Andy Davey (undercover alias of Andy Coles)

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This article is part of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase - investigating corporate and police spying on activists

Part of a series on
undercover police officers
Andy Coles
Andy Davey 1.jpg
Alias: Andy 'Van' Davey
Deployment: 1991-1995
Animal rights and hunt sabs in south London, Brixton Hunt Saboteurs, London Boots Action Group, London Animal Right Coalition

From 1991 to 1995 police officer Andy Coles was undercover in south London animal rights using the cover name Andy Davey, though more commonly known by the nickname Andy Van. This page sets out his activities in this time. Due to the passage of time, it has not been possible to pin down his role in many of the events of the time: if you can help fill in the gaps, please get in touch.

Update of 15 May 2017: Following media exposure of his time as an undercover police officer over the weekend of 13 May 2017, Andy Coles resigned as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire on 15 May, effective immediately. The case was also referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. To date he has declined to make a statement to media.[1]

Discovery as undercover officer

Andy is the older brother of the pop star, broadcaster and Anglican priest Richard Coles.[2] Richard Cole wrote in his autobiography, Fathomless Riches:[3]

My older brother, Andy, brought his own drama with him. He looked like he had just walked out of the woods, his hair long and shaggy, with a straggly beard, his ears rattling with piercings; but his disarray was not like mine, an outward sign of internal distress, but suffered in the line of duty. He had joined Special Branch and was undercover, living a double life, infiltrated into some sinister organisation while his wife and baby daughter made do with unpredictable visits.
  • We are very grateful to GP Dave and Richard who spotted the passage and recognising its importance, made the original identification between Richard Coles and Andy Coles.

Through examination of family details in conjunction with the above passage it was possible to narrow down the period of undercover work as circa 1994. His first daughter was born mid-1994, while his second did not arrive until mid-1996. If he followed the same tradecraft used by other undercover officers, he would have been known as 'Andy' though with a different surname.

Having narrowed down possibilities, details were circulated in early 2017 to activists from the time. One of these was Paul Gravett. Following the exposure of London undercovers John Dines and Bob Lambert, Gravett had recognised that two other activists had followed similar patterns. These were Matt Rayner and Andy 'Van' Davey, who had both been involved in London animal rights campaign in the early 1990s.[4] He first published suspicions in 2014.[5]

Gravett immediately identified Davey and Coles as the same person. This was corroborated by 'Jessica', an activist whom Andy had a relationship with (see below).[6] From confirming photographs, 'Shirley', who had known Andy and had been suspicious of him when he was undercover, confirmed this.[7]

Deployment as undercover Andy 'Van' Davey

Andy Coles was deployed into the London animal rights scene in late 1991 in South London, using the cover name Andy Davey, though he gained the nickname 'Andy Van'. He remained active for the next couple of years, exiting in February 1995. He is a contemporary of another undercover officer in animal rights, Matt Rayner, and the pair were involved in a number of the same pan-London campaigning groups. Both officers would have been part of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), within the Metropolitan Police Special Branch.

Much of his tradecraft and deployment follows the same patterns seen in other undercover officers from the same squad.

Description & personality

Jessica, targeted for a relationship by Andy (see below), described him as well-educated and somewhat posh. He was clearly very intelligent with a large vocabulary and a good general knowledge of things, though he could come across as a bit of a snob at times.[8] Physically, he was about 5' 10" in height,[9] and walked quite rigidly.[7] He had a close cut beard and glasses, and had black hair, thinning on top, which he kept cropped or tied back in a small ponytail. He was older than many of the other animal rights activists he associated with, and unlike most, had a job at the time.[10]

Andy was very neat. His clothes would be 'right' for the circles he moved in, but not as scruffy as others.[11][12] He wore a black bomber / flight jacket with orange lining and a black beanie hat.[7][13][14][15] There were a few oddities about how he dressed that gave a sense of something wrong. For instance, Jessica remembered how his jeans always had neat turns-ups - something she put down to his well-off upbringing.[8] In the words of another: 'it was like a cop trying to appear an activist'.[16] Shirley commented that he had notably bad trainers that 'stood out as wrong for the image he was trying to contrive'.[15][17]

Personality-wise, Jessica described Andy as 'a bit of a wallflower, not someone you would ever label gregarious'. He was quietly spoken and came across as level-headed all the time. He was not the sort of person to lose his temper or become aggressive, and it was not in his character to be emotional. He was not a leader nor an initiator, never being at the front of things arguing points, nor generally talking politics. Rather, he was a follower who tagged along on things and not someone you would necessarily remember, slipping very much under the radar. However, he was very helpful and willing, generally making himself useful.[8] This would include going considerably out of his way to give people lifts home across London after meetings.[10] 'Maria' noted that his helpfulness covered for the lack of personality, though he was a nice enough guy as far as she was concerned.[18]

Paul Gravett described him in similar terms, as a 'phlegmatic personality' who had little to say at meetings and seemed to melt into the background.[4] An activist with a high-profile at the time noted Andy never asked asked questions or pushed to know stuff.[19] Antonia, who rehomed a dog to Andy, said he was 'a passionless person, whose heart was not really into anything'.[20] Shirley noted that he was very quiet and shy, but friendly and eager to please.[7] A number of other people spoken to who knew him echoed this, recalling little of him beyond his general appearance.

