Gary R. and Abigail L. (aliases)
Gary J. R. was an animal rights activist in Oxford from 2006 to 2010 who is strongly suspected to have been an undercover police officer. He was involved in the SPEAK campaign against an animal laboratory built by Oxford University, and is thought to have succeeded another suspected undercover officer, known as 'RC', in targeting that group. He came with a partner, Abigail L., who lived with him until early 2008. As with Gary, she is also suspected to have been an undercover police officer; much less is recalled of her by activists who worked with them both, and it appears Gary was the lead person of the pair. It is presumed both would have served with the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
It is believed the middle initial in Gary's name was 'John'.
Gary: Description & Personality
Gary is described as handsome man who was always making jokes, helpful and not a bragger. Gemma who knew him well, described him as 'always friendly and jolly and jokey'. One person remembers him as very much into helping with everything. To another he described himself as naturally lazy person, who would sometimes be helpful, but other times not (for example, putting together a campaign DVD but not working on the local group's website - see below). According to one activist, he walked with the 'swagger of a copper'. He would often wear a beanie and wore quite clean trainers and vegetarian boots (clean rather than shiny). He showed no aptitude for mechanics or DIY.
He appeared to have no social circle outside of the animal rights movement; though he would go for pints in the Eagle Pub, near to where he lived in East Oxford. He did have one friend, 'Neil', considered to be 'a bit of a geezer', who visited on several occasions (see below); he was the only person connected to him from outside animal rights that anyone met. However, Gemma, an activist who knew him well, felt it odd that 'someone so easy going didn't seem to socialise with 'old/normal' friends, especially as he worked from home all day.'
Gary could drink a lot of alcohol and not appear drunk, according to another, but 'would then suddenly crash and basically become unconscious.' He would be very sociable with activists, regularly spending nights with them drinking, watching YouTube videos, going to films and gigs; he also was good at cooking vegan food. Others recall him at various animal rights social events, and he would get very drunk at times. He never mentioned doing drugs.
Gemma was able to recall much of what Gary gave away about his background, including pinpointing his birthday as being sometime between 23-28 February, born sometime in 1972-74, in the UK. His parents lived near Bath, and he had an older brother. He said he had moved to Oxford from Manchester to be closer to his daughter, Maddison, who was then in the Bristol / Bath area, but not too close to his 'crazy' ex-partner. Gary would visit his daughter, who he referred to as 'the little one', at weekends, and Abigail would go with him. His story was that he had met his ex, Kim, in North America, where she over stayed her visa and was thrown out. As a result, they returned to the UK, where their daughter Maddison was born (circa 2000/2001). He described Kim as volatile and said that at one point she threw a video recorder at his head.
Much of this was confirmed in the recollections of other activists, who noted that his daughter was aged about 10 - though one recalled being told that the daughter lived with her mother in Bournemouth.
Other than a school photograph of his daughter he had no photos of his family in his house, and he generally avoided talking of any family apart from his daughter. At one point fellow campaigners were to have a chance to meet her, as he was driving them to Bristol to do a SPEAK stall at the Bristol Veg Fest. He was supposed to pick up Maddison and bring her along, but at the last minute he claimed there had been an argument with her mother which scuppered this. For some time after that, he spoke of being denied access and talked a lot about how upset he was about this.
One other photo that Gary shared with people and seemed proud of, showed him being in a band (which he may still have been involved with while in Oxford). He said he had toured with them, including in the US. He also said that he had previously been a roadie / van driver, and had toured the US on a Harley Davison. Other than this he was not forthcoming about his previous activities.
At first Gary and Abigail rented a house just off Cowley Road in East Oxford. The house was empty, and devoid of much in the way of personal stuff, including family photographs. It was described as more resembling a 'hotel room, furnished but not lived in' and several visitors at the time commented that there were no mementos. Another activist remembered it as: 'Just very uncluttered, a bit bare, all matching crockery as if just bought. No 'nik naks' and nothing personal'. There were no animal rights pictures, though there was a poster for the film 'Trainspotting'. There was a landline but he never gave out the number for it, saying it was for family only. For campaigners to contact him, he used a mobile (not a top of the range model).
