Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, page 26
Kennedy was immersed in another world, far away from the staid Tory suburbs where he left his wife and children. He and Megan would go on tree-planting weekends or on long camping expeditions in the Scottish Highlands. One ritual among the group involved savouring a bottle of expensive Port Ellen whisky and talking late into the night. On one such weekend Kennedy arrived with six whisky glasses, each engraved with the name of a friend in the group.
Years later Kennedy would reflect on his life undercover and remark: ‘I began to live the life and enjoy it. People have this image of hairy tree huggers and, yes, there is an element of that. But there are also a lot of educated, passionate people with degrees who really believe in what they are doing. There were people who, if they had only a couple of quid left, would buy you a pint. So many people I knew, or Mark Stone knew, became really good friends. It wasn’t just about being an activist all the time.’
But the lifestyle came with a cost. For much of the time he was undercover, irrespective of what he was doing, Kennedy was earning overtime. ‘Every day I was on the job, even if I was at “home” in bed watching telly and doing the laundry, I got five hours’ overtime. My handler got the same,’ he said. ‘I was taking home more money than an inspector who was two ranks higher than me.’ Kennedy was also blowing several thousand pounds a month on rent, petrol, rope equipment, parties, a fleet of new vehicles and flights abroad. He bought himself two bicycles, a top-of-the-range sound system and a Mitsubishi Warrior pick-up truck. His life of adventure, parties and domesticity with Megan was costing the British taxpayer close to £250,000 a year.
Some friends felt his spending habits were incongruous with the lifestyle of an anti-capitalist. But Kennedy was unapologetic, telling friends he was earning ‘Hollywood wages’ doing climbing work and revelling in his new nickname: Flash. He set up an email account beginning ‘flashwheels@’ and introduced himself to new people as ‘Flash Mark’. By then, some of Kennedy’s closer friends were under the impression that he was living off the proceeds of a criminal fortune. ‘The story was Mark had been a cocaine courier, and he had made a lot of money doing that,’ Logan says. ‘But people in that drug world had done his head in. It was just a lot of coked-up, superficial gabbling twats, so he wanted to do something meaningful with his life. It seemed plausible for somebody who was not educated, not especially intelligent, not very old, and yet he had got a wad of money.’
It was not just his persona that was evolving. As he spent more and more time living as Mark Stone, the police spy’s appearance changed too. As time passed, he seemed to look like an exaggerated caricature of himself. He started wearing bigger earrings and tight black vests that exposed his torso and an ever-growing collection of tattoos. He was becoming obsessed with a genre known as biomechanical body art. Etched into his forearm was a tattoo that depicted his skin being peeled back to reveal mechanical levers beneath the flesh. It suggested Mark Stone was a shell, and beneath the surface were the mechanics of a robot.
That summer, Kennedy had an altercation that tested his loyalties and left his managers asking who exactly was in control.
The brawl that took place in the shadow of a power station was not a fair fight. On one side was Kennedy, red-faced and with his hair loose and ruffled in the wind. His assailants had helmets and metal batons. It was him versus a handful of armed men, who had no idea that the protester they were beating was a fellow constable, receiving a painful introduction to police brutality.
It was August 2006 and the climax of the Climate Camp gathering in North Yorkshire. There had already been one march, in which protesters donned white paper boiler suits and walked toward the power station carrying a puppet ostrich, to symbolise people with their heads in the sand. Now a splinter group of protesters was trying to break into the grounds of Drax power station to force a temporary closure. The previous night, protesters had crawled through some woodland to bury cutting equipment near the perimeter fence. Kennedy was among a dozen activists, including his girlfriend Megan and his fellow spy Lynn Watson, who were hidden in some bushes, waiting for the right moment to cut open the fence and run inside. With two officers involved in the plan, the NPOIU knew what was about to happen. Unbeknown to the protesters, police were themselves hiding nearby, preparing an ambush.
Kennedy watched as a handful of excited activists scurried out of the shrubbery, snipped the wire fence and started wriggling through the hole like rabbits. One by one, they squeezed into the grounds of the power station. Watson got through. So did Megan. But another woman had only crawled halfway through when riot officers pounced and started beating her legs. Kennedy snapped and lashed out at the officers to distract their attention.
The riot police later described how they were assaulted by a bearded protester without justification. Kennedy told a very different story, claiming that he was dragged to the ground and subjected to a senseless beating. One officer stamped on his back, causing a prolapsed disc. As he was dragged away he was heard shouting: ‘This is the face of peaceful protest.’
Back at the camp, he removed his top to allow his friends to photograph his injuries: a badly bruised back, broken finger and a cut forehead. ‘He looked like he was in serious pain,’ one recalls. ‘He said his back was seriously fucked. I remember he said: “They kicked me in, but I beat up some of the coppers so it was worth it.”’ Kennedy told another friend how the officers pinned him on his back and took turns to punch him in his face. He claimed to have shouted back: ‘Your mum punches harder than that.’