Quite a few people also used the phrases creepy or strange in relation to Andy, and that he came across as lonely and a 'bit sad'. Robin Lane commented that though he was helpful, there was something weird about him that was hard to pin down.[21] He was always hanging around, desperate to fit in, but ended up irritating people. As a result, activists did not really take to him, albeit they felt sorry for him as well.[22][5][7]

Andy did not have the social, easy going nature of other undercovers Mike Chitty (Mike Blake) and Matt Rayner that made them likeable.[21] Unlike Matt, Andy never became part of the core social groups in the London animal rights scene.[9]

He went out of his way to not be photographed and was clever in achieving this.[7][13]


Andy was said to be interested in Buddhism.[23] He was not regarded as a heavy drinker,[16] but this was partly down to him always driving;[9] Nor is he known to have done drugs, [21] though he may have briefly smoked when he turned up.[16]

He was a vegan and an excellent cook.[8] He had a reputation for being good with computers, which were then novel and expensive.[7]


To Jessica, Andy presented as aged around 24 or 25 (his actual age was 32). He spoke very little about his background, except to say he had a two-year old daughter by a previous partner, but they had parted on bad terms and he did not see her. There were no photos of her or of other family.[8] Others who knew him later placed his date of birth as around 1962.[23]

Andy told Robin Lane that he had no family other than an uncle and aunt,[21] while another recalled him hinting at a sad background, possibly being adopted.[22] Alexa said his story was that his parents were dead and his only family was an aunt whom he would visit every couple of months for a couple of days.[16] Jessica noted that he had never told her he was adopted to her, but that he did mention it to her mother.[24]

One campaigner found a diary entry referred to him having a birthday meal on 14 September 1993.[25]


Map of locations connected to Andy 'Van' Davey during his time undercover.

Andy lived in a small bedsit at 49 Stanthorpe Road, Streatham, SW16 2DZ,[26] just down from Brixton. The flat was very clean but basic and not particularly homely. It had little of 'his personality' in it.[21] The books at the flat were typical left-wing / radical material, including on the Spanish Civil War.[11]

The bedsit was centrally placed between two of the houses used by Brixton sabs.[14] He was just around the corner from Gleneldon Road where quite a few Brixton sabs resided for a while.[27] Nor was he far from the houses of animal rights activists in the Brixton / Streatham area, including the high-profile one at Greyhound Lane, Streatham Common, and another at Streatham Hill. In Shirley's words: 'he was nicely placed between all of us', giving access to the various overlapping hunt saboteur and animal rights scenes.[15]


Andy gave his occupation as a self-employed van driver - he would put notices in local papers and newsagents advertising himself as available for removals or other jobs.[8][16] He had a pager for this, something relatively new at the time.[11][12][16] However, he was not always easy to get hold on it.[15] Some experienced him as being quite cagey about his job.[22]

His work gave him an excuse to be away, though unlike other undercovers, he was not away for long periods at a time. As someone nominally self-employed, he had the flexibility to make himself available for things.[8]

He seemed to have money, able to afford expensive vegan food and readily refused offers of donations towards petrol costs.[16]


Initially he had a white Ford Transit,[8] with a sack trolley in the back.[11] Alexa described it as being immaculately kept.[16] At one point the van caught fire, but he was able to quickly replace it, supposedly from insurance pay-out.[12] The replacement vehicle was a large red van.[23] He was a confident driver.[8]

Having a vehicle when most people didn't drive or own one made him very useful to campaigners, something he was quick to utilise and gained him the nickname 'Andy Van'.[5][4] This included driving for hunt sabbing[8] and bringing materials to protests.[9][4]


He took his mother's maiden name of Davey for his cover.[28]

It is not clear if he took the identity of a deceased child. If the legend created for his cover persona was based on the younger age presented, then no Andy Davey born in the appropriate period is on record as having died young. However, if it was based on closer to his actual age, a there are number of possibilities, including several Andrew Daveys born and died around 1960.[29]


Lucy, the rescue dog taken in by Andy as part of his cover as she was in 2005.

In autumn 1992, as part of his cover, he took in a dog from a local sanctuary.[15] Called, Lucy, she was a boisterous dog and very friendly, though with a deep-seated separation anxiety that lead her to shred furniture if left alone for any length of time.[20] She would often travel with him in his van.[8][26] but his relationship with her was described as awkward and not very hands on. One person noted that though it was clear Lucy worshipped him, they did not come across as compatible'.[7] Towards the end of his deployment, Andy returned Lucy to the sanctuary, her furniture shredding habits unchanged. She was re-homed to another animal rights activist with whom she remained.[20]



'Jessica' (a pseudonym) was an animal rights activist based in London in 1992 when she first encountered Andy Davey. At the time she was living in Upton Park in East London with other activists. Andy Davey was one of the visitors to the house, regularly just turning up. He made a move on her one night, that did not start with a conversation or expression of feeling. In her words:[30]

I thought of him as a friend with similar interests, morals and opinions. I had no idea that he had any special feeling toward me, I certainly never felt any for him... Although I was 19 I had never been in a proper relationship before, events in my life had taught me it's best to keep people at arm’s length. So, I didn't know how to react when he made advances towards me, I was embarrassed, awkward, and what truly makes me feel sick now, is that I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I look back now and realise I was naive, idealistic, unsophisticated and a very young 19.

This was June 1992, and they went onto have a relationship which lasted approximately a year. He met her parents on several occasions, including driving her to their place in Surrey. She described their relationship as being focused on what they were doing as animal rights activists.[8][31]

In September 1992, she took a job working with animals in France. They maintained a long-distance relationship, writing and phoning regularly, though he did not visit her there, possibly because her employers may well have required a degree of scrutiny. During the times she was back from France she would stay with him in his Streatham flat.[8] They did not have holidays together.[32]

She broke off the relationship around August 1993. They handled it in a mature fashion, without recriminations, remaining friends. They would continue to see each other socially until she left London.[8]

Looking back, Jessica feels she was being groomed; in particular the lie about his real age at a time when she was still a young adult appears to be a clear deception on his part.[8]

He seems to have kept his relationship with Jessica relatively quiet, as it was not common knowledge among the other campaigners Andy associated with.[21][11] Shirley recalled that it was known in small circles that he was close to Jessica and would hint that something was going on between them, but he seemed to make it deliberately vague, in a sort of aloof way. He sometimes spoke about going to see her in France.[15]

Inappropriate behaviour around women

Andy did talk about women a lot and attempted to have relationships with other activists.[21] Several people spoke of him mentioning a one-night stand with another activist from 'up north'.[11][21]

