Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, page 30
Back in Nottingham, Megan spent three months trying to work out whether or not she believed Kennedy. Another woman might have sided with the man she loved, buried any doubts and got on with her life. If she had done that, the truth about Mark Kennedy, and all of the other undercover police officers, may never have surfaced. One incident that tipped her into doubting her boyfriend occurred at a music festival. She met some old activists from Reclaim the Streets who were talking about Jim Boyling. They had recently had contact from his ex-wife, Laura, who confirmed he was a police spy. Megan listened as the group talked animatedly about how Boyling had seemed like an ordinary activist. They were stunned that an undercover police officer would live a double life for years, cultivating close friendships and even long-term sexual relationships with campaigners. Hearing those stories was a turning point for Megan.
When she got home, she logged onto a computer and searched the electoral roll for any records of a Mark Stone born in 1969. There were none. Unlike the Special Demonstration Squad, the NPOIU was no longer using the identities of dead children. It was as though the man she had known for the best part of a decade did not exist. There were, however, records for Mark John Kennedy – and they told a different story. The records indicated Kennedy was not just a friend to Edel, but her husband. The couple had lived on Dowlerville Road, a suburban street in Kent, between 1997 and 2002. That was immediately before Mark Stone appeared out of nowhere in Nottingham. In the days of the SDS, inquiries into records of an ex-spy would have immediately triggered an alert at Scotland Yard, informing senior officers that one of their former operatives was coming under suspicion. For whatever reason, the NPOIU does not appear to have had similar powers. No one, it seems, knew how close Megan was getting to the truth.
It was by now September 2010, a few months after Megan discovered the passport and emails in Italy, and just a couple of days after she heard the news about Boyling. She decided to share her discovery with Logan, her ex-boyfriend. She relayed the story about the dual identities, the drug deal that went wrong and the family that Kennedy claimed to have adopted. ‘In all this time he’s not mentioned that he had a best friend who died?’ Logan said. ‘Why has he not told you before that he had responsibility for these two kids? It doesn’t ring true to me.’
Logan was a good person for Megan to confide in. He had been knocking around the protest scene for almost two decades and she felt she could trust him. He was something of an expert in genealogical research and knew how to navigate the bureaucracy of public records. He searched an ancestry website and found a Mark John Kennedy who had a wife, Edel, and two children, one of whom was called Jack. The same Mark Kennedy had a brother called Ian. ‘We can’t jump to conclusions,’ Logan said. ‘It is somebody called Mark Kennedy but this might not be our man. But frankly, whoever this is, these are his wife and kids.’
Logan could see that Megan was distraught and desperate for some firm answers. He felt that he needed to prepare her for the worst. ‘You do realise,’ he said, ‘that if Mark was a cop this is exactly what it would look like?’ It was a daunting thought and not one either of them wanted to believe without evidence. They felt that it was important to give Kennedy the benefit of the doubt. ‘Mark always had his dark side and there was a sense that if he had a wife and kids, that was probably something we could handle,’ Logan adds. ‘He has always been a bit unreliable – he has always been a fucking liar. He was just so charming that we cut him slack. There might be reasons for the secret family; there might be an excuse. We kind of thought: anything but cop is all right.’
Part of the reason they held back from jumping to conclusions was that there were gaps in the story. Although Mark and Edel Kennedy appeared to have married, there was no evidence of their marriage certificate. In fact, it was harder to find any documents relating to Edel than her husband. One night, Logan ordered copies of all the relevant birth certificates from the public records. Rather than wait for hard copies to arrive by post, he paid extra to have scanned versions of the birth certificates sent to his email account. The first attachment he opened was the birth certificate of Kennedy’s son Jack, born in 1998. It was registered in Kent. That much, Logan had presumed. It was only when he scrolled down that he read two words that left him stunned.
Section five of the document required the child’s father to provide his occupation. Beneath the name Mark Kennedy it stated: ‘Police Officer’. Logan’s heart began to race. He was too shocked to know what to do. He inspected the document again to make sure he was not confused. Even with the words ‘police officer’ staring out from the screen, Logan wanted desperately to believe it was not true.
He still felt there were scenarios that might exonerate his friend. What if this was all just a coincidence, and there was another Mark Kennedy, born around the same time, with a wife called Edel and a son named Jack? The other possibility, which Logan described as his ‘second most plausible explanation’, was that Kennedy had written ‘police officer’ on the birth certificate of his son for a joke. ‘If Mark was an international cocaine courier, then he was not going to write “international cocaine courier” as his occupation, was he? What was he going to put then? It would be quite funny to put “police officer”. To be honest, if I had a child and I was doing something illegal for a living, my sense of humour would probably lead me to write something like that.’
Logan quickly opened the second attachment: a scan of Mark Kennedy’s birth certificate. It stated he was born in Dulwich in south London on July 7 1969. Just as with the first document, Logan scrolled down before reading that Kennedy’s father, John, was not an accountant, as he had always said. The handwritten note from the registrar listed his job as ‘Metropolitan Police Constable’. Logan recalls thinking: ‘So his dad is a cop – it’s a family thing. God, this is looking worse. That is the point at which the scales have tipped. It looks like Mark was a cop.’
