Rod Richardson

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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
Rod ?
Rod Richardson face.jpg
Alias: Rod Richardson
Deployment: 1999-2003
Unit:
Targets:
Environmental, anti-capitalist and anti-fascist protestors, Movement Against Monarchy, WOMBLES, Earth First! network

Rod Richardson was an environmental, anarchist and animal rights protestor who was active between 1999 and 2003 in Essex, London and Nottingham. In February 2013 he was unmasked on Indymedia UK and in The Guardian as an undercover officer. On 15th December 2016, the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing released a statement confirming he had been a Metropolitan Police officer and that he had worked for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.[1]

It is notable that he disappeared just before Mark Kennedy appeared in the same activist circles, and that both based themselves mainly in Nottingham and London. This has led to speculation that Rod was active in preparing the way for Kennedy.[2][3]

He is the most recent known user of a dead child's identity as part of his cover story.

  • Note from Undercover Research Group: while we have chronicled many of Rod's activities, there are still gaps in our knowledge. If you can shed light on him, please contact us even if it is simply to confirm what others have told us.

See also

Overview of activities

Rod was initially deployed to the Rettendon Protest Camp, Essex in 1999. There he rented a local house and made himself useful to the protestors. Throughout his deployment, he would maintain his contacts within eco-defence circles, mainly through Earth First networks. This included going to a number of Earth First! Summer Gatherings and a camp against peat extraction in South Yorkshire. At this event he was arrested for his role in an attempted blockade using arm-tubes.

Much of his time was divided between London and Nottingham. He arrived in London in 2000 and got involved with the Class War offshoot, Movement Against Monarchy, taking part in their demonstrations. He appeared to associate somewhat with Reclaim the Streets, and following a split, he joined the high-profile W.O.M.B.L.E.S. group. For the remainder of his time in London, he would be closely associated with them, taking part in many of their large actions such as MayDay 2001, DSEi 2001 and MayDay 2002. During DSEi 2001 he sabotaged an action by the group, when he was supposedly arrested while transporting equipment. Throughout his time with them, the group was subject to intense police pressure and media scrutiny.

He also travelled with the WOMBLES to international counter-summit protests. This included two G8 Summits - Genoa in 2001, where he fought with Italian police, and Evian in 2003.

In late 2000 he moved to Nottingham, a city with a strong environmental and animal rights protest scene. Though he was generally only present there at weekends, he immersed himself in activities there, getting involved with local hunt saboteurs and anti-fascist groups. He also travelled with activists from the city to protests and actions elsewhere in the country.

n 2002 he began to step back from activities, talking about going abroad, as his long term girlfriend, Jo, had moved to Australia to study there. He left Nottingham in early 2003, though he remained in London into the Summer. Though suspicions emerged soon after his departure, it was not until after the exposure of Mark Kennedy that the full picture was put together and his fake cover was exposed.

Description & personality

Rod Richardson wearing theatre clothes friends had found in Nottingham.

Rod was a white male, about 5'7" tall; he was of athletic build, clean-shaven and had short blondish hair. He was nicknamed 'Rodders'.[4] He gave his date of birth as 5 January 1973 and his email address as rodchillout@yahoo.co.uk.[5] A number of people stated his accent was southern, probably home counties.[6][2] Though he told one London activist that he had moved south from Nottinghamshire, and they recalled him speaking with a slight northern accent.[7]

He was reasonably handy and practical with stuff,[8] and generally made himself useful.[9]

Much of how he presented was summed up by 'Harriet' who met him when he turned up for the set-up of the 2001 Earth First! Summer Gathering and who recalled him clearly. She described him as a fun guy to be with, though he had a weird sense of humour, which seemed to include painting pictures of sperm on everything. However he seemed uncomfortable about talking about his life and he appeared to have no background or political leaning. Physical fitness was a major preoccupation.[10] Merrick called Rod as energetic and 'fizzy', who was funny but could also be 'leftfield', and that another activist had noted to him that Rod was 'always too bonkers to be a cop'.[11]

Several people noted that he talked very little about his life or background prior to being politically active.[12] and when he did hang out with people he mainly talked about social stuff.[13]

He was very anxious about appearing in images and hid his face in most photographs,[8][11] He would be among the first in meetings to say photographs were not allowed,[9] and went so far as to scratch his face from a photo taken during the Genoa G8 Summit.[14] He justified his attitude about this by saying he had lost a job because of being filmed, saying that when he was working in a gym, he had called off sick to go on a protest, only to appear on News At Ten being pulled out of a tree. Upon seeing the footage, his boss had fired him.[9][15]