After he split from Abigail, Gary would move the town of Abingdon, though he does not appear on the Electoral Roll. His flat there is described as being small and neat, with lots of DVDs and a very good computer.
Gary said he was a freelance web-designer for a living and worked from home. He apparently did this with an informal group of acquaintances who worked together on projects on an ad hoc basis, while Abigail would do photography for them.
He told one campaigner that he had been previously in the music industry, but wanted a change of direction in his life.
One activist noted that when she rang him for advice on web design, he would rarely answer the phone, but always ring back, and the room that he called from sounded strange and echoing.
He designed the Oxford Animal Protection website, though it was subsequently noted that it was nearly impossible to find, and oddly for a web-designer, it had not been optimised at all for search engines; for example, it lacked keywords. The same was true of another website he made, which was critical of Oxford and called for the city to be boycotted, and likewise did not show up in search engines.
His first car was a Saab with a broken boot. The second was a W-registration Ford Focus, which was later discovered to have been imported.
He was willing to use his car to help with demonstrations. He had no noticeable driving skills, but one activist said that she felt safe when he was driving her. He would lend her the car on occasion, and when he finally left the scene he sold it to her.
As an animal rights campaigner
One SPEAK campaigner in Oxford, recalled first meeting Gary when he turned up at a protest near the Oxford ring-road. He parked his car, and walked up, asking if he could join. This was in Autumn 2006.
He claimed that he had been vegetarian since thirteen and had always wanted to do something towards animal rights, but had never got around to doing so until this point. He seemed very knowledgeable in terms of animal rights politics. Gemma said he was 'compassionate and got upset and angry at cruelty, but not over the top'. He was always finding things on the internet and showing them to people. He told her that he had become interested in animal rights after he had worked on a battery farm, and that he was embarrassed at having done that. It also turned him vegetarian. When he and Abigail turned up in Oxford they were already vegan, with no non-vegan products around their home. 
Having established contact with local campaigners from Oxford Animal Protection, he attended a SPEAK meeting on Sunday, 11 February 2007 and began attending the regular Thursday demonstrations that SPEAK was organising against the animal laboratory. After this he sought out and latched on to several key players, 'making a beeline for them'. Others noted that he came out of nowhere and got very involved very quickly. This included taking a seat on a minibus of people attending the funeral of prominent animal rights campaigner Neil Lea (28 July 2007, Worsley, Manchester), though he had not known him - something that people recalled thinking at the time was an unusual thing to do.
He did a lot of work with Oxford Animal Protection, including designing their website (see above) and attending a number of their protests, including ones against animal circuses, where he appears in a newspaper photo. He would help doing street stalls and fairs, and went on many local and national demonstrations. On demonstrations he was never at the forefront of the group, though he would take part in chants and shouting, and hold placards. At one point he organised a fund-raiser for SPEAK at a football club in Oxford.
Oxford Animal Protection were also involved in helping organise around SPEAK as well as organising vegan food fairs in 2008 and 2009. He initiated one project himself, which was to make an anti-vivisection DVD for SPEAK, part of which involved approaching all the other campaigners and getting them to say to camera why they were against vivisection.
In general he came to meetings but gave little input. He would also attend various trials and court hearings of animal rights activists going on at the time. He is not thought to have been involved in any other campaigning besides the SPEAK campaign in Oxford., though he attended to demonstrations elsewhere., such as at Quintiles, a vivisection laboratory in Ledbury. Other events he attended were the Animal Rights Coalition meeting when it was held in Oxford, (thought to be February 2008) and to two of the UK Animal Rights Gatherings (probably 2008 in Kent and 2009 in Northampton).
In June 2009 he travelled with Gemma to the international animal rights gathering in Norway. The gathering itself had a large police presence, which included sending helicopters to follow attendees going to the beach, and several of those who went from the UK were stopped under the Terrorism Act as they came home.
