Jessica has written this courageous statement as part of going public about recently finding out that she had a relationship with Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner Andy Coles, when she was 19, and he was an undercover police officer. She knew him as ‘Andy Davey’, a fellow activist. She wrote this statement in April 2017, but it is being published on 12th May 2017, to coincide with her story going live in the press. These are entirely her own words.
At the start of 1992 I was 19, this was a very big year for me. I moved out of my parent’s home and in with a house full of animal rights friends. I also became vegan, after being vegetarian since I was 12. I landed my dream job and I also had my first proper “boyfriend”
The year before – whilst at college my best friend and I would come up to London on the train every Saturday (that was all we could afford) to leaflet the likes of Boots and McDonalds with Hackney and Islington Animal Rights. We were also involved with London Greenpeace, London Boots Action Group and other groups that were around at the time.
Once we had moved to London we were able to get more involved with the protests. I can’t remember when I first met Andy, many of us were involved in multiple campaigns and met up frequently. He was a visitor to our house and I thought of him as a friend with similar interests, morals and opinions. I had no idea that he had any special feeling toward me, I certainly never felt any for him. Looking back, knowing what I know now, he wasn’t like the other undercover officers in many ways, he was very much in the background. He lacked the charisma of some and he was only included by default: people needed transport and he was always there and willing.
Although I was 19, I had never been in a proper relationship before. Events in my life had taught me it’s best to keep people at arm’s length. So, I didn’t know how to react when he made advances towards me, I was embarrassed, awkward, and what truly makes me feel sick now, is that I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I look back now and realise I was naive, idealistic, unsophisticated and a very young 19. Appallingly I also now know my new “boyfriend” was a 32 year old, married undercover policeman working for the SDS, Special Demonstration Squad. I had believed him to be about 24 at the time. One of the few things he told me about himself was that he had a 2 year old daughter that he never saw, which was a lie (his wife had their first daughter the year after we split up).
At the time of writing this I have only known his true identity for about a month, so it is still early days. Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced (he had been an acting police officer for 10 years) and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him. I didn’t even know his real name.
We were “together” for over a year although part of that time I was working abroad, and coming back to stay with him. I later learned that he had made several approaches to other women, some whilst I was away, but they were older than I was and knocked him back. I never knew he had the reputation amongst women as “being lecherous” and “not nice to be around”. I remained faithful to him the whole time I was away, as far as I was concerned I had a boyfriend back in London. We had actually split up by the time he came to “go abroad and find himself.” The one who missed him most was his rescue dog that he left behind.
We now know considerably more about him, for instance his current job as a Tory councillor and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. That he has made such a high profile and public career, I find incredible. Is he so arrogant that he thought he wouldn’t be found out? In his career profile he admits to working for Scotland Yard serving in specialist operations. He was uncovered after his brother (Rev Richard Coles; Priest, ex-Communard and celebrity) mentioned in his autobiography he was working undercover for Special Branch infiltrating a “sinister organisation”. So if he wasn’t worried about being discovered, then does he think he did nothing wrong? Has he not seen the news over recent years? Has he not seen the unreserved apology to the women abused by these officers from the Metropolitan Police Service for the violation of their human rights the abuse of police power and the causing of significant trauma? I believe if he felt any shame about the way he used and manipulated me he would have kept a low profile to prevent it becoming common knowledge. This is a man with daughters of his own, only a few years older than I was at that time! I don’t imagine I will ever get answers to these questions.
We also know that Bob Lambert was his Head of Operations at the SDS in ‘93, so there would have been very little “off limits”. Lambert was a superior officer who, whilst undercover, had multiple relationships and a child, and is under police investigation for the planting of incendiary devices. Andy was also involved in action: he was often the driver, and took part in a raid on a battery farm and relocating rescued laboratory animals. The fact that these officers broke the law with activists cemented their place in the groups, what police officer would do that? Initially Andy wasn’t trusted by some people, but the length of time he was around (over 3 years) seemed to point to him being on the level. We underestimated the lengths the police would go to and the time they would invest in us. We must have been doing something right.
This has been one of the most stressful times I have ever known: my life as I knew it was a lie. One of the people that I trusted most never existed. I can’t look back at those times in the same way now. I can’t trust my judgement, because I got things so wrong. I am now beginning to look at people I know differently. I can’t even feel that I’m being paranoid, because it’s justified.
The police, in their Apology, acknowledge our human rights were violated. By simply telling my story, I suffer a further violation. In exposing this undercover officer for what he is, what he did, I will have to sacrifice myself again. This is a story that has to be told, has to be prevented from happening again. I am not the first person to go through this, and unfortunately, I will not be the last. We don’t know the full scale of the abuse at the hands of the undercover police. So far as we know, I was their youngest victim, but in a secret squad that were a law unto themselves, unanswerable to anyone and seemingly untouchable, who knows what depravity was deemed acceptable. I attended my first demonstration at 14 years old, I am just grateful I never met him then.