UK

Undercover policeman 'said he was in love with me'

Helen Steel
Image caption Helen Steel, who was sued in the famous McLibel case, said the behaviour of undercover officers was "unacceptable"

Eight women are suing the Metropolitan Police after men with whom they had relationships turned out to be undercover officers. The Met says it is conducting a review into the allegations. Here two of the women tell their stories.

Helen Steel, who had a relationship with John Dines

"In 1987, I was involved with London Greenpeace (which had no connection with Greenpeace International) which was involved in campaigning on social justice issues. John started going along to meetings.

"For three years we were friends and he was caring and committed to the same issues I was interested in. He asked me out and in 1990 he told me his mother had died in New Zealand and he needed money to go to the funeral. I lent him money to go and we became close.

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Media captionHelen Steel's "soul mate" was an undercover officer

"I was helping him with his grief. Now I know that his mother had not died.

"He moved into a bedsit and I spent time there. We rented a flat together and lived together for a year. We talked about having a family together and a smallholding and I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with him.

"He told me he was in love with me and I felt I had fallen in love with him.

"With all the women there are similarities in the patterns of conduct, with officers basically mirroring your behaviour and pretending to share all your likes and dislikes so you really feel like you have met your soulmate when actually they are just manipulating you.

"[One day] I came home and there was a letter saying he couldn't cope any more and he was leaving. It was out of the blue. That was in the days before mobile phones so there was no way I could contact him.

"But he did get in touch with me and apologised. He said he felt he had no-one else in his life. His parents had both died and the woman he had ever loved had left him and he feared I was going to do the same, so he was leaving to pre-empt that happening.

"I know now that it was all false. His parents were alive and he was married.

"He said he had thrown his mother's jewellery in the river because she didn't love him and I feared he might jump in the river. He wrote me deeply emotional letters and I was worried about his well-being.

"He said he was in Ireland or France sorting his head out. Eventually he posted me a letter from Heathrow and said he was running away to South Africa. Then I got two letters postmarked from South Africa. He said he was sorry about what he had done but he couldn't cope.

"It was like a bereavement but there was no body to bury. He had just disappeared. I tried to track him down in South Africa. But everything I looked up turned to dust."

Helen says she trawled through birth and death registers and eventually found a death certificate which revealed that he had used the identity of a boy who had died of leukaemia, aged eight.

"That meant I had been in a relationship with somebody and I didn't even know what their name was. I had all those memories and photographs and I didn't know his real name."

Belinda Harvey, who had a relationship with Bob Lambert

"After I finished university, I came down to London and lived in a house with friends. One night we went to a party and I met Bob. I noticed him looking at me and towards the end of the party, we started talking.

"The electricity was instant. I felt like, wow. There was a great attraction between us and the more we talked, the more happy I became.

"Like Helen it was almost like what he was saying was tailored. I felt like I'd met my soulmate. He was interested in human rights and equality and I had been on CND and gay pride marches (although never involved in any activism).

"Bob introduced me to all his friends who were into anarchism and anti-capitalism. I started feeling guilty about my lifestyle. I worked full-time at the Central Electricity Generating Board and I felt guilty about my career. He seemed to be a better person because he was willing to sacrifice things for what he believed in, like animal rights.

"He even tried to steer me away from buying a house.

"I don't know if any of it was genuine. How can I know? Even if I spoke to him now I would not believe a single word he said. Everything he said and did was false. It was like having a relationship with an actor.

"Since I found out he was an undercover cop it was really hard to believe it was true. I had heard rumours but not for a moment did I think that was true.

"I never thought anyone could go undercover and live like that for years and years.

"It showed how much institutional sexism there was in the police... It's outrageous. The fact that the police are destroying our lives and not caring that they are getting into our psyche. I was just used for sex and that is so, so hurtful. I was taken advantage of...

"I want to know why was I targeted? Were there cameras in my house? Were there bugs? If the police were spending so much, they must have been after something. What have they got about my life? It's beyond the pale."

Bob Lambert statement (to Channel 4's Dispatches)

The work of an undercover officer is complex, dangerous and sensitive and it would take some considerable time and the co-operation of my former police employers to provide the full background, context and detail necessary to address the matters which have been raised.

Statement from the Metropolitan Police

"There is a thorough review and live investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour and practices involving historic undercover deployments. It would be inappropriate for us to provide a running commentary on specific allegations whilst this investigation is ongoing. The Metropolitan Police Service must balance the genuine public interest in these matters with its duty to protect officers and former officers who have been deployed undercover, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances. We are therefore not prepared to confirm nor deny the identity of individuals alleged in the media to have been working undercover, nor confirm nor deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations."

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