Undercover the true stor.., p.29

Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, page 29

 

Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police
 



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  Another barn was converted into a music venue for the highlight of the weekend: the live Saturday-night performance by Kennedy and the 69ers. This was the part of the weekend that Kennedy had been looking forward to most. ‘He had been saying how it was his dream since he was a kid to be in a band and he had never had the chance,’ one friend says. ‘It seemed really genuine.’ Kennedy’s emails confirm his emotional investment in the band. He told friends he had purchased a DVD with ‘rare amazing event footage’ from 1969, to be projected on the wall behind them when they played. He hired a sound studio in Leeds so the band could rehearse more than a dozen times. And he helped plan a detailed set-list.

  Everyone turning 40 had the chance to sing at least one song. The opening track would be the Stooges’ cover, ‘1969’, followed by ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by the Sex Pistols and T. Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’. Logan would sing ‘White Riot’, the classic punk anthem by the Clash. Megan would also have a chance to come on stage to sing a song. Kennedy was determined that he should sing Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, in honour of all the comrades who had gone to prison for the cause.

  Kennedy emailed each of his friends in the band, giving them specific instructions. Clearly, he had given a lot of thought to the performance. Before each song, band members should take to the microphone and engage in ‘a little banter’ with the crowd. ‘Let’s not ramble on,’ he said. ‘I like to think it’s more about the punk rock.’ Before anyone walked on stage, they would play a pre-recorded tape, mixing a drum roll by American rock band MC5 and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’ medley from Woodstock in 1969. Via email, Kennedy told his friends that, after individualised introductions from the master of ceremonies, each band member would take it in turn to jump up onto the stage ‘to raucous applause, wolf whistling and screaming groupies’.

  That was pretty much what happened on the night. The room was packed full of friends. The mix tape was played, building up to a crescendo before the band jumped on stage, smiling and waving. Megan did a turn on the microphone as a guest vocalist. Then the master of ceremonies, who was dressed in a tailcoat peppered with glittery sequins, took to the microphone and introduced Kennedy. ‘On guitar, direct from the bar!’ he shouted, as the crowd began to cheer. ‘Diamond geezer, he’s a rock and roll star! It’s Flash!’

  The crowd went wild, but Kennedy was not feeling the love. He looked dejected for a reason. Moments before he was called onstage, he had received a text message from the NPOIU. ‘The operation is over,’ it said. ‘At least you had a great party and now it’s over.’ He had three weeks to ‘get out’ of Nottingham.

  Friends recall a forlorn-looking Kennedy walking onto the stage in a daze and singing his Johnny Cash song. The band played the chorus again and again, accelerating the rhythm each time, as the crowd stomped and cheered. When the performance was over, Kennedy removed his guitar and walked through the barn, friends patting him on the back. Later, when the live music was over, he took to the decks to play one of his favourite records: KRS-One’s rap anthem: ‘Sound of da Police’.

  Kennedy did not appear to want to talk to anyone. Friends presumed he must have been overwhelmed with the love and attention he was given. He told Logan: ‘I’ve never had so many people do something that is about me.’ It seemed the occasion had got to Kennedy and he was feeling melancholy. ‘Having a couple of hundred people love you and sing happy birthday to you – maybe that does unsettle you,’ Logan says. ‘But there was something not right in the way that he said it.’ Kennedy went to bed early, and the party carried on in his absence until dawn. ‘It was absolutely the best party I’ve ever been to, or expect to go to,’ says Logan. ‘Except now it has all been spoiled.’

  The next morning, when hungover revellers awoke for Sunday brunch, Kennedy was missing. His friends found him lying in bed in the campervan he was sharing with Megan. He refused to come out. Word spread that he looked terrified and was hyperventilating. ‘He was freaking the fuck out,’ says Logan. ‘Panic attacks had never happened like that to Mark before. And after that, he was a very different person. He appeared jumpy, very paranoid.’

