Alison gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in February 2013, alongside Clare and Lisa. Following the oral evidence, at the request of the committee, Alison also submitted the following written evidence.
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. That, I realised some time later, was because he wasn’t a joiner but a police officer working undercover for the Metropolitan Police Special Demonstration Squad.
Without evidence to the contrary, I had chosen to believe that Mark cared about me and that when he told me he loved me that he meant it. To choose otherwise, I felt 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, and 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.
Falling in love with the enemy is a cliché spy story that has been told many times. When it becomes your own personal history, it’s a narrative that sits awkwardly and is very difficult to explain. Hearing Judge Tugendhat cite James Bond in his recent judgment, referenced again by Michael Ellis MP at the Committee meeting, makes me wonder the extent to which our experiences have been fully understood. I have yet to see a Bond film where 007 moves in with his target for five years, tends the garden and attends relationship counselling! If parliamentarians really did have Fleming’s Bond in mind when drafting RIPA, as suggested by Judge Tugendaht, the playboy lifestyle portrayed in the films was a very far cry from the domestic life of Mark Cassidy.
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.
Although not directly relevant in terms of the damage caused personally to me, the police’s attitude towards married officers committing adultery is further evidence, I believe, of the institutionalised sexism highlighted by our cases. I think it this sexist, male dominated culture within the police that has allowed these exploitative relationships to form, develop and end with no consideration for the emotional and psychological impact this might have on the innocent citizens deceived. Quite the opposite, I suspect. The stereotyped representation of the British left in the 1990s and environmental protesters a decade or so later – perpetuated by much of the media – as a ‘knocking shop’ filled with easy women into free love is one I believe these men bought into to ease their consciences.
All the memories of my five-year relationship are stained. Which other police did he talk to me about? What did they say about me? What do they have on file? I have asked myself these questions many times over the years but now they are being reframed with real names and faces: Jim Boyling, John Dines, Bob Lambert.
From the moment I believed Mark was an undercover police officer, my view of the world fundamentally changed and has never been the same since. I am harder, less compassionate, angrier and more cynical; the idealism was knocked out of me. Since meeting the other women taking this action against the police and working together with them to challenge this injustice, I have regained some of my political spirit. I’ve remembered what I used to stand up for and instead of betrayal, I’ve experienced solidarity and comradeship. I hope that our collective action will go some way to ensuring that it is no longer acceptable in this country for the state to intrude into its citizens’ lives in the ways we have experienced.
I appreciate the Committee offering to raise further questions on our behalf. I would like answers to the following:
- What information is held about me, including about my relationship with Mark Cassidy/Jenner?
- Who was in control of Mark Jenner? How will this person be held accountable?
- What systems were in place to manage Mark Jenner’s operation?
- Will the police apologise for what has happened?
Submitted as written evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee as part of the committee’s enquiry into undercover policing.
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