Alison was involved in the case taken by the eight women. She requested anonymity; this has been upheld by the courts. ‘Alison’ is a pseudonym.
I lived with the man I knew as Mark Cassidy for five years; I believed he was a joiner from Birkenhead. He fitted a new kitchen in our home before he disappeared in Spring 2000; it took him a long time and he struggled with the router. I realised some time later, that was because he wasn’t a joiner but a police officer working undercover for the Metropolitan Police Special Demonstration Squad.
I had believed that Mark cared about me and that when he told me he loved me that he meant it. I felt that to believe otherwise was unnecessarily self-destructive. Since discovering more recently that in his true identity Mark apparently had a wife and children, I have had to review my earlier perception of our relationship. The pattern that has emerged from talking to the other claimants whose partners disappeared in similar ways has made me question again the extent to which any of our relationship was real. Our ‘Dear John’ letters for example are unnervingly similar.
Being hurt and betrayed by a dishonest lover is painful enough. To discover that your lover was lying about his very identity and was in your life because his employer – the police – positioned him there to gather information on you and your friends places the experience in a different dimension.
The children I wanted with Mark never happened – thankfully, I now realise. I was a few months off 35 when he disappeared and I have been extremely fortunate to have built another relationship since then and I have two children. I am very conscious, however, that I am an older mother than I would have liked to be – Mark and his employers stole those years from me.
He stands next to me in my mother’s wedding photo that sits on her mantelpiece, he teases me in the family videos of my nephew’s and niece’s birthdays and he lies about his family to my now deceased grandmother in the last video footage I took of her before she died. He is not only engrained in the memories in my head but features in so much of our family memorabilia from those years.
I was deeply in love with Mark and he knew this. I do not believe it is a coincidence that all of us involved in this case describe a deep, loving, intimate bond with our ex-partners. In normal relationships, problems can occur when people’s egos clash; in our relationships the men were presenting us only with their state sponsored, easy-going alter egos.
That I loved a police officer is a reality that still confuses me all these years later. I had been active in the Colin Roach Centre, an independent group that had exposed police corruption in the early 1990s and promoted trade union, anti-fascist politics. To love someone who, with hindsight, embodied the very institution much of my political energy was channeled into challenging has gone to the core of my own identity and has shaken the foundations of my judgements about many things.
Of one thing, however, I remain sure: the state intrusion into my most personal life over a period of five years was unethical, immoral and, I hope we can prove, unlawful.
Over the years, as I have told people about this strange episode of my life, they often ask didn’t I meet any of Mark’s family or friends? Professionally trained, he delivered a sad, childhood story of bereavement and family dysfunction: a drunken driver killed his father when he was eight. His mother re-married a man he didn’t get on with. His half brother lived in Rome. His grandmother was dead and his grandfather lived in Birkenhead and on the one occasion we went up there together the old man was on a church outing!
Mark made friends very easily and was well liked. I’ve recently watched old video footage of him and can see how at times, he subtly closes down conversations and deflects the focus of attention onto others. In the early days of our relationship, when I asked him about old friends from school or about his past life, he responded similarly. What I then read as charming humility or childhood pain, I now see was a well-trained, professional liar at work.
By never being allowed to meet Mark’s family or friends, I had no opportunity after his disappearance to ask those close to him what went wrong and therefore to begin the normal grieving process. Those in command would have known I was searching for him yet remained silent and invisible, allowing me – perhaps watching me – waste years of looking for someone who did not exist. I am not a psychologist but I believe such a dynamic is abusive. The fact that paid officials in the Metropolitan Police Service – a publicly funded body – actively authorised, quietly choose to ignore or simply failed to recognise this emotional abuse is, for me, what requires recompense.
Alison at the University of Manchester School of Law
On 14 April 2016 Alison spoke at the University of Manchester School of Law.
She specifically talks about children, family and institutional sexism:
More about Alison
February 2013 – Alison gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, alongside Helen and Lisa. You can read the transcript of their oral evidence.
February 2013 – Following the oral evidence, at the request of the committee, Alison also submitted written evidence.
March 2014 – Alison’s interview about her experiences – BBC Newsnight programme.
April 2016 – Alison spoke at the University of Manchester School of Law. She specifically talks about children, family and institutional sexism.
March 2017 – Alison wrote a piece for Lush about her experience of being spied on, the court case, and the public inquiry.
April 2017 – The Huffington Post released an article about Alison and Helen, which was published to coincide with the public inquiry hearing on that day.
June 2017 – Alison released a Lush Podcast speaking about her story.
November 2017 – Article in The Guardian Opinion – I was a victim of undercover police abuse. I fear we won’t get justice
November 2017 – Interview in Elle magazine
November 2017 – Article in The Guardian Opinion – Undercover police abused female activists. But the inquiry is a farce.
June 2018 – Article in The Guardian Opinion – Javid attacks Lush’s #spycops campaign but ignores victims like me
October 2018 – Article in The Morning Star – BlacKkKlansman – a spycops’ survivor’s perspective.
December 2018 – Article in The Guardian Opinion – Police have spied on thousands of us. Let the spotlight now fall on them.
If you quote any of the above accounts, for articles, blogs, or academic research, please let us know. Please respect that while these words appear in the public domain, they belong to people who have had their private lives profoundly abused. Thank you