  The next three weeks seemed to pass in a blur. Kennedy became frosty and cold toward his friends. He told them he was worried police were on to him and they might find the secret stash of money he earned as a drug courier. Once or twice, he phoned friends telling them in a paranoid, hurried voice that he thought he was being followed by plain-clothes detectives. He told his closest friends he wanted to start a new life and talked about moving to the United States to live with his brother, Ian. Just as generations of SDS and NPOIU officers had done before him, Kennedy was feigning some kind of breakdown, preparing the ground for his exit. However, in his case, the symptoms may have been genuine.

  ‘It seemed a bit fucking weird,’ admits Logan. ‘But the jumpiness and the paranoia was quite intense. He moved out of his house in Nottingham not long after. Well, he didn’t actually move out, he just didn’t come back. He sent a bunch of us in to clear the house for him. He said he was going put some stuff in storage, but basically we should get rid of the rest – the crockery, the furniture – just throw them out.’

  Kennedy disappeared from Nottingham in October 2009 as abruptly as he had arrived six years earlier. His friends cleaned his house in his absence. He had stopped calling or answering emails, although he continued to speak with Megan on an almost daily basis.

  That month, Kennedy was summoned by his managers to a meeting at an anonymous truck stop. It would have made a strange sight: a ragged-looking man with long hair stood by the roadside in sombre conversation with men in suits. Mark Stone was being dismantled. As traffic rushed past, the police spy formerly known as UCO 133 handed over his fake credit cards, car keys, passport and driving licence.

  ‘As of then,’ Kennedy says. ‘I’d vanished.’

  CHAPTER 17

  The Phantom Returns

  The resurrection of Mark Stone began two months after he was supposed to have vanished forever. Just a few weeks after his 40th birthday party in Herefordshire and the roadside meeting at which he relinquished his fake ID documents, Kennedy was missing his previous life. The prospect of a return to his friends in Nottingham was supposed to have been out of the question. His deployment had been terminated by the NPOIU. He was out of the field now, his spying days over, and expected to shave, cut off his hair and return to some kind of desk job at the Metropolitan police.

  It was not a prospect that appealed to Kennedy and he knew that there was another option that would allow him to continue living the life of a political activist with Megan and the others. Not long after being pulled from his undercover job, Kennedy was approached by a former Special Branch officer, a man well known to old-timers in the SDS. Rod Leeming had built his career monitoring animal rights activists in the 1990s, in a separate unit that worked alongside the likes of Boyling and Lambert in the SDS. He retired early and moved into the private sector, setting up a company called Global Open in 2001. The detective agency was the corporate equivalent of the NPOIU; it promised to keep a ‘discreet watch’ on campaigners on behalf of business clients such as the energy giant E.ON and arms manufacturer BAE and used many of the same techniques.

  Global Open was one of many detective agencies making money out of spying on protesters. Others firms that go by the names Inkerman Group, Vericola and C2i International ply a similar trade. Senior police say that ‘without question’ there are more corporate spies posing as protesters other than those run by police, and the private sector is ‘completely uncontrolled and unrestrained’. It provided an enticing proposition for Kennedy, involving a smooth transition from the public sector to corporate espionage. Kennedy already had the contacts and the undercover identity. He had invested six years of his life, and the taxpayer more than £1.75m of public money, into creating Mark Stone. Why let him go?

  Two months after his official deployment ended, Kennedy resigned from the Met and began working as a
consultant’ for Global Open. Now he set about planning the reappearance of Mark Stone in Nottingham. In one sense, it would be far easier turning up the second time round, when everyone already knew and trusted his alter ego. But the private sector involved some new challenges. Kennedy was now alone, without the generous expense account given to him by the NPOIU or supervision from commanding officers. He no longer had a passport, driving licence or bank accounts in the name of Mark Stone. He was a lone operator.

  This time around, Kennedy had to spend his own money to reconstruct his life as an activist. He purchased a white Ford transit van and travelled to Lincolnshire with his brother to buy a canal boat. The 55ft-long vessel, named Tamarisk, was his new home. He moored the vessel in Nottingham and wandered down to the Sumac Centre to catch up with people he had not seen in three months.