The police spy was fuming. He felt he was the victim of an unprovoked attack and believed his assailants should be disciplined. His supervisors at the NPOIU saw the situation rather differently. Operatives were not supposed to engage in hand-to-hand combat with their uniformed colleagues. When Kennedy’s handler asked to meet with him, he refused. Instead he emailed his superiors pictures of his injuries and took to the activist website Indymedia to decry the ‘deluge of police brutality’ meted out at the power station. When the NPOIU ordered Kennedy to leave his activist friends and return to his wife and children, he replied with an astonishing text message. ‘I’m going to stay here for the time being, where people are actually going to take care of me,’ it said. ‘You’ve completely fucked it up.’
Police chiefs now had a rogue officer on their hands. Kennedy was openly disobeying orders. He was out of control, a loose cannon. If he had been an officer in the SDS, Kennedy would almost certainly have been pulled from the job with immediate effect. Managers like Bob Lambert were conscious of the risks of long-term spies showing split loyalties, and would terminate deployments at the slightest whiff of disloyalty. Senior officers in the NPOIU, however, were reluctant to lose their top operative. Kennedy had undergone a number of assessments with psychologists, none of which returned any concerns. He was delivering superb intelligence, both in the UK and abroad.
Toward the end of the year, after a stern warning about who was paying his wages, Kennedy was allowed to return to Megan. The couple headed straight to Germany, where Kennedy had been developing some promising friendships. It was the start of a sustained period of foreign travel for the undercover police officer, who made Berlin a base for his activities on the continent. ‘He knew quite a few people already,’ says Jason Kirkpatrick, an activist Kennedy stayed with in the city. ‘We went out pretty much every night. And we drank a lot. It is no secret that Mark loved Berlin. He told me it was his favourite city.’
Some people who knew Kennedy in Germany say he adopted a more brooding, dark persona over there. He spent some of his time infiltrating black bloc anarchists, famed for hiding their faces behind ski masks and military balaclavas. The spy himself claims to have met some ‘fairly serious people’ in Berlin, and obtained a manual about how to construct incendiary devices and derail trains which, he says, was accidentally shredded by the NPOIU. Kirkpatrick says he was unaware the police officer was meeting violent campaigners, although he seemed to want to. The Be
While working in Germany, Kennedy was listed as an ‘informant’ by police authorities in the country. The status should have explicitly barred him from having intimate relationships with women he was spying on, which is prohibited under German law. He is known to have had sex with at least two women in Germany, but there could have been more. But Kennedy’s trips to the country did not appear particularly impeded by rules or regulations. He was only formally authorised on two operations, first to gather intelligence about plans to disrupt the G8 summit and second to infiltrate protests against a NATO meeting near Strasbourg. However, Kennedy came and went from Germany as he pleased, once after no more than a phone call informing German authorities that a British spy was on his way.
He was twice arrested in Germany, the second time after a mysterious incident involving an arson attack in the street. It was unclear whether he had received clearance to even be in Berlin at that time, let alone to commit crime. He was becoming something of a lone agent. At least once, Kennedy travelled abroad despite being instructed by the NPOIU not to go. These foreign missions occasionally appear to have taken his colleagues by surprise.
On one occasion, he was spotted in Berlin by Watson, who appears to have been stunned to see him there. She was in the city for the annual May Day protest with her friend Matilda, when they saw Kennedy appear suddenly out of a bustling crowd, the lower part of his face covered with a bandanna. ‘Lynn just looked so shocked,’ says Matilda. ‘I was saying to Mark: “What are you doing here?” He was like, “Oh, I just came over, I’ve kind of got to go.” Then he rushed off.’
Whatever Kennedy was getting up to in Germany, it was not the only place his services were required. In the space of just a few years he travelled to Denmark, Greece, Italy, Spain, Iceland, France, Poland and America as well as Germany. In France, he claimed to have witnessed activists practising bomb-making near a small village, a claim that was later cast in doubt. In the bureaucratic-speak of European intelligence sharing, Kennedy was monitoring ‘Euro-anarchism’, and was one of a fleet of British spies travelling all over Europe. So many resources were going into these trips that, during one European protest meeting in Poland, two out of the three Britons present were police spies. The British delegation, who travelled to Poland together, consisted of Kennedy, Jacobs, and just one genuine protester.
In total, Kennedy worked in 11 countries. One of his more curious foreign deployments was to New York in 2008, a visit that resulted in a special commendation from the Federal Bureau of Intelligence. It is not exactly clear what Kennedy did to earn the approval of the FBI, other than attend a meeting in Manhattan, amid the first stirrings of what would become the Occupy Movement, and tip them off about a supposed French revolutionary who had visited the country.