Changing personality

Rod Richardson timeline.1.png

Rod's personality underwent a change during the time he was deployed. All interviewed described him as a sociable, nice guy and easy to like.[16][8] One person noted 'he was very personable and good at just hanging out with people, just like Mark Kennedy',[10] and enjoyed a bit of banter.[13]

He later developed a reputation for wildness and 'off the wall behaviour' that he did not have early on in his deployment. While at the Rettendon anti-road protest camp, he came across as someone who was level-headed and on the case, never out of it. He was good at cooking (others recalled he was notable for his Mexican food[17]) and had a car that functioned, all of which cast him in a good light.[12]

A Movement Against Monarchy activist recalled him as a young man, enthusiastic for political action, who flitted around and was in touch haphazardly.[18]

For people associated with the WOMBLES, he was seen as a reliable guy who turned up for most actions. London activists recalled him as friendly and approachable, who generally went along with things. When he made suggestions, it tended to be on a practical level only. He was also seen as ready to get involved if there was a physical ruck.[19][20] Others also confirmed that Rod had been involved in physical violence.[15]

One WOMBLE in particular described Rod as someone who did not suffer fools lightly and disliked various people in the scene. He could be both very cynical and helpful; but also said that his heart was not in his politics and there was no sense of commitment.[9] It appears he socialised somewhat less in London than Nottingham, being mainly there for actions, and meetings (when he went to them).[9]

In Nottingham, he showed an extroverted, 'off the wall, larger than life personality'.[8] He could be outrageously funny when drunk and had 'the gift of the gab'. As a result, everyone found him easy to like and he was readily accepted in the local social scene, quickly getting to know many of the activists in it.[16][8] He could also be 'adrenalin junkie, into risk taking, having accidents and generally a good laugh'.[16]

For some, he came across as more of a 'party dude', albeit less into drink and drugs than some around him.[10]

One person recalled him having a January birthday party in a local pub in Nottingham where he got drunk and took part in the karaoke there, moshing away to the Prodigy.[8] The Guardian wrote of the same event:[4]

Rod Richardson celebrated his 29th birthday in style on 5 January 2002. After drinking tequila and absinthe, he let his housemates push him through the snow on a tray to Nottingham's Elm Tree pub. It was karaoke night. "I remember Rod was one of the first up and did Firestarter by the Prodigy," a friend recalls. "He was literally screaming it, picking up a chair over his head and waving it and then running around the seating shouting: 'I'm a firestarter'."

This matches in the reflections of another Nottingham activist who knew him well. She described him as 'neither self-conscious nor shy'. She remembered him as being happy to dress up in theatre clothes that activists there had found in bins, and of him dancing to 'Singing in the Rain', complete with umbrella.[13] At one point Rod made several CDs of a mix of music, labelled 'Rods Mad Mix', which included songs from Transvision Vamp and The Flumps. One of the CDs had the song 'Cop Killer' by Ice T, which seemed out of place compared to the rest of the music and a bit too much.[13]

Jo Wilding, who knew him from the Rettendon camp, commented that he appeared to have had the trajectory of someone originally sympathetic and quite straight, who gradually became more involved and committed, so his change of character followed that trajectory.[12]

Comparing Rod to his successor in Nottingham, Mark Kennedy, Yvette noted that Rod manipulated people as much as Mark did, building bonds of emotional closeness, but in hindsight, seemed more professional in that he did not get into the sort of sexual relationships that Mark did.[13]

Drink & Drugs

Image of Rod Richardson, undated.

He was a capable drinker able to consume a lot when he wished.[16][2] Some remember him as someone who was 'pissed half the time', getting quite drunk at parties in Nottingham and Norfolk, though he stayed uncharacteristically sober for some of them (his excuse at one point was he doing a swim in London the following day - see below).[17]

Rod was inconsistent regarding drugs. To some, mainly in Nottingham, Rod said he did not do drugs, as he did not want to lose control,[16] while others put his avoidance of drugs down to his interest in physical fitness[13] and being generally health-conscious.[2][15] This and his 'bonkers, likeable personality' meant it was accepted at the time.[13] This is contradicted in the memories of others, who recall that he had taken drugs during his time among them.[17][12] One London activist clearly remembered witnessing Rod smoking cannabis.[21]

