Inquiry could reveal that undercover officers spied on grieving relatives

Charles Hymas
·3-min read
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes - Stephen Lock 
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes - Stephen Lock

A public inquiry into undercover policing is to open next week, with the prospect that it could lift the lid on how officers spied on at least 17 families seeking justice for their dead relatives.

The inquiry, due to start hearing evidence on Monday, will scrutinise the deployment of nearly 140 undercover officers who spied on over 1,000 political groups across more than four decades.

It will examine how police spies deceived women into long-term relationships and stole the identities of dead children in order to monitor, and in some cases disrupt, political campaigns which were mostly on the left.

The judge-led inquiry was set up after it emerged that police covertly monitored the campaign for justice over the murder of Stephen Lawrence, with the subsequent inquiry into the police investigation ruling that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist.

It is expected to scrutinise how the police spied on at least 17 other, mainly black, grieving families between 1970 and 2005. 

Among those allegedly spied on were the campaigns for justice over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot repeatedly in the head by police in 2005 after being mistaken for a suicide bomber, and Cherry Groce, whose shooting by police in 1985 sparked the Brixton riots.

At least three undercover officers were tasked with monitoring people campaigning for justice for Lawrence, who was stabbed to death by racists in 1993. Police also monitored Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night of the murder. 

Duwayne Brooks leaving court in 2011 after giving evidence at the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris, who were found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence - Christopher Pledger 
Duwayne Brooks leaving court in 2011 after giving evidence at the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris, who were found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence - Christopher Pledger

The undercover officers, as well as their commanding officers, are due to give evidence at the inquiry, which is being led by retired judge Sir John Mitting.

The inquiry will also examine surveillance of those calling for justice for Joy Gardner, who died in 1993 after being bound and gagged by deportation officers; Ricky Reel, who died in 1997 after a clash with racists; and Michael Menson, who was burned to death in 1997 by a racist attacker who almost escaped justice because police said Menson had doused himself in petrol.

Whistleblower Peter Francis, an undercover officer who spied on anti-racist groups, has previously said his "lowest point" morally was attending a candlelit vigil outside Kennington police station in south London for the Brian Douglas justice campaign in 1995. Douglas, a boxing promoter, died after being struck on the head by a police baton.

Bed of Lies - Episode 1: Infatuation
Bed of Lies - Episode 1: Infatuation

Inspector Andrew George, the president of the National Black Police Association, said the revelations expected at the inquiry would strain already difficult police and community relations.

"It is going to have an impact on community confidence at a time when tensions are already heightened," he said.

"Those campaigns [spied upon] were involved in civil rights movements, not criminal activity, so there was not a justification. The hurt of the past has to be acknowledged before it can be moved on from, before you can build trust and confidence. Trust and confidence is already low. It has been at crisis point this year."

Listen to Bed of Lies, The Telegraph's new documentary podcast in which women duped into relationships with undercover police officers tell their story, on the audio player above, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.