It was during his relationship with Jessica that Andy developed a reputation as being lecherous, though she was unaware of this.[30] This reputation remained with him for the rest of his deployment[8][16][22] and was complained of by other campaigners.[9][23]

Though Jessica remained faithful through her relationship with Andy, several incidents took place while she was in France.[30][7] One of these incidents was when he made a move on Joy, then a London based animal rights activist. He turned up unannounced at her flat in West London at 11pm. In her words:[33]

I allowed him to come into the flat as I was trying to be polite. Very soon after arriving he made a pass at me with no preamble. As I recall he did not say anything at all but just lunged at me and tried to kiss me. I pushed him off and he persisted for a while (several minutes), following me around the living room, while I avoided contact and repeatedly asked him to stop...
I then had to ask him to leave which he eventually agreed to do. I cannot remember exactly what I said but I was upset and angry. I felt a bit stupid for allowing him into the flat in the first place and a bit soiled to be brutally honest.

A key focus of Andy was hunt sab and animal rights activist 'Emily', who he had made an attempt to 'pounce on' in 1993 - while he was still in a relationship with Jessica though at that point Jessica was in France.[7] Emily believes Andy had focused on her in particular as she was friends with high-profile animal liberationists outside of London.[34] Shirley noted:[15]

It was common knowledge that Andy Van was 'sniffing' round Emily; it was sort of the established 'norm' that he had a big thing for her. He was clearly keen to maintain his friendship with her, which she tolerated, though found him lecherous and annoying.

'Emily' referred to him as a creep, and told of one situation where he tried to force himself on her. She was in the process of leaving London and knowing she needed a place on her last night, Andy invited her to stay at his bedsit which she reluctantly accepted. There he tried to sleep with her, clearly aroused and being insistent despite her making it very clear she was not interested.[34]

Shirley also remembered Andy regularly turned up unannounced at the house she and a female friend shared. After a while they would simply pretend they were not in to avoid dealing with him.[7] She did offer that he may not have realised her place was not as 'open door' to for people to simply drop-by uninvited as other places in the milieu. However, she did find him creepy and lecherous around women in general.[15]

Both Jessica and Emily noted that his visits to their homes would have helped him enter animal rights circles and become trusted to a degree.[8][34]

It was also noted that he also took an interest in a particular female animal rights campaigner based in Camden, who dressed a little smarter and was older than most other activists. Andy was always dropping her off after meetings and going around to her house to help her out, fixing thing, including when she moved home.[10]


Several of those interviewed have noted that Andy focused on animal rights exclusively and did not express political views otherwise.[4] His principle targets were London Boots Action Group and the Brixton Hunt Saboteurs; in general he was very focused on direct action and keen to take part in illegal activities.[16]

He was active across the animal rights scene across London and attended many meetings and demonstrations in the city.[9][8] Alexa recalled him as someone who tried to get into everything.[16] With Matt Rayner, he was a regular at meetings and events, and due to both men having vehicle at the time, in driving people to demonstrations around the country.[10]

The various animal rights and related groups inter-mingled a lot - 'everyone did everything', so it was not uncommon for people to turn up on different things. Jessica's recollection is that in the time he was with her, he tended to focus on protests within London only, and that he did not travel to national demonstrations elsewhere.[8] However, other people do remember him driving to things around the country, particularly in the second half of his deployment.

Most of the south London animal rights scene was built on informal networks as there were few actual groups based there other than Brixton Hunt Sabs and South London Animal Aid. It is not ascertained if he was involved in this latter group.

It is believed that a particular target of Andy was the activist squat on Greyhound Lane in Streatham Common, 15 minutes' walk from his own bedsit. It was a leading animal rights hub, frequented by well-known activists and ex-prisoners. It was also a key link between London and activists based in the north of England.[16][15]

London Boots Action Group (1991-1994)

Andy was most closely associated with the campaign of the London Boots Action Group (LBAG),[8] targeting Boots the Chemists over that its involvement in animal testing. It was the leading anti-vivisection campaigns of the time and the company was subject to numerous protests through-out the country in the early 1990s.

Founded in late 1991, its inaugural public meeting on 19th November at the Conway Hall attracted over 70 people. It is at this meeting that Andy and another spycop, 'Matt Rayner' made their first appearance. Both Matt and Andy became involved in it quite quickly, and despite some initial suspicions, their usefulness meant they were accepted into the group.[5][4]

From January 1992, the group held monthly meetings at 6 Endsleigh Street. Andy attended many of these and went to the pub with people afterwards.[4][9] Tanya also noted that it was unusual if neither Andy nor Matt Rayner were not at the monthly LBAG meetings, and that Andy would make contributions at these meetings and generally tried to be helpful.[10]

Both took part in protests at Boots shops,[9][16] though Matt was the more regular of the two.[10] Paul Gravett was able to recall two specific incidents in 1992 where Andy took leaflets for LBAG to protests, one being an anti-election rally held on 4 April, the other being a protest against the Boots shop at Lewisham on 11 July.

In autumn 1993, Andy took over editing LBAG's newsletter, as he had a more up-to-date computer and desktop publishing software, something rare for the time. He produced five issues between October 1993 and June 1994, which Paul characterised as generally poorly presented, and disappointingly dull and lifeless.[4]

In July 1994, Boots announced its pharmaceutical division would be sold, leading to LBAG winding up its campaign. The group subsequently merged with others to found London Animal Action (see below). As part of this process, LBAG's membership list was put into a database, an idea possibly instigated by Davey himself. Gravett recalls spending the 17th August 1994 at Davey's bedsit, typing up the membership onto Davey's computer.[4]

London Animal Rights Coalition & founding of London Animal Action (1993-1994)

Around the end of 1992 / start of 1993, Andy drove several London-based activists to the meetings of the recently formed Animal Rights Coalition (ARC), which took place in the Midlands - many in Northampton.[21] A key aspect of these meetings was feedback from local groups about their campaign activities.[35]

Robin Lane clearly recalls being in Andy's Streatham bedsit with another activist, not long back from attending an ARC meeting, discussing the need for a forum to bring together the disparate groups in London.[21] This led to the creation of the London Animal Rights Coalition (LARC), which held its first meeting on 13th February 1994 at Conway Hall and attracted 75 people.[36] Two further meetings took place in May and August.[4] Andy took on a central role in LARC, including producing its three newsletters - doing both its content and design.[21][4] These activities would have given considerable insight into what was happening in the animal rights movement across the city.