There are no known arrests and he is not recalled as someone who sought to act as an agent provocateur. At one point during a demonstration, someone became quite aggressive towards the protestors and Gary got him to back down.
The only time Gary is recalled to have given an opinion about non-animal rights issues is when a local campaigner raised environmental campaigns which she was supporting. Gary's response was to refer to environmentalists as 'a load of wankers'. In Oxford, he focused exclusively on animal rights, and had no involvement in the local left activist or alternative scenes; nor did he frequent the social hub OARC, based at the East Oxford Community Centre. However, he told another campaigner that he had been involved in a campaign in Manchester when he had lived there (they could not recall what the nature of the campaign had been) and mentioned there had been a riot at the time.
Gary arrived on the scene with a girlfriend, Abigail L..., better known as 'Abi' or 'Abby'; she was ten years older than him, and dressed conventionally. They had apparently dated for several years prior to coming to Oxford, and their relationship was described as 'not lovey-dovey'. Abi had apparently been a motorbike courier, but was studying photography at a college. She worked as a photographer for the group of web-designers Gary worked with. One activist noted that she did seem to be a good photographer and that some of the known photographs of Gary came from her. However, she was reluctant to be photographed herself, and generally hid her face behind placards.)
Abigail is described as very friendly but could be standoffish, and was hard to click with; she did not approve of some animal rights stuff. She also took part in organising social events in the small local group, like trips to the cinema. She would help out on stalls at vegan fairs in London and elsewhere.
At a social event in Oxford in 2007, Gary kissed a campaigner, Freddy, outside the building, and as he returned into the event other activists who had see the kiss, were surprised to see him laughing, rolling his eyes at and shaking his head at Abigail who was inside. This startled some of the others as they expected an argument to ensue (campaigners present at the time differ over whether Abigail was in a position to see this kiss). Freddy also noted that there was a unusual dynamic between the pair; once when Abigail stood up to read out winning raffle numbers, Gary seemed very proud of her and saying 'isn't she doing well'.
At the National Animal Rights Gathering later that year, Gary made a drunken pass at Freddy and kissed her once more, something that Abigail did notice. She was subsequently offish towards Freddy, though she did not change her public stance towards Gary. He then sent several emails to Freddy trying to initiate a friendship or relationship, but she saw him simply as a randy bloke and did not encourage him.
Abigail was still around in February 2008. Gemma recalled that the couple were having 'slightly noticeable troubles' for a few weeks. At one point Abigail apparently suddenly left to visit a friend who lived up north; at this point Gary chased after her and she came back. However, not long later she left him again, this time for a friend of theirs who was part of the web design group. When she left she took only her clothes. In terms of dividing up their possessions, the only thing she seemed interested in was a side-board she had purchased with Gary, which was sold with half the money going to her. It was noted by others that she had left quite suddenly without saying goodbyes. One campaigner recalled that Abigail apparently split with Gary over his lifestyle, including drinking and smoking and never came back to animal rights after the split. According to another person, Gary did not appear to be upset by her leaving and simply said that she had moved north without much explanation.
One activist noted that Abigail's disappearance coincided with court appearances by SPEAK founder Mel Broughton, who would be eventually convicted for arson.
After she left, Gary sought to get closer to prominent animal rights activist, 'Gemma', who had moved to Oxford from the Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs campaign to join SPEAK. However, this raised eyebrows as he had previously been disrespectful of her behind her back at the 2007 animal rights gathering. At the time, Gemma, Gary and another female activist spent a lot of time together. Some activists believed at the time that he was seeking to have a relationship with Gemma, something she does not rule out; though she believed at the time it was just a good friendship they had. However, she also noted that it was only a couple of months after she and the third activist began relationships with other people that Gary started to depart from the scene.
