‘Police spy spent five years with me... then vanished overnight’: Mark Jenner’s target speaks out
PUBLISHED: 17:29 11 February 2016 | UPDATED: 18:50 15 September 2017
© David Hoffman
‘Alison’ is one of seven women who received an apology from the Met after unknowingly becoming involved in long-term relationships with undercover officers.
She feared for her own safety once she realised the man she had believed was her “life partner” may in fact have been an undercover policeman.
And she grew paranoid at the thought she might be “uncovering a state secret”.
At the time, Alison – not her real name – felt she was under police surveillance, but to this day she is still unsure of the separation between fact and fiction.
For this reason she wants the Met to respond to the subject access request (SAR) she has made for all the information relating to her that they hold on file.
“At the time I was very damaged,” she said.
“It was scary because I think I was under surveillance for a significant period of time, but I was also in a heightened sense of reality, so there were things I interpreted that were maybe not what they appeared.
“I thought people were following me. My internet was regularly cut off; my phone calls were intercepted.”
Alison met the Gazette over coffee at Hackney Picturehouse after a string of e-mails. She is determined to keep her identity secret to protect her children.
“It’s the fact we have no answers,” she explained. “Not having seen the files is a huge problem in putting the whole thing to bed. It changes your perspective on the world. How can you know whether your judgement was sound or unsound when you don’t know if the things you made judgements on were true or not?
“When something like this happens, your ground turns into sand. Suddenly you are all over the place because you don’t know what’s true and what’s false.”
Despite apologising to Alison, the Met has still not confirmed officially that Mark Jenner was the officer involved with her.
When he disappeared suddenly in 2000, disentangling himself from the deployment in Hackney, Alison was left heartbroken and felt like she was losing her mind.
He left a note claiming he was going to Germany to look for work and blaming his bailing out on the fact she wanted children and he didn’t – something they had spent 18 months in relationship counselling over.
“I was 29 when I met him,” she said. “I was 34 when he disappeared, which is significant for me and many of the women – they steal years of your life, and for many it was the very significant childbearing years.
“Everyone thought I was paranoid delusional, unable to accept that my boyfriend had left me, but there were things that were unusual.
“I had never met his family; is father had died; his mother was estranged; his only half-brother lived in Rome; the one occasion when we went to Birkenhead, to meet his grandfather he was on a church outing.
“When I suddenly thought about those things in hindsight, it didn’t add up.”
Through her own research at the family record centre, she realised he had lied about his father being killed by a drunk driver, and over his grandmother’s death, too – which cemented her suspicion he may have been working for the state.
Alison hired a private detective to track “Mark Cassidy” down, and discovered that the man who appears in the photos of her mother’s second wedding had never officially “existed”.
It was only in 2011 when she read about the case of Mark Kennedy, another policeman who infiltrated activist groups, that she realised her case was not an isolated “one-off” and appeared to be part of a “systemic operation”.
She now feels the “betrayal and humiliation” she suffered was far worse than a lying or cheating boyfriend and has left her with many unanswered questions – including how much of the relationship was real.
“It disturbs the foundations of your sanity and your perception of reality,” she said. “Even now I say to old friends of mine: ‘He was there all the time, wasn’t he?’ and they say: ‘Yes, of course he was.’
“The other question is who these people were. Who is he? I don’t know.”
She still does not know how much of Mark Jenner and Mark Cassidy overlap.
“For many years I made a very conscious choice to make up parts of the story myself in terms of his feelings for me and to tell myself that he cared for me,” she said.
“When I found out that he was married with children, that made me reframe a lot of that. Now I really don’t know.
“I would very much like to have him sitting there, and ask him, but I won’t ever know the answer. That’s the problem with someone who is that skilled at lying. Whatever I ask him, he would lie.”
Alison, a peaceful campaigner involved in left-wing political causes, still has no idea what the Met gained from the exercise.
“That’s hopefully something the public inquiry will cover,” she said. “They might argue they did gain stuff. I might have given him very good cover, and credibility to get information from who knows – but he didn’t gain anything from me except lots of nice dinners and a warm bed.
“I want people to understand how abusive and oppressive the police have been. I want them to understand the negative impact a blanket surveillance policy can have on individuals.
“But at the same time, if you are being watched and under surveillance and being infiltrated it probably means you are having an impact, so you should keep on doing what you are doing.”
Contact with other women in the same boat has been a big help, too. “The reason we were infiltrated and spied upon in the first place was because we were activists,” she said.
“It’s been a very interesting coming together of what I would argue are the brightest and strongest female activists in the country.
“They have empowered people they wanted to disempower.”
A public meeting under the banner of “Big Brother – Who’s Watching You?” takes place at Chat’s Palace, in Brooksby’s Walk, Homerton on February 26 at 7.30pm.
The meeting will include discussions about why undercover cop Mark Jenner infiltrated Hackney campaigners in the 1990s.
Speakers include Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and founding members of the Colin Roach Centre Graham Smith and Mark Metcalf.
Lead photo by David Hoffman.