Contemporary notes from the meeting kept by an activist records a contribution from Andy where he estimated the costs of producing a newsletter for the umbrella group at £4 per person per year. A number of local and national groups had stalls and made presentations.[37]

Matt Rayner is known to have attended the second meeting of LARC on 15 May.[38]

Andy was also around for the formation of London Animal Action.[21][8] This group had been catalysed by LARC, and was established in September 1994, when London Boots Action Group, London Animal Rights Coalition, the London Anti Fur Campaign and others merged.[39][21] The group's first newsletter, London Animal Rights News was published in October, but this time Andy was not involved, having made it clear he had enough of producing them. He does not appear to have been particularly active in the group. Paul Gravett's last recollection of Andy was meeting in a pub in early December 1994, to discuss plans for the 1995 World Day for Animal in Laboratories.[4]

Notably, after Andy had exited, Matt Rayner would become the treasurer of LAA in 1995.

Brixton Hunt Saboteurs (1991-1995)

Brixton Hunt Saboteurs in the field for an anti-hunt action, Hampshire, 25 January 1992. 'Andy Davey' in foreground wearing black hat, body warmer and green top.

A number of those spoken to, believe that Brixton Hunt Sabs and some of its active members were clearly targets of Andy.[7] In the early 1990s, the highly active Brixton group was one of the leading anti-hunt groups in the country - to the extent that it received a mention in parliament as the 'Brixton Mob'.[15] They regularly had 30+ activists out on anti-hunt protests and possessed two land-rovers and a transit minibus.[17]

Andy would regularly drive for the group, though normally in his own van.[8][19] Shirley recalled that he was not really liked by them, and mainly tolerated because he could drive mid-week when most of the other drivers were unavailable due to work. If numbers exceeded the amount of seats at the weekend, he would often be among those not selected to go out.[7]

Nevertheless, as a driver he was appreciated by them to a degree. Alexa, who sabbed with him, recalled that he went out with the group regularly and was arrested a couple of times. When he drove, he would refuse to accept petrol money to cover the costs of the day.[16] Another sab recalled him driving on a hunt sab with about 30 people in the back, well above what was legal or allowed for insurance. However, when stopped by police they said nothing but simply let them go.[19]

Part of the problem he encountered infiltrating the group was that they were a tight-knit group based on long-term friendships, often sharing each other's lives closely to build a 'extended, trusted family'. They considered Andy a 'weirdo outsider' who didn't fit in, and as such would have had little time for him.[15] Rather, he was tolerated because having a van made him useful.[18]

Recalling him on the Brixton sab scene, Shirley said:[7]

He would tag along and listen when the sabs went drinking at the George Canning pub [on Effra Road, SW2], where he tended to nurse a pint. Hearts would sink at the sight of him, but they also felt sorry for him. Even if he was not a core part of the group, it allowed him to get to know who everyone was.

Another pub he drank in with the hunt sabs was the Pied Bull on Streatham High Street, and what is now the Greyhound Bar.[15][17]

One aspect of the sab group Andy definitely took part in was around cubbing season, when the hunts trained their hounds to kill by setting them on fox cubs. This took place over August / September, just before the main hunting season. As it involved a much earlier start, not all sabs were able to partake, but Andy is known to have driven his vehicle on actions trying to stop the practice.[18]

Through the Brixton sabs, he sought to get acquainted with Brighton-based animal rights campaigners as the two groups were close at the time.[16][7] He also became close to other sab groups in the South East, including people based at Orpington, in Kent.[7]

London Zoo inspection (1992) & the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit

Contemporary report of the ALIU inspection of London Zoo from the South East Liberator, Autumn 1992.

In mid-October, 1992 the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit carried out a daylight inspection at London Zoo. Though memories are uncertain, it is thought that someone from the ALIU, a northern based group, came to the LBAG meeting shortly before and mentioned in private the planned raid, asking if there was a driver available. Andy Davey was put forward. The purpose of the raid was to find evidence of the zoo's role in vivisection, so as provide material to initiate a campaign against it. The ALIU had previously been involved in an inspection of the Boots animal laboratory in November 1990, which had helped provide material to kick start the national campaign against Boots involvement in animal experiments.[40][41]

Andy Davey drove people there, parking near the Zoological Society building in Regents Park, not far from the zoo itself. The group of people went into the zoo and seized documents which were brought to where Andy was waiting in his van; he then drove away with the material.[40] Eight people from the group who had been inside the zoo itself (7 from Manchester, 1 from London) were subsequently arrested and charged with burglary (bailed to Marylebone Magistrates for 13 November), later dropped to Section 5, Public Order Act.[42] Eventually, all charges were dropped.[43]

Andy was on a number of occasions the driver for daylight inspections in Kent and Sussex carried out by the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit.[15] Unlike other actions, these tended to be overt and participants would often carry legal disclaimers with them.[17] There were a number of such inspections in the south east over 1992 / 1993, and it remains to be confirmed which where the ones he drove for.[44]


Leyden Street Chicken Slaughterhouse campaign

The Leyden Street slaughterhouse was a long time focus of animal rights campaigners in east London. It had been subject to a campaign in the 1980s, which was renewed in March 1992 by a few people who had coalesced within London Boots Action Group. It was informally organised without meetings as such, though fliers were produced. After a while the monthly demonstrations gained in reputation and even attracted people from outside of London, rising to up to 100 people at one point. Between 1992 and 1994 it was subject to four separate covert liberations.[46] Matt Rayner was among those who attended and he hinted at a role in one of these liberations.[47]

