to a friend who was killed, she can trust him.
“He managed to convince me absolutely that black is white and white is black,” Lisa tells me.
But she doesn’t let her suspicions lie. And with the name from that passport she can finally unravel the truth. As you hear in this third episode, she starts checking out Mark's story on Ancestry.com. Here’s one of the all-important documents she unearths that tells her who Mark really is.
Read my feature on this week's episode: 'How we exposed that our loved ones were liars sent to spy on us'
This feature is an insightful look at what gaslighting is, and how to deal with it.
Jon Ronson’s fascinating radio feature about a man who wasn’t who he said he was. The Internet Date from Hell, which aired on Radio 4 Extra in 2014
Episode 2: Secrecy
In the second episode of Bed of Lies, which you can listen to on the audio player above, we learn more about the backgrounds of the men in our story – Mark Stone (pictured below), Jim Sutton, Mark Cassidy, Carlo Neri, and newcomer Andy Davey. There are some interesting similarities, which I hope you've started to pick up on. I don’t want to give the game away just yet but I’ll go into some more detail here – see if you can figure out what’s going on.
For one, they all have a van. Quite a few listeners remarked on the significance of Mark Cassidy’s red van in episode one – why does Alison sound so enamoured with that red post office van? Well, for these men, their vans are integral to their personality. It’s the source of their work (they’re all handymen, after all) and they make the most of them in social situations. They drive their friends to protests, bundle equipment in the back, and convert them into campers when they want to take their girlfriends away for a romantic weekend.
Their vans are so important, they’re even nicknamed after them – we have ‘Andy Van’ Davey, ‘Jim the Van’ Sutton, and ‘Transport Mark’ Stone. That last Mark, the Nottingham eco-activist, becomes a key organiser thanks to his van. In 2005, he co-ordinates the mass movement of people and vehicles at the protests outside the G8 summit in Scotland. Their aim is to block the roads around the Gleneagles Hotel to prevent world leaders from getting in, so his skills in transport and logistics are vital. Then, he sets up the Activist Tat Collective with a friend who we’ll be hearing from later in the series. It’s an equipment-for-hire service for protestors, and it helps connect Mark with left-wing groups across the country.
Second, these men all have difficult pasts. Jim was adopted, while Mark Cassidy lost his dad in a car crash with a drunk driver. Carlo Neri has a young boy he doesn't see, and Mark Stone is tight-lipped about his dodgy background in drug dealing. That means, the men never introduce their girlfriends to their families.
And lastly, they’re keen activists. To help you follow the series, now is probably a good time for a short breakdown of the different groups each man is involved with, and the types of protests they engage in.
Like the many of our characters, Mark Stone is an environmental activist. He campaigns around issues like climate change and the destruction of nature. It's a loose world made up of lots of smaller groups but some of the main ones are Climate Camp and Earth First! The former are responsible for planning the shut down of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in 2009. Before that, they also manage to stop a coal train heading for Drax. On one such protest, Mark is injured by the police and his friends fear he could have broken his back.
He's also involved with an anti-capitalist movement called Dissent, as well as regional environmental groups, including the Sumac Centre in Nottingham, where he lives and makes most of his close friends. He meets his girlfriend Lisa through Earth First!
Like Mark, Jim attends the Earth First! gathering as a keen environmentalist. He also goes on fox hunting demos, where saboteurs try to distract hounds with fake scent and noises. Police often show up at these events and they can get violent. Injuries are known to be caused by charging horses. Over time, Jim focuses his attention on Reclaim the Streets, a collective of activists who protest against road building and cars. They hold parties on flyovers and in the City of London, attracting attention through maximum social disruption. It's through this that he meets Rosa.
Mark Cassidy is a bit different. He campaigns against police corruption in North London with the Colin Roach Centre and Trevor Monerville campaign. He's also an ardent trade unionist and, because he's a joiner, he's a member of the building workers’ union, UCAT. He later becomes a committee member for the Brian Higgins Defence Campaign, which springs out of a libel dispute within UCAT. Over time, Mark is drawn to counter-protesting against far right groups like the National Front. He's drawn to Red Action, a far left group that has links with Irish republicanism, and is increasingly interested in what's happening in Ireland, as the Good Friday Agreement is passed.