Suspicions & Exit
Suspicions that there was not something right about Gary emerged among SPEAK and local campaigners as early as six months after he appeared in Oxford, though not everyone agreed. Those who didn't agree at that point, noted that he did not do things that actively would have given risen to concerns, such as, he did not ask lots of questions, or push things to find out more, and would not appear to pick up on things that came out in conversations.
For those who were distrustful of him, there was a feeling there was something wrong about him; they spoke of him not being 'typical animal rights'; or, with regards his background, of 'it all being a bit convenient' However, it was only after a 'slow drip-drip' of things that it started to gain general currency. In spring 2007 he became aware that he was considered to be suspicious and expressed upset about this.
One event in particular that was highlighted was that once he brought his friend, 'Neil' to a SPEAK protest and the social event that evening. Neil sat at the bar most of the night, sticking to soft-drinks; people became aware that he was watching every one, and saying little to anyone.
It was the same night that Neil was present, that Gary becomes aware of the intensity of suspicion around him and in response become angry and embarrassed. He confronted two of those most open in their distrust of him, and they told him outright they thought he was a cop. He denied it. Abigail, who was still around at this time, grew very nervous following this confrontation and it was noticed that in the aftermath she makes a particular effort to build closer friendships with another another activist.
Kris, who was one of those most suspicious of Gary and who was one of those who had confronted him, remembered that afterwards, at the weekly protest at the animal laboratory Gary laughing and joking with her as if nothing was wrong as he made her a cup of tea. However, at other times, he would act coldly towards her, ignoring her in front of other people, yet when no-one was looking would secretly smile and wink at her.
Abigail had raised some suspicions herself; it was noted that she never quite looked suited to the role she was playing, something that was realised more after her sudden disappearance.
Another key moment was when it was reported back to one of the campaigners by a friend of theirs, 'MC', that Gary had been was spotted talking to a plain-clothes police officer at a park and ride at the outskirts of the city. MC was not a campaigner but an Oxford-based individual, now deceased, who was often in trouble with the police, so he readily recognised the officer. Having also recognised Gary as a friend of animal rights campaigners, he let them know.
Having lost the trust of other activists and with Abigail gone from the scene, Gary switched his attention to Gemma. As someone who was a relatively high profile animal rights activist in Save Newchurch Guinea Pigs and SPEAK, she now accepts that this may have been a deliberate targeting of her. Not long after, he moved out of East Oxford to the much remoter Abingdon.
Gemma recalled his withdrawal from animal rights well, noting that towards the end of his time he went to Canada for work. This was first in October 2009 for a few months, when he gave up his flat, but also lent Gemma his car; he switched his email address to ...@yahoo.ca through which he stayed in touch. When he returned, she picked him up from the airport and he had brought various vegan gifts for her and other activists which would have only been available in Canada, such as Earth Balance products. In March 2010 he went back to Canada for a longer term, selling his car to Gemma and keeping in occasional touch by email. His reason for going to Canada was that a mate had a job there doing a comprehensive rebuild of a website and it would simply be easier to be in the same place to do it.
He appeared again in June 2010, when he said he was on his way to Frankfurt for a business trip, and stopping over to see family. He was again picked up from the airport by Gemma, bringing further gifts (again including Earth Balance products) and stayed over at her house for a night.
Gary was last encountered in May / June 2011, when he unexpectedly turned up at Gemma's house. His appearance had changed and he looked 'very trim and fit', and had a new car. He said he was now back in the UK, and looking to buy a house in the north. She told him she was moving away from the area and leaving SPEAK, though he asked her questions about the campaign. The last contact from him is in an email of 19 August 2011 when he said his email address had switched back to his original BT Internet one. After this she did not hear from him again, and he did not respond to subsequent phone-calls or emails she sent to him.
After he left there were attempts to look into him circa 2011 / 2012. A search for his business turned up nothing, and it was considered very odd that website he had made for Oxford Animal Protection was poor and ranked very badly in search engines. Attempts to trace him came up with nothing.
Following the exposure of Mark Kennedy, Lynn Watson and other undercover officers, the investigation into Gary and Abigail was resumed in 2015. Building on new knowledge of how undercovers worked, a deeper investigation into their backgrounds was conducted.