Andy also attended these public demonstrations. During one of the protests, several people were able to grab a number of chickens and make off with them. Andy came after them, and told them he had a van nearby and was willing to take the chickens off. One of the group had their suspicions of him; plus it did not seem safe to hang around in any case. As a result, they declined his offer and left independently, taking public transport instead.[10] It is thought this refers to the August 1993 demonstration, when protestors rushed in and managed to make off with two quail and ten chickens, though not without workers assaulting several of those involved.[46]

ALF SG & Arkangel Newsletters (1993-1995)

Around 1992/1993 Andy became involved with the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group. Initially this was through doing stalls, but he moved on to help distribute its newsletter. He would pick it up from the printers and deliver it to the south coast where he'd be among those putting copies in envelopes for posting, staying over for the evening. The person running the group recalled that Andy did not hint at being involved in anything illegal or asked about such activities; nor did he have any involvement in the contents of the publication.[11]

Andy performed a similar service for the leading animal liberation publication, Arkangel, which came out every six months, driving the editor up the West Midlands to collect it from the printers. Unlike with the ALF-SG newsletter he did not help out with the packaging and posting. Andy would have done this approximately four times and after he left, Matt Rayner came forward to help out.[21]

Robin Webb & the Gandalf trial (1995)

On 6 January 1995, Robin Webb was answering bail in Cambridge, when he was arrested by Hampshire police. This was in relation to his role as the Animal Liberation Front Press Officer, in which he passed on claims made by anonymous ALF activists. In particular, the police were interested in claims that Tesco supermarket eggs had been contaminated in Hampshire and Sussex by the 'Poultry Liberation Organisation'. On 9 January, Robin was remanded to HMP Winchester where he spent the next seven months.

In January 1995, Robin Webb, the Animal Liberation Front Press Officer, was remanded in custody for seven months in relation to having passed on to media claims by anonymous activists from the Poultry Liberation Organisation that they had contaminated supermarket eggs.[48][49]

Webb's diaries record that Andy Davey visited Robin at HMP Winchester on Friday 13th & Saturday 14th January. He subsequently drove Webb's wife to visit on 20th January, 3rd February and 17th February. He did not make any significant impression on Webb or his wife. The visits were among the last activities that Andy conducted as part of his undercover role. [50]

One activist from the time noted that the visits should be understood in the context of Operation Washington which led to the GAndALF trial. This operation was launched by Hampshire Police (apparently including its Special Branch unit) to target animal liberation activists and green anarchists alike; it was led by Det. Ch. Insp. (later Det. Supt.) Desmond Thomas. Thomas also oversaw the prosecution of Webb for sending to the press the communique of the Poultry Liberation Organisation, which trial collapsed in December 1995.

As part of Operation Washington, 17 raids were conducted across the country in March 1995.[49] From this Robin Webb and four others were charged with conspiracy. They included editors of the Green Anarchist magazine and an editor of the ALF Supporters Group newsletter. It subsequently became labelled the 'GAndALF Trial' as a result.[51][52] The basis of the charges was that Green Anarchist magazine had published reports of animal liberation activity, and this amounted to incitement. The case went on to became a minor cause celebre for free speech, with London Greenpeace providing a key plank of the support campaign.[53][54]

The GAndALF case eventually collapsed in 1998, partially in response to attempts by one of of the defendants sought to summon as a witness one Tim Hepple, who had been identified as an infiltrator on behalf of the state within Green Anarchist magazine.[55]

121 Centre

Andy seems to have shown occasional interest in local anarchist groups, though they were not a principle focus of his work. Most people's recollections are that he focused almost exclusively on animal rights, though this may because he was not particularly welcomed by other groups. According to Alexa, he tried to get close to an anarchist squat in Brixton, but they sensed there was something wrong about him straight away and 'did not entertain him'.[16]

He appears to have had a bit more success with the 121 squatted social centre. Based at 121 Railton Road in Brixton, this was a key anarchist / alternative hub in south London which lasted from 1981 to 1999.[56] Brixton Hunt Sabs were among the groups who used the Centre for meetings.[57]

The only direct involvement of Andy with the Centre recalled so far, was that he helped its cafe by doing runs to pick up vegetables from the New Covent Garden market at Nine Elms, SW8.[12] One activist told us this involved salvaging discarded food from the skips there. 'The mass of discarded food was used to feed people in the squats around Brixton at the time and also used to cook meals for benefit nights held at the 121 Book shop in aid of various social justice protest groups'. Those who went on these 'skipping' runs as they were known, had to dodge security guards and police to do it.[15]

Other protest activities

Andy is known to have been involved in or near a number of illegal actions. Following an animal liberation in London, he was called on to use his van to drive the rescued animals to their new home, though he was not involved until after the original liberation had happened.[58][31][7]

In June 1992, Andy was the driver for a night-time animal liberation at a chicken farm, for which used his own van. The action had been planned to happen a week earlier but had to be called off due to an encounter with soldiers training in nearby fields. However, when the activists returned a week later they found the farm had increased security and there were now floodlights. The action went ahead nevertheless and chickens were liberated. Afterwards, the van, containing the liberated birds, was stopped on the road by police. In what seemed a miraculous escape, they were allowed to continue their way after a perfunctory check.[19][8] Though they did not take part in this action, the main Brixton hunt sab house on Torrens Road was raided in relation to it.[7]

At one point he gave advice on how to break windows.[23]