At one point, right at the end of his stay in Nottingham, he had a drink spiked with ecstasy while at a party in the city. This caused friends concern as, despite this, he still wanted to drive to London the next day; it also gave rise to one of the few occasions where he did not shy away from having his photograph being taken.[13]

Politics

Rod told people in London, that he used to be right-wing, but experiences of a protest camp had led to him becoming left-wing. London based activist Alex noted that Rod, like other undercover officers, Jason Bishop and Mark Kennedy, appeared to have picked up on class divisions and, in the groups he was involved with, seemed to be more comfortable with people from a working class background than middle class individuals.[[20]

n Nottingham and to Earth First! activists, he presented his politics as based very much in class, and was particularly animated by the Movement Against The Monarchy, going around putting up their stickers. He also said his motivation for going hunt-sabbing was based on class politics.[8] Environmental activists recalled that he had little in the way of politics other than talking a bit about Class War, but then only superficially. Nor did he show much care about or grasp of ecological issues.[17]

One activist who knew him well in Nottingham said that he came across as interested in politics, but only in a superficial way and was full of contradictions (for example, his principles seemed at odds with him owning and driving a car, or being a personal trainer to the rich) - though it is important to note that he did not stand out for being inconsistent. Rather, they felt that he came across as passionate and committed, willing to put himself on the line and take risks, a bit of an adrenalin junkie, but noted that there were never any drunken rants on what motivated him. If he did speak of politics, it was on the level of 'capitalism is bollocks', or 'get the fuckers', rather than on any intellectual level.[16]

He told one London activist he had been at the 1996 Newbury road protests, but no one recalls him being there.[9]

Occupation and money

Throughout his deployment, Rod consistently claimed to be a personal fitness instructor in London[19][8][12] and boasted to one activist of having trained celebrities and rich people.[10] This work with private clients took him all over the place and he appeared to have a hold-all to go with the job.[20] As he catered to rich people, his work provided him with a significant income and he only had to work two or three days a week.[16]

The job gave him an excuse for being away in London during the week, so his time at Rettendon and in Nottingham was restricted to weekends.[12][8]

In Nottingham, as a result of having a job, he came across as having an income above average compared to most activists. He was generous in buying rounds but 'did not chuck it around'.[8][10] He would buy drinks for London activists, but not in a way that made him stand out; he came across as only a bit wealthier than those around him.[20] Early on he had a standard Nokia phone.[20] Another WOMBLE recalled that he always had the last phone, and when at the Genoa protests he had an internet enabled phone which he was constantly using; at the time these were both unusual and prohibitively expensives.[15]

Vehicle

When he drove activists to the Snowdonia Earth First! Gathering in 2000, his car was recalled as an older model hatchback.[22]

In Nottingham, he drove a blue Peugeot 405 saloon.[8] which some described as being knackered and filthy, though not all remembered it as such. Unlike other undercover officers, his driving did not stand out,[16] though he was recalled as a good, safe driver.[23] Alex, a London-based activist recalled him driving an old, beaten up car that was quite nondescript and he seemed confident behind the wheel.[20] Several people recalled him driving a white van.[10][21]

Physical fitness

Physical fitness was a major theme with Rod, and 'seemed to be his thing'.[10][22] He was clearly fit and very into sport, going distance running with some activists. He would claim to go to the gym on Saturday afternoons,[8] and is known to have joined one mainstream gym in Nottingham, which he encouraged others to join.[16] A reason he gave for moving to the area was that he loved rock climbing and wanted to be closer to the Peak District.[16] He had a photograph of himself partaking in a triathlon.[13] and would regularly mention participating in 'iron man' challenges and pentathlons.[15]

Another boast was of a swim across the Thames.[10] This may have been true as his excuse for staying sober at a Nottingham party was that he was going to London the next day to do the annual swim of the Thames at Blackfriars.[17] This is likely to be a reference to the 'Great River Swim', an annual event from Chiswick to Blackfriars that was re-started in 2002. He is believed to have supported Chelsea football club[23] (as did Mark Kennedy and Bob Lambert).