In line with their cover stories, a Gary J. R... was on the electoral roll as living in Stockport in 2006 (it was clear from conversations that he knew places in that Manchester.). There is another Gary R... living in Denton, Manchester (the Electoral Roll has him here with his wife 2002-2006), whose birthday is 28 October 1972. Despite him not being on the electoral roll after 2006, it was possible to rule them out.
Likewise an Abigail L... was registered as living with a Charles J... in Doncaster from August 2009 to December 2010 (they appear to have moved in at the same time), and this Abigail is in a close enough age range. However they leave no other trace in the public records, vanishing after this. No other records of relevance were identified. Searches for internet traces relating to their occupations also turned up empty. Likewise, attempts to locate Gary's daughter were equally fruitless. The one Maddison R... located in UK was readily ruled out, though it was accepted she may not have been using her father's surname.
Despite the limited information on family background, a detailed investigation was undertaken by activists in conjunction with the Undercover Research Group. All people with the name Gary J. R... in the relevant age range were ruled out. Though one in particular could have been him - a Gary John R... born at the end of January 1973; however an investigation of that individual's family ruled him out (he only had two sisters, and no brothers, contradicting what was said to campaigners where just one brother was mentioned). The electoral register gave birth years of 1963 and 1977 for Abigail and Gary respectively while living in Oxford, but no corresponding birth certificates could be found. For Abigail, only one other person of the same name appears on the electoral register but is listed in the wrong age range consistently and could be ruled out.
As matters stand there is no evidence that Gary R... and Abigail L... are real people and all efforts to identify or locate them have been unsuccessful. However, it is of concern that there was use of identities that closely resembles living individuals.
Gary and Abigail appeared shortly after another suspected undercover in the animal rights movement, "RC", disappeared from the scene. RC had strong associations with SPEAK and regularly attended protests in Oxford.
As with RC, Gary associated with well-known animal rights campaigner Mel Broughton, a founder of SPEAK. One week before Mel was arrested for arson against Oxford University (December 2007), he stayed with Abigail and Gary in Oxford. Subsequently, during one of the pre-trial hearings, Gary attended court along with other supporters; one activist recalled being told by Mel that this was the only time that Gary had been to support him at court, and unusually Gary had refused to look at him in the eye.
It is also of note that while at the Norway animal rights gathering, he was spending time with Debbie Vincent volunteering at one point to help her with the washing up. Debbie Vincent would be arrested in April 2010 for conspiracy to blackmail, for which she would be sentenced for six years in 2014. Part of the case against her was that she had conspired with two activists based in Holland who were alleged to have taken part in Animal Liberation Front activities. Connecting her to them was a photograph, said to be from a police source, of her encountering them at the Norwegian gathering. The Opening Note of the prosecution in her case also contains the following paragraph:
- An officer deployed to the International Animal Rights Gathering (which was held in Oslo, Norway) observed Debbie Vincent in company with [FIRST CO-ACCUSED] and [SECOND CO-ACCUSED] on 25 June 2009. During the rest of the Gathering (held until 29 June 2009) the same officer saw them again on a number of occasions.
The paragraph ends with a reference to an exhibit, [SP108], which is thought to be the photograph. At the time it was not realised that this officer is likely to have been referring to an undercover officer who had attended with other UK activists, as any person not well-known to other British activists would have rapidly stood out. It is also of note that another undercover cop was used to provide evidence against Debbie Vincent, one 'James Adams' who posed as an employee of Novartis when the pharmaceutical giant was in negotiations with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. At the time of the negotiations, Novartis also hired an ex-officer from the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, a sister organisation to the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, the one which managed the undercover police.
Please do not repost this article without including this disclaimer.