Other potential activities

Due to the passage of time details of the activities Andy was involved in are hazy and much remains unconfirmed as yet. Andy is likely to have attended the protests at the Boots AGMs which took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster. It is highly likely he attended the large marches for World Day for Animals in Laboratories which took place in London each April.[59] He is also likely to have attended anti-fur demonstrations at Selfridges and protests against hunt balls held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.[60] In late 1994 / early 1995 he drove campaigners to the protests against live exports at Shoreham.[16][61] and may well have also driven campaigners to similar vigils at Dover.[10] His presence in the Brixton / Streatham animal rights milieu would most likely have given him him access to information and people facing important court cases.[62]

Suspicions at the time

Several people who knew him recalled that people were initially suspicious or uneasy around him when he appeared on the scene. However, his willingness to be helpful and being regularly seen and working with other prominent activists overcame these concerns. His rescued dog also added to his credibility, not least as she came from a sanctuary well respected in animal rights circles. This eventually led him to become very much part of the scene.[16][4][7] [16]

Not all accepted him fully even then. Shirley never lost her suspicions,[15] and following his inappropriate behaviour towards her as she was leaving London (see above), Emily questioned his ethics and concluded he was likely a police spy.[34] 'Tanya' noted that when she met him, he seemed to be trusted, but she like others, did not really associate with him because he seemed odd and because of his lecherous behaviour.[10]

Others took a slightly different view, regarding him as too straight and too obviously not part of the scene to be considered an undercover; they expected the police to put in someone who didn't stand out like a sore thumb so much.[18]


Coles' deployment was shorter than the norm of four years. The reason for the early exit is unknown, but it is possible his character prevented him from getting as deep into the London animal rights scene as other spycops.

He appears to have begun winding down his activities after the founding of London Animal Action in September 1994. He started saying he wanted to move on. His suspected successor is believed to have been put in place in January 1995.[4]

As with other undercovers, he created a story that would take him out of the country - leaving for the Czech Republic[63] to teach English, while hinting that police were sniffing around him. Some recalled that he talked about being a bit stressed,[11][8] and wanting to 'go abroad and find himself'.[30]

On 22 February 1995, Andy had a leaving do at the Shahee Bhelpoori vegetarian restaurant in Norbury, a popular place for eating out in animal rights circles. It was not well attended.[5][4][15][64] He would send a letter to a friend, postmarked 1 January 1996, Budapest, with no return address; after which they did not hear from him again.[11] In this letter he referred to the Animal Rights National Index apparently showing interest in him. Antonia, who had rehomed the dog to Andy, also received a postcard from Prague, which she found peculiar as she did not feel they had been friends.[20]

His exit strategy strongly mirrors elements of other known undercovers for example, Bob Lambert.[65] Likewise, his colleague 'Matt Rayner' would use similar elements in his exit ruse a year later.

Letter from Budapest, postmarked 11 January 1996.

Links with spycop units

Undercovers in AR timeline (April 2017).png

Connections with other SDS officers

As an undercover officer within Special Branch, Andy would have served with the Special Demonstration Squad, which in 1993 he had Det. Insp. Bob Lambert as its Heads of Operations. He would have also served alongside another SDS undercover, the whistle-blower Peter Francis, who at the time was infiltrating anti-racist groups and the Socialist Party.

Coles' deployment as Andy Davey is closely contemporary to that of fellow SDS undercover Matt Rayner, who entered London animal rights in late 1991, and stayed there until November 1996. However, Andy deployment seems to have been curtailed, leaving after three years rather than the standard four, and seems to have been done with a degree of haste.[5] Overall, Andy appears to fall into the 'shallow swimmer' category, his infiltration not being as successful as Rayner's. In this, Andy reflects one of his predecessors in south London, Mike Chitty, also based in Streatham (1983-87).

Many of the groups Andy and Matt focused on were the same - LBAG, LAA and hunt sabs. One campaigner who knew both men, noted that they seemed to divide up the city between them, with Andy focusing on the south, particularly the Brixton and Streatham area, while Matt did the north west and north east.[10] The degree to which Matt Rayner and Andy Davey socialised in their undercover roles is not clear, though they moved in some of the same circles with friends and colleagues in common. When, at one point, fellow activists told Matt about Andy's lecherous behaviour, the other undercover reacted with disapproval.[9] Nevertheless, Rayner had one known relationship while undercover, while their supervisor Bob Lambert had several.

The Rob Evans & Paul Lewis book Undercover noted that at the time the SDS undercovers would meet up twice a week at a SDS safehouse at Beaumont Court, Chiswick. It mentions undercovers as playing out their roles in animal rights, left wing and anarchist networks and a fascist skinhead.[66] There is reference to one bringing their dog, which is now thought to be a reference to Andy Coles in his role as Andy Davey. Others are likely to have included Matt Rayner and Peter Francis.

A further possible overlap between undercovers is Jim Boyling (a.k.a. Jim Sutton), a SDS officer deployed from 1995 to 2000 who also infiltrated hunt sab groups.

Chain of Command

For part of his deployment, Andy Davey operated under the control of ex-animal rights undercover Bob Lambert. The current, incompletely known, chain of command for 1991 to 1995 is:

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police: Peter Imbert (1991-1993), Paul Condon (1993-1995)
Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations: W Taylor (1992-1994), David Veness (April 1994 onwards)
Deputy Assistant Commissioner (Security): John Howley (1991-1995)
Head of Special Branch / SO12: Position held simultaneously by John Howley.[67] D Buchanan is listed as head of SO12 in 1995.
Controller of Operations (Special Branch): D Buchanan (1992), Barry Moss (1995)
Head of SDS: DCI Keith Edmundson (1993-1994/5)
SDS Controller of Operations: Bob Lambert (1994-1998)

Hackney beat

The first part of his career Coles spent as a beat PC in Hackney and Stoke Newington from 1982-1988, at least part of which was at the City Road police station.[68] Coles refers to Hackney as 'an extremely challenging inner city area'.[69] At the time police in the borough were renowned for their corruption and racism, leading to the establishment of the Hackney Community Defence Association in 1987 (targeted by another spycop, Mark Jenner).[70]

Active as undercover officer in Hackney at the time from 1983-88, was Bob Lambert, targeting animal rights among other campaigns, as Bob Robinson.[71] Notably, Lambert was present at the Wapping dispute as a protestor, while Coles was on duty at the other side [3] From 1993, Lambert oversaw Cole’s undercover deployement as was explained above.