Carlo Neri is similar to Cassidy in his interest in left wing policies and trade unionism. He's part of the Socialist Party and helps coordinate their delegation at the Stop the War march in 2003. Around this time, he talks about bombing a charity shop that he says is run by Italian fascist, Roberto Fiore. It never ends up happening. He's also known to drive around the country to go on counter demonstrations against far right groups like the British National Party.
Andy Davey is an animal rights activist who enters the scene in 1991. He gets involved in hunt saboteuring and picketing big corporates for their record on animal testing, such as Boots. He helps his friends liberate animals from places like battery farms. He's known for driving them around.
This virtual exhibit from the Museum of Youth Culture is an interesting look at the activist world we enter in Bed of Lies
This new series, The Undoing, made by HBO, covers similar themes. Nicole Kidman plays a wife who discovers her husband, played by Hugh Grant, isn't who he says he is.
Episode 1: Infatuation
The idea for my new podcast, Bed of Lies came to me during a conversation with feminist lawyer Harriet Wistrich. It was early 2019, and we were in her north London kitchen, drinking tea while her dog yapped in the background, and talking about her most notable achievements. Harriet was about to win a landmark appeal for Sally Challen, overturning a murder conviction for killing her abusive husband, and she had recently succeeded in fighting black cab rapist John Worboys’ parole request.
Harriet reminded me of a case that she'd taken at the turn of the decade that had caused such a stir it led to the announcement of a public inquiry. I’m not going to go into detail here, because I don’t want to give you any spoilers – there’ll be plenty coming in the next seven weeks. But in the years since winning her first legal battle in this story – and gaining a notable public apology – other fights had floundered, Harriet explained. More and more women had come forward only to be in legal limbo, without answers or justice. And there were yet new women only just discovering that their pasts had been built on a lie. I asked her to put me in touch with them.
Most of the women, being left-wing activists, were initially cautious about speaking to The Telegraph. But they soon opened up as I earned their trust. I showed them stories I had written about Harriet and her other cases, and spoke with them in detail about my idea. We drank coffee in the British Library together and I wrote a special report about two of their stories for Telegraph's news section.
I wanted to tell their story in a way that captured the full scope of the scandal, and the impact it has had on people’s lives. But the women have legal anonymity, and that meant it couldn’t be a documentary or a series of articles. I realised the most intimate way to tell this story would be in a podcast.
I've been talking to the women for 18 months now – I’ve been to their homes, spent hours on the phone with them, spent my birthday at a one-off conference they hosted, and overcome all the technical difficulties involved with making a podcast during a pandemic.
In future notebooks, I’ll be writing more about the things I’ve come across while making this series, the interesting conversations I’ve had that didn’t quite fit into episodes, and ongoing news revelations that I won’t go into detail about just yet.
For now, as you listen to the first episode of Bed of Lies, on the audio player at the top of this article or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app, here’s a guide to the characters in this episode.
Lisa and Mark Stone
Lisa and Mark Stone are eco-activists who love climbing. They meet in 2003, on weekends away and bond over their mutual passion for the environment. Lisa is softly spoken, from Wales. Mark is a bit different – he's known for having flash gear (or climbing equipment) and a mirrored Oakley sunglasses.
We also hear from Mark's housemate and best friend, Jane, who's sharing her story for the first time in this series.
Rosa and Jim Sutton
Rosa and Jim Sutton meet in 1999 through Reclaim the Streets, a 90's group known for its lively protests. She's incredibly academic, with a glittery smile. Jim is new to the scene – he's vegan and he admires her use of coriander.
Alison and Mark Cassidy
In 1995, Alison and Mark Cassidy meet through the Colin Roach Centre, a campaign hub in Hackney that fights police corruption and brutality. Back then, she's an English and Media Studies teacher. She's incredibly funny, with bouncy curls. Mark has a scraggy ponytail and is from Birkenhead – his accent might as well be Scouse to her, and she loves it.
Lindsey and Carlo Neri
Lindsey meets Carlo Neri in 2001 through friends in the Socialist Party. He's single and unhappy, so their friends set them up together. She's a bold Liverpudlian, who can make anyone feel comfortable in a group of strangers. As for Carlo, his parents are Italian and he loves nothing more than visiting the home country.
SPOILER ALERT: Read this feature from the Telegraph's Saturday Magazine about Bed of Lies and the stories within
SPOILER ALERT: Donna McLean was in a relationship with Carlo Neri after Lindsey. She doesn't feature in the podcast, but shares her story here
Interview with feminist lawyer Harriet Wistrich from December 2019, in the days before she made history with Sally Challen's case