Police ‘stole identities of dead children’ to give undercover officers new identities
4 februari 2013
The Metropolitan Police covertly stole the identities of about 80 dead children for use in operations by undercover police officers, according to a new investigation.
The practice, condemned as “gruesome” by Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, carried on for three decades as a means for police to infiltrate anti-racist, anti-capitalist and far-right protest groups. Officers obtained passports, driving licences and national insurance numbers under their new identities.
Monday, 4 February 2013
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Police spies stole identities of dead children
4 februari 2013
Exclusive: Undercover officers created aliases based on details found in birth and death records, Guardian investigation reveals
John Dines, an undercover police sergeant, as he appeared in the early 1990s when he posed as John Barker, a protester against capitalism
Britain’s largest police force stole the identities of an estimated 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers.
The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children’s parents.
The details are revealed in an investigation by the Guardian, which has established how over three decades generations of police officers trawled through national birth and death records in search of suitable matches.
Undercover officers created aliases based on the details of the dead children and were issued with accompanying identity records such as driving licences and national insurance numbers. Some of the police officers spent up to 10 years pretending to be people who had died.
The Met said the practice was not “currently” authorised, but announced an investigation into “past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS [Special Demonstration Squad] officers”.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of parliament’s home affairs select committee, said he was shocked at the “gruesome” practice. “It will only cause enormous distress to families who will discover what has happened concerning the identities of their dead children,” he said. “This is absolutely shocking.”
The technique of using dead children as aliases has remained classified intelligence for several decades, although it was fictionalised in Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal. As a result, police have internally nicknamed the process of searching for suitable identities as the “jackal run”. One former undercover agent compared an operation on which he was deployed to the methods used by the Stasi.
Two undercover officers have provided a detailed account of how they and others used the identities of dead children. One, who adopted the fake persona of Pete Black while undercover in anti-racist groups, said he felt he was “stomping on the grave” of the four-year-old boy whose identity he used.
“A part of me was thinking about how I would feel if someone was taking the names and details of my dead son for something like this,” he said. The Guardian has chosen not to identify Black by his real name.
The other officer, who adopted the identity of a child who died in a car crash, said he was conscious the parents would “still be grief-stricken”. He spoke on the condition of anonymity and argued his actions could be justified because they were for the “greater good”.
Both officers worked for a secretive unit called the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was disbanded in 2008.
A third undercover police officer in the SDS who adopted the identity of a dead child can be named as John Dines, a sergeant. He adopted the identity of an eight-year-old boy named John Barker, who died in 1968 from leukaemia. The Met said in a statement: “We are not prepared to confirm nor deny the deployment of individuals on specific operations.”
The force added: “A formal complaint has been received which is being investigated by the DPS [Directorate for Professional Standards] and we appreciate the concerns that have been raised. The DPS inquiry is taking place in conjunction with Operation Herne’s investigation into the wider issue of past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS officers. We can confirm that the practice referred to in the complaint is not something that would currently be authorised in the [Met police].”
There is a suggestion that the practice of using dead infant identities may have been stopped in the mid-1990s, when death records were digitised. However, the case being investigated by the Met relates to a suspected undercover police officer who may have used a dead child’s identity in 2003.
The practice was introduced 40 years ago by police to lend credibility to the backstory of covert operatives spying on protesters, and to guard against the possibility that campaigners would discover their true identities.
Since then dozens of SDS officers, including those who posed as anti-capitalists, animal rights activists and violent far-right campaigners, have used the identities of dead children.
One document seen by the Guardian indicates that around 80 police officers used such identities between 1968 and 1994. The total number could be higher.
Black said he always felt guilty when celebrating the birthday of the four-year-old whose identity he took. He was particularly aware that somewhere the parents of the boy would be “thinking about their son and missing him”. “I used to get this really odd feeling,” he said.
To fully immerse himself in the adopted identity and appear convincing when speaking about his upbringing, Black visited the child’s home town to familiarise himself with the surroundings.
Black, who was undercover in the 1990s, said his operation was “almost Stasi-like”. He said SDS officers visited the house they were supposed to have been born in so they would have a memory of the building.
“It’s those little details that really matter – the weird smell coming out of the drain that’s been broken for years, the location of the corner Post Office, the number of the bus you get to go from one place to another,” he said.
The second SDS officer said he believed the use of the harvested identities was for the “greater good”. But he was also aware that the parents had not been consulted. “There were dilemmas that went through my head,” he said.
The case of the third officer, John Dines, reveals the risks posed to families who were unaware that their children’s identities were being used by undercover police.
During his covert deployment, Dines had a two-year relationship with a female activist before disappearing from her life. In an attempt to track down her disappeared boyfriend, the woman discovered the birth certificate of John Barker and tried to track down his family, unaware that she was actually searching for a dead child.
She said she was relieved that she never managed to find the parents of the dead boy. “It would have been horrendous,” she said. “It would have completely freaked them out to have someone asking after a child who died 24 years earlier.”