Further resources


  1. Statement from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner,, 15 May 2017 (accessed 15 May 2017).
  2. Richard Coles, Wikipedia, undated (accessed 25 January 2017).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rev. Richard Coles, Fathomless Riches, or how I went from pop to pulpit, Hachette UK, 16 October 2014.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 Statement of Paul Gravett, 17 March 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 'ARSpycatcher', How Special Branch Spied on Animal Rights Movement, Buro Jansen & Jansen (blog post), 26 February 2014 (accessed 3 October 2015).
  6. Undercover Research Group: research conducted January / February 2017. For further detail of the process of discovery, see this blog. SORT LINK
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 Undercover Research Group: conversation with 'Shirley', a London animal rights activists, 27 March 2017.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 8.23 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Jessica', 10 February 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Joy', 12 February 2017.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 10.9 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Tanya', 7 May 2017.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'S'.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Undercover Research Group: emails from several activists active in Brixton in early 1990s, 14 February 2017.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Undercover Research Group: meeting with 'Jessica', 27 March 2017.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Jessica', 24 March 2017.
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 15.13 15.14 15.15 Undercover Research Group: email from 'Shirley', 4 April 2017.
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 16.11 16.12 16.13 16.14 16.15 16.16 16.17 16.18 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Alexa', 17 March 2017.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Undercover Research Group: emails from 'Shirley', 9 April 2017.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Undercover Research Group: interview 'Maria', 8 May 2017.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Undercover Research Group: interview with RQ, 5 April 2017.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Antonia', who managed the sanctuary Lucy came from, 3 May 2017.
  21. 21.00 21.01 21.02 21.03 21.04 21.05 21.06 21.07 21.08 21.09 21.10 21.11 21.12 21.13 Undercover Research Group: interview with Robin Lane, 14 February 2017.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Undercover Research Group: email from a hunt sab who lived near Andy Davey in Streatham.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Undercover Research Group: interview with YJ, a former campaigner with London Animal Action, 23 February 2016.
  24. Undercover Research Group: conversation with 'Jessica', 27 March 2017.
  25. Undercover Research Group: email from Robin Lane, 3 April 2017.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Undercover Research Group: email from Paul Gravett, 2 March 2017. Andy Davey's other contact details were - tel: 0181 769 7715; pager: 0181 528 9001 x 821042.
  27. The majority of Brixton hunt sabs at the time lived 5 / 6 squats in central Brixton or near Clapham, while the vehicles were parked up at Torrens Road and on Coldharbour Lane. Undercover Research Group: email from 'Shirley', 4 April 2017.
  28. Andy is not known to have used a middle initial. The Electoral Roll has lists him at the 49 Stanthorpe Avenue address in 1995 as Andrew Davey.
  29. A few years earlier, another Andy Davey with the same pair of middle initials as Andy Coles appears as a candidate, though the age range makes it somewhat of an outlier in terms of possibilities.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Statement of 'Jessica',, 12 May 2017 (accessed 12 May 2017).
  31. 31.0 31.1 Undercover Research Group: email from 'Jessica', 21 February 2017.
  32. Undercover Research Group: email from 'Jessica', 10 February 2017.
  33. Undercover Research Group: statement provided by Joy, 29 March 2017
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Emily', 18 March 2017.
  35. Summary of the Animal Rights Coalition meeting of 6 January 1993, ARC Newssheet, No. 6, January 1993.
  36. Local Group Reports, Arkangel, Issue 11, 1993 (accessed via
  37. Undercover Research Group: notes of meeting Animal Rights Coalition (London) meeting of 13 February 1994 taken by Paul Gravett. These groups presenting included London Anti Fur Campaign (on Selfridges campaign), London Boots Action Group, Campaign for Abolition of Angling, McLibel, Bromley animal rights, National Anti-Hunt Petition, Campaign Against Leather and Fur, Pigeon Recovery, Hounslow Animal Defenders, South London Animal Aid (Institute of Psychiatry campaign), East London Animal Rights, Leyden Street campaign, ABGN, Europe Against Bullfighting, Kingston Animal Action & Chessington Zoo Action.
  38. Undercover Research Group: notes of meeting Animal Rights Coalition (London) meeting of 15 May 1994 taken by Paul Gravett.
  39. Alex Bourke & Ronny Worsley, Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook, Scamp Media / Miso Publications, 2001 (accessed 2 February 2016).
  40. 40.0 40.1 Undercover Research Group: email from Paul Gravett, 19 April 2017.
  41. Note, this ALIU inspection should not be confused with the Animal Liberation Front raid on the same laboratories at Thurgaton, which had taken place two weeks previously.
  42. London Zoo, Support Animal Rights Prisoners, November 1992 (accessed via
  43. London Zoo, ALF Supporters Group Newsletter, Spring 1993.
  44. Arkangel Issue 10 carries a report from the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit for 1993 where it discusses the events of three daylight inspections across the south east on 27th January, 25th February and 26 March. In the first two dates, they were stopped by police in significant operations. In the first one, the driver of the vehicle was arrested for not showing their licence, but they were de-arrested. The 25th February saw a much larger operation including a helicopter and one of the two vans being stopped and those in it arrested and taken to Eastbourne police. Again, all were de-arrested as no damage had been done. It is thought, though unconfirmed, that Andy Davey was the driver on at least one of these inspections, bringing people from south London to meet up with campaigners from the south coast (mainly Brighton and Hastings) to take part. See [ Animal Liberation Investigation Unit], Arkangel, Issue 10, Spring 1993 (accessed 11 May 2017).