Residences

During 1999 - 2000 Rod lived in a small town near the Rettendon camp in Essex (probably at South Woodham Ferrers).[24] This was a small, ground floor one-two bedroom flat. It was described as being very bare; one campaigner who stayed there briefly commented that it was 'without a woman's touch'.[12]

It is of note that people in Nottingham considered him to be someone from London; conversely, London people saw him as someone primarily from Nottingham and he would stay with some of them on several occasions.[20][21]

He told London based activists in 2001 that he lived in Hertfordshire.[25]

When he turned up in Nottingham circa 2000/2001, he was living in London with 'Jo'[13] (though there is no known address[5]) but stated he wanted a space outside of the capital.[8] At first he lived in a terraced house by himself, but when a space came up in a shared house close to the activist scene, he took the chance to move in there.[5] However, he was only in Nottingham at weekends, saying that his job as a personal trainer meant that he had to be in London during the week, and that he stayed at friends or with Jo when in the city.[8][13] When friends from Nottingham visited London, the presence of Jo was used as an excuse as to why they could not stay at his house as would otherwise be expected.[13]

In Nottingham he had few possessions and his room was uncluttered. He was noted for having painted his room to make it look like an 'acid trip', with psychedelic paintings on one wall, and more psychedelic images of worms / sperm / tadpoles painted on another. One person noted that 'it was not the sort of room you'd live in.'[8] The Guardian wrote:[4]

"One of the first things he did when he moved in was use gloss paint to cover his wall with images of giant tadpole-like sperm," says another friend. "It was bright red paint on a yellow background. That was Rod. He seemed to be quite eccentric."

His time in the housing co-operative was described as being 'on the surface', and he never got into the politics of what it was trying to achieve.[10]

He is also known to have done similar images (made with spray paint) while with the WOMBLES in London (see under Bacon Factory), and when asked what they were about, he would answer 'Worms of doom' in a high-pitched voice.[2]

Relationships & friendships: 'Jo'

From the beginning of his deployment, starting at Rettendon, he consistently referred to his partner 'Jo', though nobody in the camp met her, even when they stayed at his house.[12] This was not considered odd at Rettendon as she was apparently not interested in the campaign, so nobody was expecting to see her.[12] He also referred to her in London though nobody appears to have met her at any point.[20]

On moving to Nottingham, Rod continued to mention Jo, though it was not until he had been in the city a year that she made an appearance. This occurred twice only, both instances being for parties - she did not take part in any of his political campaigning there.[16][5] Recollections of her from that time was that she was based in London and that people thought she looked like a police-woman, with a very conventional, sporty look.[8] Another recalled her as being blond and very middle class.[19]

An activist who knew Rod well recalled that everyone at the time they thought she was a cop and that she appeared very uncomfortable around environmentalists and hippy types. However, at the time nobody thought that police would go to the lengths of putting an undercover officer into their houses to live with them, so the did not pursue their concerns.[16] Another activist who encountered them at a Nottingham party said they looked like they were not doing too well as a couple. Jo came across as uncomfortable at the party, sitting in place, not saying much, and generally not fitting in.[10]

'Yvette' recalled her well:[13]

She was as straight as anything, not fun to be with and it was not clear what Rod saw in her, particularly as they were not affectionate as a couple; it seemed like a cold relationship. She made no attempt to be friendly and came across as stiff and boring. When she came up for a party she was not into attempts to chat with her. If anything they were very opposite people and there was never anything said about her background. And Rod didn't talk about her that much either. Overall she was quite dull and in hindsight didn't do a very good job of pretending to be his girlfriend.

Rod had no known ongoing sexual relationships with activists, though he did flirt with some people in Nottingham and could be quite forward. However, he would use the existence of his girlfriend, 'Jo' as an excuse to pull back from moments when it seemed something would happen. [8][16] He formed several very close friendships with leading female activists in the city, providing emotional support in difficult moments. At one point when a friend was facing jail for a principled non-payment of fines, he offered to go to court to support her, though she talked him out of this in the end.[13] The impact of discovering he was an undercover officer was hard to take and had a strong impact on those who had been close to him.[16][13]

In London, he was not known to have sexual relationships with other activists or for chasing after women.[9]

Exit strategy

During 2002 Rod becomes less active. On the coach to a summit mobilisation in Prague in November 2002, he talked to London activists about his girlfriend being in Australia and maybe going there.[9] In Nottingham, his visits became less frequent, and he said that he was going travelling. Around December 2002 / January 2003 he claimed to be in Australia, as his partner Jo was doing a marine biology course there and he was checking it out. He also claimed to have had all his stuff stolen, including his passport[26]. Friends in Nottingham received postcards from Australia and Thailand, as well as several emails.[8][5] He moved out of the Nottingham housing co-operative circa January 2003.[27]

However, in London Rod remained active enough to go with other WOMBLES to the Evian Summit in June 2003 (see above). It is during that trip that London-based activists there remember him talking about moving away in earnest.