The disclosure about the use of the identities of dead children is likely to reignite the controversy over undercover police infiltration of protest groups. Fifteen separate inquiries have already been launched since 2011, when Mark Kennedy was unmasked as a police spy who had slept with several women, including one who was his girlfriend for six years.
Paul Lewis and Rob Evans
The Guardian, Sunday 3 February 2013 19.13 GMT
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Did police cover up murder of ‘informant’?
13 juli 2012
Family accuses Met Police of whitewash and racism and awaits result of a third inquiry
Scotland Yard has been accused of a “cover up” after it emerged that its own review into the controversial death of a man believed to be an informant did not address key evidence which suggested officers bungled the investigation.
Kester David, 53, was found burned to death under railway arches in north London two years ago. Police concluded that he had committed suicide, but his family claim that he was murdered, possibly connected to him being a police informant, and that detectives failed to carry out a proper investigation because he was black.
In response, Inspector Brian Casson conducted an internal inquiry into the initial investigation. He found that officers had made a “catalogue of errors” that amounted to “a failing in duty”.
However, The Independent has established that the Met then ordered another review, carried out in March this year by DSI Keith Dobson, which did not address Casson’s findings.
Dobson’s report, obtained by The Independent, says: “I have not discovered anything which would have altered the ‘course and direction’ of the original investigation or alter the conclusions and findings which are documented by the investigators and experts involved…Based on all the information supplied to me I concur with that conclusion.”
Last night Mr David’s brother Roger Griffith described the Dobson report as an attempted “whitewash” by the Met and part of a sustained attempt to cover up the failings of the original detectives, whom he believes were motivated by racism.
He said: “The Dobson report was a cover up which ignored everything Casson found and concluded that the original investigation was a good job. It was a complete whitewash.”
He added: “How is it right that two police officers who failed us so tragically are still on the streets? They seemed hell bent on not investigating and putting forward that it was suicide…The two officers should be suspended now, so that no other mother has to go through what our mum has been put through.”
An inquest into Mr David’s death recorded an open verdict in January 2011 amid unanswered questions and a missing DNA report. After the critical Casson report was leaked to the press, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe ordered a new inquiry, which is still ongoing.
Inspector Casson, who was investigating the family’s complaints, found two key witnesses who had called 999 with evidence that pointed to foul play, but were never interviewed by the detectives.
One man, who was awake feeding his baby daughter, reported hearing two screams of ‘no’ by a man who sounded panicked, frightened and in pain at 4.20am. He was first interviewed by the Inspector Casson – almost 18 months after the incident.
The second caller was a Morrisson’s supermarket night shift worker who had seen a white Mercedes van in the car park, which borders the Travis Perkin yard where Mr David was found, and two men walking towards the yard at 3.45am. He had never before seen a vehicle in the car park at that time of night. The CCTV footage was never recovered.
Mr David’s burnt body was found without shoes but there was a pair of white Reebok trainers found close-by, which his family said did not belong to him. The detectives concluded that they were his because, they told the coroner, DNA taken from the shoes “would have” belonged to a close relative. This was not true; there is no mention of a close relative in the excerpt of the DNA report quoted by Casson, the same report apparently lost by the detectives so never seen by the coroner or family.
The forensic scientist actually found two DNA profiles, one was dominant so most likely belonged to regular wearer of the shoes, but this was not run against the police DNA database. Casson’s inquiry found that it was perfect match to a white man from the travelling community.
At the inquest, Detective Kirk told the coroner that the CCTV footage showing Mr David buying a canister of petrol a few hour before he is believed to have died, pointed to a planned suicide. The inquest was not shown footage from a few minutes later which showed an RAC van attend as Mr David’s car had broken down because it was out of fuel. This footage was “not discovered” by the original investigation.
Casson also found that crucial mobile phone analysis was not done.
The Casson report recommended “a severity assessment” be conducted in light of his findings. Even the Dobson report recommends they are “considered for local management action” because of the insensitivities shown to the family and the inaccurate information they passed on. But both still remain on full duty.
They family do not understand why the IPCC, which is currently investigating five alleged cases of racism, decided not to get involved pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. The IPCC said it was reviewing this decision following the family’s request not to delay the investigation.
The Met did not comment on Mr Griffith’s view that the Dobson report was a whitewash and an attempt to cover up the actions of racist officers but said: “There is a fresh on-going investigation into the death of Kester David by the Specialist Crime and Operations Directorate (SC&O1)… detectives retain an open mind about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“An investigation into an unexplained death of this nature is reviewed as a matter of course after 28 days, usually internally, but in this case by an external police force ensure Mr David’s family is as reassured as they can be about the effectiveness of our investigative process.”
She added: “The investigation into this complaint has not been completed… the Directorate of Professional Standards awaits the outcome of the [criminal] investigation. No action has been taken against any officer at this stage. No disciplinary action can be considered until SC&O1 have finalised their investigation.”
Timeline: Kester David Case
7 July 2010 Kester David dies around 4am. His burnt body is found under railway arches of Palmers Green station, north London, at 11am.
Find this story at 7 July 2012
Saturday, 7 July 2012