Logan met with Megan to show her the documents. They were still minded to give Kennedy the benefit of the doubt for two reasons. First, despite the documentary evidence, they felt the story remained incomplete. The birth of Kennedy’s second child, in which he said he was a police officer, was dated 2000 – three years before Kennedy became involved in activism. It was therefore possible that Kennedy was a police officer, but had seen the light and abandoned his uniform to dedicate his life to activism. ‘He could hardly walk into activist circles and say, “Hi, I used to be a police officer until a couple of years ago,”’ explains Logan. ‘No one would ever talk to him. We’ll have a former cocaine dealer, we’ll have an ex-soldier who has murdered people and done war crimes, but we are not going to have a copper. Never trust a copper – it’s the one thing.’
The second reason for suspending judgment was the remote possibility that they were dealing with a case of mistaken identity. Their search had turned up seven births of men called Mark John Kennedy in England between 1959 and 1979. What if they had the wrong details and their Mark Kennedy was another man? They needed to be able to connect Kennedy with Edel, the woman he had apparently married. They searched hard for their wedding certificate, but despite weeks of trying, that was the one document they were unable to locate. It was the final piece of the jigsaw, but it was missing.
Then the answer suddenly dawned on them: Edel Kennedy, maiden name Cashman, was born in Ireland. What if the couple had chosen to marry in Ireland?
Logan picked up the phone and called a friend in Dublin. He said: ‘I know this is weird, but you are not allowed to tell anyone about this phone call. I need you to do me a favour. Can you quickly go down to the general records office and look at the archives? You’re looking for a marriage certificate – it is probably going to be somewhere between the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. You need to look for a Mark John Kennedy who married an Edel Elizabeth Cashman.’ He added: ‘I hope one day I can tell you why you’re doing this. But right now, I can’t. You’re not allowed to tell anyone – is that OK?’
A few days later, Me
Everyone agreed it did not look good for Kennedy. The friend in Dublin had still not called with news of the marriage certificate. But Kennedy’s friends had another lead: a telephone number for a woman in Ireland called Edel Kennedy. It would be too obvious to ask outright if she was married to Mark Kennedy, so the friends decided to call the number and ask to speak to Jack. One of the five volunteered to make the call.
‘Is Jack there, please?’ he asked.
The reply was a male voice. ‘Excuse me?’
‘Jack, who is aged 12 or 13.’
‘There is no Jack that lives here.’
The phone was hung up.
The friend who made the call was shocked. He recognised the voice on the other end of the line. It was Kennedy. He was not visiting his brother in the United States, as he claimed, but in Ireland, with his wife and children. The friends were still digesting the implications when Logan’s phone rang. It was his friend in Dublin, fresh from a visit to the public records archives. He had a copy of the marriage certificate in his hand.
‘What does it say?’ Logan asked.
‘Edel Elizabeth Cashman, she was born in 1967 in some tiny little hamlet,’ his friend replied. ‘She married Mark Kennedy in a Catholic church in 1994.’
‘What does it say Mark Kennedy’s profession was?’
‘It says his profession was “policeman”.’
Kennedy’s friends decided they had to meet him face to face. There was talk about travelling to Ireland and visiting him at his family home. In the end they decided that Megan should call and ask him to come to Nottingham. Logan recalls the conversation.
‘I’ve found out stuff about you,’ Megan said. ‘You have not been telling me the truth. I don’t like it and I want you to come and explain yourself.’
‘What do you think you know?’ Kennedy asked.
‘I’m not talking on the phone. You’re going to come home and you’re going to tell me what the truth is.’
Kennedy told Megan that he was looking after his children and could not just leave Ireland at the drop of a hat. A few hours later he seemed to have changed his mind. He called back. ‘I’m coming,’ he said. ‘My flight gets in at 11.30pm. I’ll be with you at 1am.’
The doorbell rang shortly after 1am. One of Kennedy’s friends met him at the front door. She smiled and asked him to come into the living room. Kennedy walked in, looking nervous. He kept his jacket on.
Megan broke the silence. She told Kennedy that he had lied to her repeatedly and that she had foolishly believed him. She did not feel she could trust her own judgment and wanted their friends to be in the room with her. There were six people present: as well as Kennedy and Megan, there was Logan and three other close friends.
‘We made sure the room was warm,’ says Logan. ‘We set up the seating in the round so that it wasn’t like an intimidating tribunal. We had it arranged so that Kennedy would sit on the sofa, so that again was going to be less isolating for him.’ Kennedy’s friends knew that if the situation became hostile, he might storm out of the room and never be seen again. But there was another reason for their caution.