In June 2003 he emailed, announcing that he was moving to Australia to be with Jo. After that contact was lost, with emails sent to him not responded to.[8][5] However, on 2nd July he emailed a friend to say 'I have been travelling around Europe and getting up to no good,' and mentioning he had been at Glastonbury.[26] This is the last known contact between him and people in Nottingham.

At the time the lack of communication was put down to him being 'slack', and, in this pre-Facebook era, was not considered out of character.[13]

Suspicions

There were a few incidents where suspicions around Rod were raised during his deployment, but at the time there was not enough knowledge of undercover policing methods or evidence about him to carry out an investigation. For instance, MAM activist, Trevor Bark, recalled that Rod was not particularly trusted in that group as 'something didn't hang right' about him.[18] At least one WOMBLES activist held suspicions about him.[9]

Some felt that there was something off in the way he talked about the WOMBLES at the Dartmoor Earth First! Summer Gathering in 2002.[17] 'Harriet' who knew him through the Gatherings considered him a very likeable person, but her instinct was not to trust him as he was an odd fit, her phrase being that he had 'cop feet’. His job also seemed a bit of a mismatch, and he did not seem to have political opinions as such.[17] However, her suspicions were somewhat allayed when she was told that he had been involved in a number of actions.[10]

Laura's suspicions

Rod had raised suspicions of one London activist, Laura, who wrote about it in The Guardian, though it was not until after he left and vanished that the thread came together.

She noted that in 2001, Rod had started coming to meetings at her flat where an action at the Elephant & Castle roundabout in South London was being discussed. He became a regular visitor, even staying over on occasion, particularly the night before MayDay that year. Around that time, she had been charged with flyposting and her flat was raided. The response was disproportionate; local police were surprised she was being held overnight. The flat itself was ransacked and trashed by the police.[25]

She also recalled an unusual meeting where he turned up at a meeting of Norwich based anti-monarchists:[25]

On another occasion a friend and I went to Norwich to meet up with some people we had recently met, to discuss working together on some anti-monarchist actions. When we arrived at the house for dinner, which was a small affair of about eight people, I was really surprised to see Rod there as I wasn't aware he had any connection at all with these individuals or Norwich in general. I remember asking him how come he was there, and him being slightly affronted by the question. He shrugged and said he had been invited. It was the flash of discomfort on his face that triggered my suspicions. It just didn't seem right – there was a total sense of disconnect about his prfesence there.

She also noted that he claimed to be an 'artist activist', which justified him bringing a video camera to actions, but 'none of the films he claimed he was making for Indymedia ever appeared there'.[25]

Rose's suspicions

'Rose', a prominent London activist who knew Rod recalled two occasions that left her feeling that things were not right about him.

One occurred when she attended a party in Nottingham. She stayed on the floor in Rod's room along with another person, while Rod and his apparent girlfriend Jo were in the bed. Rose recalled the pair making personal digs at their guests in a way that left them feeling weird and that the couple were 'not our friends'.[19]

By 2002, Rose had been a key organiser of several London protests. In late April that year, Rod contacted her, saying he wanted to catch up and talk about the upcoming MayDay which was only a week away. She thought this was odd as there were meetings for that, but she agreed all the same. The whole meeting, which took place in a cafe on Old Street, felt strange to her. It was quite a departure from their previous relationship and had a different vibe to previous conversations they’d had in the WOMBLES. It felt more like an interview; as if he was using a prepared list of questions asking about numbers of people, plans and other stuff for May Day related actions.[19] Perturbed by the tone of his questions, her gut feeling was that he was a cop. However, without further evidence, she did not say so to others at the time.[20][5]

Rod Richardson and spycops timeline.1.png

Post-exit concerns

Not long after Rod vanished, suspicions emerged in London that not all was right. In June 2003, during the anti-globalisation protests at the EU Summit in Thessaloniki, a close comrade of Rod's from London was arrested and fitted up by Greek police (a bag containing Motolov cocktails was planted on him). Imprisoned with others, he was part of a group who went on hunger-strike in early September 2003.[28]

Knowing they had been close, people tried to reach out to Rod to let him know, and also to ask if he would help organise solidarity concerts in Australia in aid of the Thessaloniki Solidarity Group. This was only a week after Rod had left for Australia, but there was no reply to the emails. Nor did he ever write to his friend during his time in prison. Given that the story was making international news and attracting considerable support from across the world, the lack of contact from Rod stood out. As a result, former comrades in London became suspicious.[8][20][2]