  45. The spring 1993 listing for the ALIU in Arkangel magazine stated:
    Animal Liberation Investigation Unit
    PO Box 38, Manchester M60
    Organise inspections on animal abuse establishments to expose and build up information files. Successful inspections over last few months include: a Halal slaughterhouse, the vivisection labs at London Zoo, two broiler units, a site owned by Wellcome at Grange farm in Sussex, Sussex University animal house and the premises of Colin French, branded the cruelest man in Britain, having been convicted on 272 charges of cruelty to animals. ALIU also helped local activists around the country to conduct legal inspections at their local establishments to gain video and photographic footage. In addition to inspections ALIU have also been busy continuing with the campaign against Boots the vivisectors, helping with the day of action in June, the demo at the Boots AGM in July and the march against Boots in November. A Boots info pack is available from the ALIU for £1.00.
    Animal Liberation Investigation Unit, Arkangel, Issue 9, Spring 1993 (accessed via
  46. 46.0 46.1 Mark Simmonds, Leyden Street slaughterhouse - the fight continues, Arkangel, Issue 12 (part 2), 1994 (accessed 2 Feb 2016).
  47. Undercover Research Group: email from Paul Gravett, 5 February 2016.
  48. See: (i) Animal activist held, The Guardian, 7 January 1995.
    (ii)Duncan Campbell, Animal rights activists 'set wool shop fires', The Guardian, 11 August 1994.
    (iii) Protestor remanded, The Guardian, 10 January 1995.
  49. 49.0 49.1 Michael Durham, Crack down on green extremists, The Guardian, 9 July 1995 (accessed via Nexis).
  50. Undercover Research Group: email from Robin Webb, 24 March 2017.
  51. Stephen Booth, Operation Washington and the Gandalf Trial, Green Anarchist, 1999 (accessed via
  52. Noel Molland, The Gandalf Trial, Arkangel, Issue 19, (accessed 3 April 2017 via; see also the Arkangel Archive.
  53. Larry O'Hara, Gagged: a contemporary view of the Gandalf Trial, The Law, Issue 13, Summer 1998 (accessed via Notes from the Borderland, 3 April 2017).
  54. Note: London Greenpeace's association with the trial only began in late 1997 when the London Gandalf Support Campaign was setup within the group (around November / December). Undercover Research Group: email from Paul Gravett, April 2017.
  55. For further detailed accounts of Tim Hepple and his role within Green Anarchist, see Larry O'Hara & Stephen Booth At War With The Universe, Notes from the Borderlands, 1999.
  56. 121 News: All the latest reports and archive action from the 121 Centre in Brixton,, 1999 (accessed 17 February 2017); Brixton: 121 Centre,, 1999 (accessed 17 February 2017).
  57. 121 Centre in Brixton: 1990s flyers, History-Is-Made-At, 21 February 2012 (accessed 17 February 2017).
  58. Undercover Research Group: email from Jessica, 17 February 2017.
  59. Paul Gravett, Flashback: 25 April 1992 – the biggest anti-vivisection demo ever, RedBlackGreen (blog(, 25 April 2015 (accessed 28 April 2017).
  60. Undercover Research Group: email from 'Jessica', 11 February 2017.
  61. Paul Gravett, Jill Phipps and the campaign against live exports, Red Black Green (blog), 1 February 1995 (accessed 21 March 2017)
  62. Court cases where Andy is suspected of having links to people involved include:
    • Reading Conspiracy Trial (1993), three activists on trial for conspiracy to commit arson had the case against them collapse when the Animal Rights National Index refused to release the identity of an infiltrator close to the group. See (i) Prisoners and Defendants, Support Animal Rights Prisoners, February 1993.</br> (ii) First, the good news, Support Animal Rights Prisoners, June 1993.</br> (iii)Davey Shepard, Reading the signs..., ALF Supporters Group newsletter, Summer 1993. It is now known that Andy some of the three activists charged and had been a regular visitor at one of the houses raided by police in conjunction with the case.
    • The Royal London Hospital Trial (1993). During his time targeting the animal rights house on Greyhound Lane, an individual living there was on trial, accused of liberating animals from the Royal London Hospital. The person was acquitted. It appears that the Animal Rights National Index participated in the police operation which led to the trial, though the exact role is unclear. See: The Royal London Hospital Trial, Suppport Animal Rights Prisoners, May 1993 (accessed via TheTalonConspiracy).
    • Hampshire aggravated trespass (ca. 1994 / 1995). Following a mass arrest of hunt sabs in Hampshire, two leading sabs, both well-known to Andy, were singled out by Hampshire police for a prolonged case of aggravated trespass. Though others were arrested in same circumstances, charges were dropped against everyone else to focus on the pair and unusually for the time, the case went trial.
  63. Note: others also recalled him talking of going to Hungary, which is in part borne out by the letter from Budapest. Email from 'Jessica', 21 February 2017.
  64. Undercover Research Group: email from 'Shirley', 26 April 2017.
  65. Rob Evans, How undercover officers disappear without a trace , The Guardian, 17 May 2017 (accessed 17 February 2017).
  66. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, Undercover: The true story of Britain's secret police, Guardian Faber, 6 March 2014.
  67. John Howley is listed as head of Special Branch 1991-1996 - see Ray Wilson & Ian Adams, Special Branch: A History 1883-2006, Biteback Publishing, 2015. The position appears to be vacant in 1992 - see Police & Constabulary Almanac, 1992, R Hazell & Co.
  68. @AFLimited, Exchange with Rev Richard Coles, 31 January 2017 (accessed May 2017)
  69. Andy Coles, Personal Statement - Appointment of the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, annex 3 to Report of Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner, 29 June 2016 (accessed May 2017)
  70. Hackney Community Defence Association, A Crime Is A Crime Is A Crime, November 1991 (accessed May 2017)
  71. A brief, incomplete but hopefully somewhat illustrative contextual timeline of spycop infiltrations around London Greenpeace and beyond throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Bristle's Blog, 23 June 2013.