Back in Nottingham, Kennedy was gaining a reputation as a committed activist with a thousand connections abroad. He was fast becoming one of the people activists turned to when planning an ambitious protest, particularly if they needed help with transport. When friends concocted a plan to take over a train delivering coal to Drax power station in 2009, Kennedy agreed to ferry them to the location in a transit van. Posing as railway workers, the activists used red flags to wave the train to a halt on a bridge over the river Aire. They then clambered on board and politely informed the driver they were taking over his cargo. The campaigners were commended by a judge for making an ‘eloquent, sincere, moving and engaging’ case for why they stopped the train, but he found them guilty of obstructing a railway engine under the Malicious Damages Act of 1861.
Kennedy was also known as the master of logistics. He helped build more Climate Camps, first near Heathrow airport, and later at Kingsnorth power station in Kent. It was always a huge upheaval, and could take months to prepare. Like his colleagues Watson and Jacobs, the police spy was often unable to conceal his frustration with his activist friends. Kennedy often complained that activists could be disorganised and moaned about the effort that was required to pick up protest camp equipment – the generators, marquees and tools that activists call their ‘tat’.
It was partly for this reason that Kennedy pushed for the creation of a group called the Activist Tat Collective. They found a warehouse in which to store protest equipment, and conducted a proper audit of the materials they owned. The idea was that the ATC provided a more centralised, efficient system, and that anyone organising a major protest could loan out equipment on request. In practical terms, that meant asking for a key for the storage depot from the director of the group – Kennedy.
It was a remarkable achievement. The go-to man for anyone wanting to organise a big protest camp was an undercover spy from the NPOIU. Kennedy even wrote the manual, or ‘recipe book’, as the collective called their guide to building protest sites. The document detailed the quantities of food needed for a vegan kitchen (5kg of bulgar wheat will feed 60–80 people) and contained diagrams for constructing toilets from straw bales. The chapter about transport was written by ‘Lumsk’. He opened with a wry complaint about the ‘endless meetings focusing upon going round in circles’ that he had endured over the years.
Kennedy’s chapter, which detailed the kinds of trucks, vans and quad bikes required to construct a large campsite overnight, was his opportunity to impart advice that had been gleaned, as he put it, ‘from the experiences, adventures, trials and tribulations of a few who have burnt some rubber’. He cautioned that drivers in the world of activism were in short supply and warned that arguments could often degenerate into ‘sarcasm, tears or a few terse and sharp words between gritted teeth … You must remember that you will be collecting generously donated yurts and tepees from people who have a different understanding of time management to the efficiently clockwork-like and synchronised transport collective,’ he added. ‘An element of frustration at this point is inevitable.’
The tone was classic Kennedy: jokey, laddish, perhaps a little self-important. It was a persona that had served him well over the years. By the end of 2008, Kennedy was reaching the zenith of his undercover deployment. He projected the image of a veteran activist who could be confided in with the most sensitive of plans. That reputation would enable one last major act in Kennedy’s undercover mission. And it would end in a catastrophe.
Rock and Roll Star
It began at 11.07pm one Sunday night, when a police chief with a pot belly stood in a warehouse in the city and began addressing his men; there were around 200 of them, stood in rows and dressed in the black protective clothing of the riot squad.
‘Right, ladies and gentleman,’ he shouted. ‘First of all, can everybody hear me? I don’t intend to use a microphone if I can help it. Right. Welcome to Operation Aeroscope. Many of you, I guess, will be wondering what we are doing here and what all of this is about. I am not going to go into all of the information that surrounds this, only to say that there is information that a group of individuals intent on … erm.’
The senior officer was lost for words. ‘How can I put it? Disrupting a major … erm.’ He scratched his bald head and folded his arms: ‘Erm…’
The crowd of riot officers started laughing.
‘Power station!’ their boss barked. ‘Within the east Midlands area!’
Regaining his composure, the police chief gave a brief rundown of the operation to intercept activists who were planning to disrupt the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. ‘There is information that these individuals are at this moment at a location called Iona school, which is off Sneinton Dale. We’re expecting up to 100 individuals at the premises. They are in possession of items that would allow them to disrupt a generati
He paused and looked out at the crowd of officers. They had been drafted in from across the region, some of them taken off leave during the long Easter weekend in April 2009. It was dawning on the men that they were going to see some action and the excitement showed on their faces.
‘The intention of this operation is to enter their premises, by force, under warrant, and arrest all 100 of them,’ the commanding officer said. ‘Again, pretty unprecedented in this force and you can imagine the planning that has gone into it.’ Both sides – police and activists – had been preparing for this moment for seven months. They were less than an hour away from the crescendo.
The plan to break into the power station was hatched by five eco-activists. Two were undergraduate students, Tom and Penny. Childhood friends, they typified the new crop of articulate, young campaigners pouring into the movement against climate change. By their own admission, they were also a little naïve. Tom, who was 21, was initially surprised that the veteran campaigners wanted to collaborate with two students. ‘You do know we don’t know anything about direct action at all?’ he remembers telling them. ‘Are you sure you want us involved?’ Penny, a 20-year-old, was also taken aback. ‘We were rookies, basically. I was amazed they wanted to work with us. We were in our early 20s and working with seasoned activists and they respected us. We were so excited.’