A decade later, an activist who had known him well in London was visiting Australia, but was not able to find anyone who had heard of him there.[9]

In Nottingham, following the exposure of Mark Kennedy and the subsequent unravelling of the spycops controversy, people started recognising things in hindsight.[5] With Kennedy was exposed, the depths to which such an infiltration would go to became clearer and it was accepted that Rod was a prime suspect for being another undercover cop.[16] It is thought that Rod had been in Nottingham doing reconnaissance and preparing the way for the deployment of Mark Kennedy, who arrived in Nottingham in Summer 2003.[5]

Other suspicious behaviour has since been identified, including:

  • When one activist lost their house key, Rod was able to shoulder-barge the door open in a rather professional manner.[16]
  • A photograph of Rod and Jo had been spotted in a magazine but using different names. Unfortunately, further details of this have not been recalled.[17]

One London activist recalled that Rod liked to joke about having a hidden microphone, talking into collar as if he was wearing a wire.[15]

Exposure

With the exposure of other undercover polices and increased understanding of how they worked, former comrades of Rod accepted that he fitted the same pattern. In 2012 a search for records relating to him was carried out. A birth certificate was found with his given name and date of birth, 5 January 1973, along with a death certificate from two days later.

Having found proof of Rod's use of a dead child's identity, activists then compiled research on his history. They reached out to The Guardian who in turn contacted the family of the real Rod Richardson. As a result the family launched a legal case against the Metropolitan police in late January 2013, sending a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police on 4th February. [29]

On the 5th February the Richardson family's lawyer Jules Carey detailed their story at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee that day (see below). The same day, the story was published by The Guardian,[29] focusing on the identity theft. A more detailed expose by the investigating activists appeared on Indymedia the following day. It stated:[5]

Recently an article has appeared in the Guardian naming "Rod Richardson" as a suspected undercover police officer. Although this has not been confirmed beyond all doubt, it is certainly the case that he was using a false identity (that of a baby who died shortly after birth), and that numerous aspects of his involvement are entirely in keeping with certain patterns of operation of infiltrators – not least his disappearance and failure to keep in contact with friends and comrades. There is an overwhelming likelihood that "Rod" was an undercover police officer (or perhaps a corporate spy.)

Note from Undercover Research Group: at the time of Rod's exposure, the tradecraft of undercover police deployed by the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit was not as well understood. It has since become clear that Rod much more closely fits the profile for undercover police deployed against social movements than was realised at the time.[30]

Complaint to the police: seeking confirmation

Barbara Shaw, mother of the real Rod Richardson, holding death certificate of her son.[4]

The complaint from the dead child's family was sent to the Metropolitan Police on 4 February 2013. Despite their policy of refusing to confirm or deny the identity of undercover officers, the police immediately launched an internal investigation.[29]

The case was then mentioned publicly by the Richardson family's lawyer, Jules Carey, at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee on 5 February 2013.[31] At the same hearing, Patricia Gallan, speaking for the Metropolitan Police, referred to only knowing of one case identity theft happening before a complaint received on 1 February. She says the practice affected two units, the Special Demonstration Squad and the NPOIU.[32]

For campaigners, this amounted to a tacit admission Rod Richardson was a police officer, and had served with the NPOIU rather than the SDS.[33]

The following day, the matter received further public attention when the real Rod's mother, Barbara Shaw, spoke out in The Guardian.[4] She stated:[4]

He is still my baby,... I'll never forget him. We believe we deserve an apology for what happened. It's wrong that someone took Rod's identity without us knowing.

According to Operation Herne's first report, which investigated the issue of stolen children's identities, the complaint of 4 February was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission on 28 February 2013, who then returned it to the Metropolitan Police to be the subject of a 'local investigation', named Operation Riverwood.[34]

On 16 July 2013, the same day the Operation Herne report was published, Barbara Shaw received a letter from a Commander in the Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Professional Standards, which included the paragraph:[35]

On behalf of the Metropolitan Police I would like to sincerely apologise for the shock and offence the use of this tactic has caused, as it is clear you believe your child's identity was used. I am unable to confirm or deny if the tactic was used in your case.