Despite all of the evidence pointing to Kennedy being an infiltrator, they still believed their friend deserved a chance to explain himself. However implausible it might seem, there may still be some eleventh-hour explanation, a reason for his deception that they had not anticipated. Before Kennedy had even arrived at the house, his friends had reached a decision: in the unlikely event that he managed to convince them that he was not a police officer, they would never tell any other activists about the documents, the telephone call or the visit to Nottingham in the middle of the night. But his friends were fearing the worst.
Kennedy had told them his flight landed at 11.30pm, but when had they checked the schedules, there were no flights from Ireland to any London or Midlands airports around that time. Kennedy must have arrived earlier in the day and his friends were worried about what he may have been doing. They presumed he must have met with police beforehand, and had come wearing a wire. They thought it was possible that a team of riot police was in vans outside, waiting to come storming in if Kennedy uttered a code word.
That was not the only reason the friends were determined to keep the atmosphere calm. Their aim was to get Kennedy to confess. By then, Kennedy knew that his friends were aware he had a secret family in Ireland. But he could not have known they had found documentary evidence he was a police officer. ‘There was no way we were going to ambush him like some kind of kangaroo court and say, “You’re a cop, you’re a cop,”’ says Logan. The plan was to feign some degree of ignorance, and entice Kennedy into admitting he worked for police.
Kennedy took his seat on the sofa, looking uncomfortable. His friends said they had found information that did not match up with what he had told them. They knew he was not the person he claimed to be. They asked Kennedy to be honest, to stop the trail of lies and tell them who he really was.
‘He ’fessed up immediately to the wife and kids,’ says Logan. ‘I suspect he thought that was what he had been found out for. He gave a ridiculous story about how he had been a van driver in Battersea and then got this woman pregnant, with his first child, but he realised parenthood wasn’t for him and so then he left her when she was pregnant with their second child. He claimed to have hardly ever seen his children. He said he was worried that his neglect of his family was turning him into his evil dad. Supposedly, it was a great curse on Mark’s life that he had done this to his family and he had always wanted to tell us but was unable to.’
It was a bold start by Kennedy, but it did not wash. His friends continued, gently. ‘There are a number of things you’ve just told us that are not true,’ one friend said. ‘Would you like to try again? Because we stress this is not looking good and this is your one chance to make it right. Tell us who you are. Tell us what has happened.’
Kennedy floundered. He refused to tell his friends the real name of his father, which they knew to be John. The conversation was becoming strained and Kennedy stumbled over the most basic questions. Then one of the friends just asked outright: ‘And when did you join the police?’
Kennedy exhaled loudly. He looked at his hands. Then he stared up at the ceiling.
‘You can’t ask me these kinds of questions,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to talk about this.’
After seven years of lies, deceit and betrayal, Kennedy could no longer conceal the truth. He confirmed he was an undercover police officer. He told his friends how he had joined the police two decades earlier, and gone undercover purchasing drugs before being recruited to the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, a secretive squad dedicated to monitoring protesters.
‘The relief of that was colossal,’ says Logan. ‘Oh God, he’s admitted it – thank fuck.’
Kennedy’s friends cannot recall precisely what was said in the emotional hours that followed. The man they once knew as Mark Stone began telling them about Special Branch, the Special Demonstration Squad and the surveillance of domestic extremists. There were so many acronyms, they cannot recall them all. He told his friends that there were many other police spies who, like him, were living a double life among political campaigners. ‘I am not the only one, by a long way,’ he told them. ‘There are lots of us.’
One friend asked Kennedy directly if Lynn Watson was also an undercover police officer. Kennedy nodded. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘But you knew that already
While there were parts of Kennedy’s confession that were true, his friends were sceptical about other elements of his story. He told them he was sorry for the harm he had caused and said he regretted taking part in the spy operation. He claimed that life as an activist had changed him, that he had been converted into a true believer in the environmental cause. None of his friends believed him but, remarkably, the room stayed calm. Kennedy’s friends just sat there, still stunned by his confession, watching him sob.
Some in the room even felt empathy for the man who, just hours earlier, had been their friend. ‘It was [witnessing] the absolute wrenching bottom-of-his-guts crying that he was doing,’ says Logan. ‘You know, there are prisons up and down the country that are full of people being visited by the relatives who still love them, even though they know the dreadful things they have done.’
That feeling has long since disappeared. ‘Now he is just that fucking undercover police officer and I don’t feel anything like that for him any more,’ says Logan. ‘But at that time, when we had just found out, as well as being a traitor, he was still the man that I had loved like a brother for seven years. The man that I went through loads of stuff with and did amazing things with. He was still sat in front of me.’
Business as Usual
‘Oh, hello Mark,’ the lecturer said. ‘How are you? Are you in America?’
‘I am,’ Kennedy replied.
The telephone call took place three weeks after Kennedy admitted to his friends that he was an undercover police officer. The lecturer on the other end of the line, a friend Kennedy had known for some years, was sitting in his university office.
‘I was trying to think where you were in the world, to be five hours behind. I thought it must be America,’ he said. Kennedy sighed.
‘I’m not doing so good, to be honest.’