A British woman named Andrea [no last name given] is suing London’s Metropolitan Police Force after one of their undercover agents, “Carlo Neri,” romanced her in the process of infiltrating activist groups with which she was associated in the early ‘00s.
The Guardian reports that the couple got engaged and were together for two years before the spy feigned a breakdown and disappeared; she later discovered he was already married with children, and using her to get close to her left-wing, anti-racist and Socialist circles. “Their entire relationship,” declared BBC’s Newsnight, “was a state-sanctioned lie.”
Certainly stories of bigamists and otherwise double-crossing men abound—turn on Investigation Discovery for about five minutes and you’ll get an earful—but an agent of the state using such methods in order to spy on people who, by Andrea’s account, aren’t engaged in any illegal activities is altogether more egregious. The Guardian:
She has only recently discovered that Neri was an undercover officer. Anti-racist campaigners and members of the Socialist party say Neri took part in their political activities in the early part of the last decade.
She met Neri at a big anti-war demonstration in London in September 2002. He struck her as a “quiet, thoughtful, very straightforward, very down to earth” man. Quickly they started a relationship. “We were pretty much together, inseparably, for quite a while and he moved in with me six weeks later,” Andrea said.Andrea said she was part of a circle of friends who were trade unionists and active in campaigning against racism, but she was not particularly involved herself. She said his relationship with her seemed to have been “a conduit” to give him the credibility to persuade the activists to trust him.
Towards the end of Andrea’s relationship with “Neri,” he told her his father had died and that he was suicidal after his sister told him his father had sexually abused her. The breakdown was the reason “Neri” and Andrea broke up, but now she believes he was using it as a “cruel and manipulative” tactic to end his undercover life with her. Other spies have used similar breakup methods: last year, the Metropolitan Police had to apologize to seven different women who unknowingly had relationships with undercover agents from the same secret unit, now disbanded.
Andrea and Eveline Lubbers of the Undercover Research Group believe they’re not the only women who were surveilled through manipulative romance, reports the Guardian, and they’re currently lobbying the Metropolitan Police to release a list of the aliases used by undercover agents, so that the truth may be revealed. Harriet Wistrich, Andrea’s lawyer, told the BBC:
“This is clearly a pattern that they worked on. The other women that had other relationships described similar exit strategies and in each of those cases they were very harmful.
“This is one of the worst I’ve heard in terms of inventing a whole story of sexual abuse and violence that didn’t actually exist and I think that was a particularly sick thing to do.”
A wiki set up by the Undercover Research Group details the activist actions Neri spied on, including an anti-War demonstration and several anti-Nazi, anti-fascist protests.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via screenshot/BBC