The same day, the Richardson's family lawyer Jules Carey told the press:[36]

...the Metropolitan Police have stated that the investigation into her complaint is complete but they have declined to provide her with a report on the outcome. They have refused to confirm or deny that the identity of her son was used by an undercover officer despite there being only one Rod Richardson born in 1973. And they have concluded that there is no evidence of misconduct or even performance issues to be addressed.

The matter was the subject of a preliminary hearing in the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) before Christopher Pitchford, who said it was known that at least one undercover officer from the National Public Order Intelligence Unit had taken the identity of a dead child.[35] At that time no other NPOIU undercover officer had been identified as using this technique, so it was considered this had been a tacit admission by Justice Pitchford that Richardson was an undercover.[37]

It is also thought that the deployment of Rod Richardson is the matter obliquely referenced in evidence from the Metropolitan Police to the UCPI. In a witness statement, Det. Supt. Neil Hutchison mentions that details of an NPOIU operation relating to the Metropolitan Police had been handed over to Operation Herne in 2013. However, Operation Herne did not acquire other NPOIU related material until June 2015 and did not formally changes its terms of reference to include that unit until October 2015.[38] It is believed the 2013 material refers to Operation Riverwood.[37]

Rod Richardson and the Pitchford Inquiry

Rod's role as an undercover officer was noted several times in the early applications for core participation in the Pitchford Inquiry into Undercover Policing. Among those whose applications were successful were Barbara Shaw; though Pitchford wrongly stated that she had been apologised to by the Metropolitan Police. Others who cited him in their applications included a group of animal rights campaigners who had been active with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Those representing the shared house that Rod had lived in Nottingham had their application refused.[39]

At the time of the hearings for core participation, Rod was referred to by the cypher N596. As such, he was among a group of similar officers applying for core participation under the N cypher designation.[40] This group was represented by the legal firm of Slater & Gordon (formerly Russell Walker), a firm with a long history of representing police officers in court cases. Pitchford accepted their applications as a group. There were 16 officers in the Slater & Gordon applications, including John Dines (N5), Bob Lambert (N10), Jim Boyling (N14), Carlo Neri (N104) Marco Jacobs (N519) and the as yet unidentified N81.

On 15 December 2016 the Inquiry released a press notice stating:[1]

The Inquiry has received confirmation that no restriction is sought over the undercover identity used by a police officer known as N596, which was ‘Rod Richardson’. The officer known as ‘Rod Richardson’ was employed by the Metropolitan Police Service and worked for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The officer is not currently a core participant in the Inquiry and will be making an application for a restriction order over his real identity.

On the same day, the Metropolitan Police released their own statement:[41]

The Undercover Policing Inquiry has confirmed that a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) undercover officer who worked in the National Public Order and Intelligence Unit used the cover name of 'Rod Richardson', which was based on the identity of a deceased child.
We acknowledge this tactic has caused Ms Shaw, whose deceased son Rod Richardson's identity was used, huge hurt and offence. The MPS will make every effort to meet with Ms Shaw, if she wishes, to apologise to her in person and explain how this came to be. It is only right that any apology is given privately to her.

Activists responded, stating:[42]

Whilst this is not a bad thing, it is not to be celebrated. It is merely telling us what we already know. Richardson was unmasked by activists he spied on nearly four years ago. Furthermore, the only reason we know these men were spycops is because their targets investigated and exposed them – a practice criticized by the inquiry and thunderously condemned by the Metropolitan Police.