We, the Undercover Research Group, are aware there is no definitive confirmation that Gary and Abigail were undercover officers. However, having examined all the material, interviewed people who knew them and done extensive background work, we are satisfied there is sufficient reasonable suspicion to accept this contention. Based on our study of those who have been confirmed to date we believe that Gary, being the lead individual in this particular infiltration, was an undercover officer who infiltrated animal rights groups. However, if he is a police officer, then it is highly probable that Abigail was one too, or was at least in on the secret.
We have made an attempt to reach Gary at known points of contact. If either of them come forward and is able to demonstrate that we are wrong in our assertion, we are more than happy to offer an apology and remove this posting.
Relying on the Metropolitan Police to clarify this matter is not currently a realistic option. We have asked them to confirm if the two were undercover officers. Holding on to their self-imposed policy of Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) means they are refusing to give a clear answer in any situation. This will be an issue in more of the cases we are looking at.
The uncertainty around whether or not people have been spied upon by someone they considered a close friend is a major issue for many. Not knowing the truth about possibly considerable intrusion into peoples lives has yet to be acknowledged by the police as a damaging consequence of undercover operations, and acted upon accordingly. General apologies do not bring the needed answers.
People's access to justice and answers should not be frustrated by a police policy designed to protect abuse carried out by officers doing their job. It is our contention that the responsibility for uncertainty lies with the police's use of NCND, and that they have a duty to act when suspicion of a specific individual reaches a level this high.
For more detail on the Undercover Research Group way of working:
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Amanda and Evonne, animal rights activists, 3 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Kris Tiller, animal rights activist associated the SPEAK Campaign, 9 August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Doreen', an animal rights activist, 9 August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: document from Gemma, an animal rights activist who knew Gary well, 24 February 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Charlie, an animal rights activist, 4 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Gemma, 24 February 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: email from Kris, 27 September 2015.
- One gives 8-10, while another 10-13, but this is consistent given it comes from conversations from over a four year period.
- Undercover Research Group: email from Gemma, 25 April 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: search conducted January 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Freddy, animal rights activist, 20 March 2016.
- Neal Lea 1958 - 2007, Veggies.org.uk, 2007 (accessed 28 March 2016).
- Newsclipping in possession of the Undercover Research Group.
- SPEAK, Taking to the streets for Felix: National Demo Report - Saturday, 1st September 2007, SpeakCampaigns.org, 2007 (accessed 24 September 2015).
- Midlands vegan Campaigns, Oxford vegan food fair report - your town next!, Oxford Indymedia, 17 Aug 2008 (archived by WayBack Machine / archive.org on 23 May 2015).
- Vegans promote diet at city event, Oxford Mail, 17 August 2009 (accessed 24 September 2015).
- Animal Rights Calendar, Animal Rights Coalition, Indymedia UK, 11 February 2008 (accessed 28 march 2016).
- This gathering had a very large police presence with 11 forces being represented. See WARN, Operation Overkill as 11 police forces snoop on animal rights gathering at FRIEND farm animal sanctuary, Kent, NETCU Watch, 17 June 2008 (accessed 28 March 2016).
- ARUK 2009, Veggies.org.uk, 2010 (accessed 28 March 2016).
- Undercover Research Group: email from J, 26 April 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: conversations with Gemma and other SPEAK activists, Spring 2016.
- This Gary has continued to use the Denton address as his declared residence with his wife until the present day (March 2016) according to Companies House documents for a business they have jointly owned since its incorporation in March 2006; no other individuals appear on the Electoral Roll for this address since 2006 either. Further work showed identified this couple as shop-keepers in Lancashire, and that this Gary's parents had remained living in Manchester. Undercover Research Group: research conducted spring 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: electoral roll searches, Autumn 2015 - Spring 2016.
- Undercover Research Group: conversation with Max Gastone, 21 March 2016.
- Opening Note in the case of The Queen v Debbie Anne Vincent, , unpublished.
- Re-visiting NETCU - Police Collaboration with Industry, Corporate Watch, 6 August 2014 (accessed 12 April 2016).
- C.W. Sutherland, Head of Legal Services, East Midlands Police, letter to lawyers, 28 January 2016