We need Sir John Mitting to understand the devastating impact of our experiences as victims of spycops, writes ‘Andrea’
A PUBLIC inquiry set up to investigate undercover policing in England and Wales has just released a new tranche of documents relating to the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a notorious covert unit within the Metropolitan Police.
As well as disclosing the names of three previously unknown undercover officers, the inquiry team — now led by Sir John Mitting — has published documents revealing “minded to” notes on protecting the anonymity of former officers who operated at the heart of the scandal.
I have been designated a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry as I was deceived into a long-term relationship with the SDS officer known as Carlo Neri. I met Carlo in September 2002, at a London anti-war demonstration.
Carlo was a steward at the march alongside friends, all of whom were trade union activists.
Carlo was a locksmith, working from a well-known shop in London’s Kings Cross. He was a member of the GMB union. He was practical, he drove an estate car, he fixed things. He changed locks: in my flat, in our friends’ flats.
Carlo and I were inseparable and within six weeks, he’d moved in with me. We lived together for two years and in that time we got engaged and planned to have children. We had pictures of his son and his sister on the bookcase. We had an abundance of good food and fine wine from Italy. Carlo cooked beautifully, our flat was warm and hospitable and we threw great parties. He was adored by my friends, family and work colleagues. Not only did we love him, we also trusted him.
The summer after we met, we were all set to holiday in France, coinciding with the final leg of the Tour de France. Carlo loved cycling and he organised the trip. The night before, Carlo came home and said: “I’m sorry but I can’t go. I have to go to Italy, my father’s sick.” He left for Italy, where his father had suffered a stroke. He rang me every day that he was away.
Things changed over a period of several months. His father’s illness meant he had to spend more time in Italy. He began to disclose difficulties in his early life: a family history of domestic abuse, mental health difficulties, suicidal thoughts. He felt guilty and deeply ashamed. He had lost weight, even his eyes looked different. It was apparent that he was having a breakdown.
Then his father died. And he disclosed that his father had sexually abused his sister. He was devastated. His behaviour became volatile and I felt frightened and completely helpless. Leading up to his final disappearance from my life, after more than two years together, he went missing several times and threatened suicide. All of this had a massive impact on my life and my wellbeing.
In late 2015 I discovered that Carlo had led two completely different lives: one, with me, as a locksmith and left-wing activist and the other, with his wife, as a highly trained police officer, operating in the so-called elite SDS, a secretive unit within the Metropolitan Police.
For more than a decade I had no idea that the man I had lived with for two years was in fact a state spy. Activists and researchers who had harboured suspicions about Carlo’s sudden disappearance had been quietly placing all the pieces of this extraordinary puzzle together.
I will never forget the moment that I was given the papers which proved without question that Carlo was an undercover police officer.
His profession was clearly documented on his marriage certificate and his children’s birth certificates. I recognised his signature immediately and it felt like someone had hit me. My vision blurred, my hearing dulled. I felt like I would pass out.
Only later did I learn that the officers who joined this elite, covert unit had to be married. They would then have a guarantee — a stable home to return to when the long deployment (known as “deep swimming) ended. The devastating impact on us, the women who loved and trusted them for all those years, was written off as “collateral intrusion.”
The impact of my discovery has been profound, reopening old wounds which never quite healed. This real-but-not-true person has re-entered my life, uninvited. When this happens to you, when your own narrative becomes a fiction, life becomes incongruent and disjointed.
It’s a highly toxic situation — contaminating family life, relationships, career, even health. And when you begin to uncover the truth there are so many uncertainties and missing pieces that this leaves a huge sense of loss. The state orchestrated this lie and Carlo actively chose to be the main player. He had full autonomy in choosing for me to be his “collateral intrusion.” It is an enormously cruel thing to do.
Carlo has just been granted anonymity to protect his real name. Apparently he lives in fear of repercussions from vengeful activists, who he depicts as a violent band of petty criminals.
I don’t recognise this portrait of thugs and lowlifes that he paints in his evidence — these are the people who loved and supported us and joined to celebrate our engagement, New Year and birthdays. Among these friends are nurses, teachers, lecturers, social workers, artists, writers, therapists. Oh, and a lawyer and a doctor too. Not quite the danger to society the state would have us believe.
However, if this fantasy was in any way true and these social justice activists and trade unionists I know were hell-bent on breaking the law — allegedly witnessed by Carlo — why was no-one convicted? Surely this counts as an expensive failure — five years of an elite salary and who knows what in expenses during his deployment?
Carlo and his employers want his real identity to be protected. The reality is I have known many of these details all along. Carlo and his paymasters were arrogant, and so left behind lots of clues, including using his real child and sister’s photos (and names) to shore up his fake identity. I chose not to reveal his real name to protect his children and his ex-wife, who played no part in this sick charade.
Carlo doesn’t want to face me in an open court. He doesn’t want me to see his face. This compounds the distress and frustration I feel — it adds insult to injury. Why should he — and the state — be so protected?
They abused my human rights, invading my body, my home, my family life. They used the most disgusting methods of emotional manipulation to scheme their way in and out of all our lives.
My rights seem to be less than his yet I am the victim in this gross misconduct and intrusion. In this public inquiry the weight of money, of legal representation and protection appears to fall on the side of the perpetrators.
I don’t believe that Carlo is afraid of me or my activist friends. In reality, I think he’s deeply ashamed of his actions. And so he should be. However the Metropolitan Police is afraid of its ugly secrets being exposed in the public domain. This inquiry is not shaping up to protect my rights or uncover the truth about the abuse that happened to me.
Instead, tenuous accusations are made about us — the victims — and perpetrators are afforded every protection. There is little acknowledgement of how vital the work of victims has been in uncovering these human rights abuses.
I truly hope that Sir John Mitting can see through the state-sponsored lies. I hope he can hear our stories in an even-handed and impartial way.
We need him to understand the devastating impact of our experiences as victims of spycops. These units demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law and we need this inquiry to provide us with fairness, truth and justice. I implore Sir John Mitting: don’t let them off the hook.