  His friends were pleased that he had come back but still concerned about his unexplained disappearance. And they were concerned over his welfare. The man they knew as Mark Stone appeared to be a different person since his absence; he was quiet, reflective and prone to mood swings. Friends say he was behaving strangely toward Megan and, presumably in the knowledge that he needed to rekindle his access to protesters, began an intimate relationship with another well-connected female activist. ‘He would be subdued and unreliable in a different way from usual,’ Logan recalls. ‘It was that no confidence, sunken thing of depressed people.’

  Kennedy had reason to be worried, not least because he was running out of money. He set up his own company, registering the address at the offices of a solicitor who worked for Global Open. He called it Tokra Ltd, a name apparently derived from the science fiction television series Stargate. It was another example – like his tattoos – of Kennedy’s tendency toward fantasy: in the TV show the ‘Tok’ra’ are an alien race symbiotically inhabiting their human hosts. He also founded a second business, ostensibly to work as a freelance rope access technician. Yet the name of the second company – Black Star Access Ltd – suggested it was another front; living again as Mark Stone, he could provide corporates with rare ‘access’ to radical anarchists, known by their ‘black star’ symbol.

  Whatever hopes Kennedy had of making money, he was struggling. He told friends the downturn in the construction industry meant there was scant work for professional climbers. He also let a few people know that the stash of money he had supposedly earned as a drug trafficker was running dry. On one occasion, Flash Mark even took a loan from a friend. ‘That was weird,’ says Logan. ‘But then again it is not uncommon for people to suddenly run out of cash, especially when they say they have been living off a single pot for years which has now run out.’

  If Kennedy was going to make money from corporate espionage, he needed to revive some old contacts. He resumed his role as Transport Mark and became involved again in the leasing of equipment through the Activist Tat Collective. He attended meetings and returned briefly to Germany. His interests, however, appeared to be shifting, as he tried to gain access to the kinds of activism his paymasters were interested in. Suddenly, Kennedy, who had always been a meat eater, said he was anti-vivisection and opposed to industrial farming. For the first time in his life, Kennedy took part in animal rights meetings, first in England and later in Milan, where campaigners were staying in a squat. Some of his friends were confused that Kennedy was now showing an interest in animal rights campaigning.

  It all added to the sense that Kennedy was not quite behaving like himself. ‘He clearly had some sort of crisis thing and was figuring himself out,’ says Logan. ‘He just seemed very lost.’ On a camping holiday in Scotland, Kennedy admitted to friends that he was feeling depressed and suffering from paranoia.

  The spy was right to fear that his former employers were on his trail. Senior officials at the NPOIU would have viewed the reappearance of Mark Stone with total disbelief. Kennedy had always been a loose cannon, but the NPOIU could always clamp down on his excesses. Now he was a free agent, breaking every rule in the book. As soon as the NPOIU was aware that Kennedy was back, they began monitoring him. One suggestion – denied by senior police – is that Kennedy was pursued by a four-man police surveillance unit who installed covert cameras aboard his canal boat. The hidden CCTV was said to have captured Kennedy having sex with another activist.

  True or not, police were certainly scrutinising Kennedy’s every move, trying to work out what would happen next. But they were not the only people on his trail. Within a few weeks, Kennedy’s friends, the people who had trusted him for over seven years, and welcomed him on his return, would be meeting behind his back, trying to unearth his real identity.

  *

  The chance discovery occurred in rural Italy. Kennedy and Megan were on a road trip and sleeping on a makeshift bed in the back of his van. The trip through Europe was intended to mark a fresh start for the couple. They had experienced a turbulent few months, but Kennedy had told Megan that he loved her and he wanted to reaffirm their relationship. It was early July 2010, and baking hot. Megan was looking for her sunglasses in the glove compartment when her hand pressed against the leather cover of a British passport. She opened it. The photograph was of her boyfriend, the man she knew as Mark Stone. But the name was not.