Rod is not directly cited in the Ellison Review or the first three reports of Operation Herne, either by name or as N596.[43]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Undercover Policing Public Inquiry, No anonymity sought for undercover identity ‘Rod Richardson’, UCPI.org.uk (press release), 15 December 2016 (accessed 7 January 2017).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Undercover Research Group: email from Simon Chapman, London activist with Movement Against Monarchy and the W.O.M.B.L.E.S., 12 December 2016.
  3. Undercover Research Group: this point was raised by a number of interviewees who knew Rod in Nottingham.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Rod Richardson: the mystery of the protester who was not who he claimed, The Guardian, 6 February 2013 (accessed 24 December 2015).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Information on "Rod Richardson", suspected undercover cop, Indymedia UK, 6 February 2013 (accessed 24 December 2015).
  6. Undercover Research Group: conversations with a number of people who knew Rod Richardson, 31 July 2016.
  7. Undercover Research Group: interview with Paul Stott, 24 July 2016.
  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 Undercover Research Group: interview with Mark Pointer (alias), a Nottingham activist who worked and lived with Rod Richardson, 9 August 2015.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 Undercover Research Group: interview with Charlie, London based activist, 2 November 2016.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 Undercover Research Group: interview with Harriet (alias), an Earth First! activist who worked alongside Rod Richardson, 6 December 2015.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Undercover Research Group: interview with Merrick, 24 November 2016.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 Undercover Research Group: Interview with Jo Wilding, active in the Rettendon protest camp with Rod Richardson, 27 November 2015.
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Yvette', Nottingham activist close to Rod, 16 August 2016.
  14. Undercover Research Group: conversation with WOMBLES activist who has the photo; the photo originally came from a roll of film from Rod's own camera.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Charlie', 2 February 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 Undercover Research Group: interview with B, a leading anti-roads campaigner of the 1990s and close friend of Rod, 11 September 2015.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 17.7 Undercover Research Group: Norfolk meeting with a group of activists who knew Rod Richardson, May 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Undercover Research Group: interview with Trevor Bark, activist with Movement Against Monarchy, 27 July 2016.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Undercover Research Group: interview with Rose (alias), an London based activist who knew Rod Richardson, 16 June 2016.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 20.8 20.9 Undercover Research Group: interview with Alex, London-based activist who knew Rod Richardson, 18 April 2016.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Undercover Research Group: interview with a WOMBLES activist who knew Rod Richardson, 13 September 2016; email of 16 December 2016.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Undercover Research Group: phone call with Julie Chadwick, 26 May 2017.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Undercover Research Group: email from 'Yvette', 7 January 2017.
  24. Records indicate this flat was at 37 Collingwood Road, South Woodham Ferrers, CM3 5YB, where he and an Elizabeth Oats were listed as resident from 2000 to 2002. Undercover Research Group: search conducted February 2017.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Laura Oldfield Ford, How I met 'Rod', the suspected undercover police officer, The Guardian, 1 March 2013 (accessed 10 January 2017).
  26. 26.0 26.1 Emails from Rod to a Nottingham friend, seen by Undercover Research Group
  27. Undercover Research Group: telephone call with Nottingham activist 'J', 26 July 2016.
  28. London Thessaloniki Solidarity Group, Simon Chapman and 3 other defendants to again face the Greek Courts, Libcom.org, 19 September 2010 (accessed 2 January 2017).
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Second police spy unit stole dead children's IDs, The Guardian, 5 February 2013 (accessed 24 December 2015).
  30. See for example, Undercover Research Group, How we work investigating suspicions and The Fifteen Questions we work with, 2015.
  31. UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 837-ii, Q49-53, Home Affairs Select Committee, 5 February 2013.
  32. UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 837-ii, Q139-140, Home Affairs Select Committee, 5 February 2013.
  33. Undercover Research Group: personal communication with campaigners.
  34. Mick Creedon, Operation Herne - Report 1: Covert Identities, Metropolitan Police Service, July 2013.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Preliminary hearing on deceased children's identities (transcript of hearing, page 60) Undercover Policing Inquiry, 22 June 2016 (accessed 20 July 2016).
  36. Families of dead children whose identities were used by undercover police have not been informed, The Independent, 16 July 2013 (accessed 24 December 2015).
  37. 37.0 37.1 Undercover Research Group: personal conversation with campaigners focused on teh Undercover Policing Inquiry, 2016.
  38. Neil Hutchison, Witness Statement on Rule 9-12 (PARTIALLY REDACTED) to Undercover Policing Inquiry - PART 1, paragraphs 48(ii) ff, Metropolitan Police Service, 17 June 2016 (accessed 12 July 2016).
  39. Christopher Pitchford, Core participants Ruling (No.1 / reissued), Undercover Policing Inquiry, UCPI.org.uk, 21 October 2015 (revised 21 September 2016; accessed 8 January 2017). See paragraphs 40, 59.
  40. Christopher Pitchford, Core participants Ruling (No.1 / reissued), Undercover Policing Inquiry, UCPI.org.uk, 26 October 2016 (final version; accessed 8 January 2017). See paragraphs 25 & 28.
  41. Statement regarding the Undercover Policing Inquiry, Metropolitan Police Service (press release), 15 December 2016 (accessed 8 January 2017).
  42. Official: Rod Richardson was a Spycop, CampaignOpposingPoliceSurveillance.com, 15 December 2016 (accessed 8 January 2017).
  43. Undercover Resarch Group: search conducted 15 January 2017.