  It appeared to be a stranger’s passport in the name of someone called Mark John Kennedy. Under a section listing dependents, it said: ‘one child’.

  Logan recounts what happened next: ‘Obviously this freaks her the fuck out. And she goes looking around the van for anything else that might provide some clues. Finds an iPhone – turns it on, there’s hardly any battery left. Quickly, she scrolls through emails. She finds some messages from two children, one of them called Jack, calling him ‘Dad’. And some emails from someone called Edel. Then the battery goes.’

  Megan has never spoken about the discovery of the passport, or the train of events that followed, to anyone other than her closest friends. They say she felt sick, questioning everything she knew about Kennedy. The passport suggested he had some kind of double life, while the emails indicated he had secretly fathered children. Megan mulled over the implications of what she had found for two days. Eventually, while still in Italy, she decided to confront him. Friends of Megan say that she told him: ‘I need to talk to you. I saw your passport and it is in a different name. What’s going on?’

  That was the point at which Kennedy’s undercover training kicked in. Just like Lynn Watson, who had a ready-made story for her chance encounter with an activist friend in the pub on the Dorset coast, Kennedy had a back-up. Suddenly, he broke down in tears and told Megan that his mother’s maiden name was ‘Stone’. He said he had chosen voluntarily to adopt it as his own because of his hatred for his father, an accountant whose surname was Kennedy. He described his father as an oppressive man who had abandoned the family. By relinquishing the surname Kennedy, he hoped to vanquish his father’s presence from his life. It seemed a strange explanation, but a plausible one; it fitted with how Kennedy had described his father in the past. He said he only realised the value of the two separate identities when he started working as a drug courier. He could use one passport when entering a country, and another when leaving, making it harder for border authorities to track his whereabouts.

  When asked to explain the emails on his iPhone from a boy called Jack, Kennedy broke down and began to sob again. He was behaving as though he was revisiting some dark, painful memory. He told Megan that he had kept an important secret from her. It dated back to his former life as a drug courier. Rather than work alone, he had a partner – a childhood friend. The two men had been like brothers, travelling the world with drugs stashed in suitcases. However, one day their luck ran out when a deal went wrong and they were taken hostage by armed men. According to Megan’s friends, Kennedy told his girlfriend the incident was the ‘scariest moment of my fucking life’; he had a gun put to his head, but was spared. His friend was less fortunate. He was killed right in front of him.

  When his friend perished, Ke
nnedy said he felt an obligation to his next of kin, including his friend’s wife and son. Jack was not his own son, but the child of his now dead friend, and a boy he had vowed to treat as his own. The boy’s mother was called Edel, and when she gave birth to a second child, a girl, after falling pregnant with another man, Kennedy resolved to take responsibility for the entire family. He felt he owed it to his dead partner in crime. He had therefore become something of a surrogate father to the two children, visiting them occasionally and paying maintenance.

  Kennedy had conjured up a vivid fabrication. Friends of Megan say that however implausible the story might sound in retrospect, she was convinced by his acting skills. By the end of the story, Kennedy looked totally devastated. He told Megan that the abiding regret of his life was that he had not done more to look after Edel and her children. He wished he could have been a better father. He was weeping inconsolably.

  It is hard to imagine the thoughts that must have been racing through Megan’s mind. Friends say the suffering she endured in the weeks and months after that moment left a deep psychological scar. Kennedy was the man she had wanted to share her future with. During their six years together she had got to know him like no one else. They had spoken of a life together. Now she felt she did not quite know him as before. Every time she questioned his account of the passports or the children, she was wracked with guilt for doubting his story.

  Part of Megan wanted to believe her boyfriend. He had always been a complex character and finally it seemed she had discovered his true secret. But she was still torn. Kennedy’s explanation was so far-fetched it was almost unbelievable. How could he have lived a double life for so long? Why had he never introduced her to these two children that he claimed he loved? Who was he, really?

 

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