Matt Rayner (alias)

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

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Rayner February 1994 (face cropped).jpg
Alias: Matt Rayner
Deployment: 1991-1996
London Boots Action Group, London Animal Action, Animal Liberation Front, West London Hunt Saboteurs

Matt Rayner was the name used by an undercover police officer, believed to have worked for the Special Demonstration Squad. He infiltrated the animal rights movement in north London from 1991 to 1996, targeting in particular the London Boots Action Group, London Animal Action, Animal Liberation Front and West London Hunt Saboteurs.[1]

Rayner was one of two undercovers in animal rights in the early 1990s, and who were referred to indirectly in Rob Evans & Paul Lewis' book Undercover.[2] The real name of the officer is unknown.[3] The other was his close contemporary Andy Davey who focused on south London.

Much of this article has been constructed through the work of Paul Gravett, an animal rights activist who worked with Matt Rayner and who helped expose him.[4][5][6]


Description and Background

Matt was about six foot tall, medium build, with short dark hair and glasses. He spoke with a Home Counties accent,[3] though he told his girlfriend he came from Shropshire.[7] In 1992 - 1993 he is described as wearing a black beanie hat and green army surplus gear.[8] - it was noted that he wore a black, woolly hat much of the time.[9] Another campaigner wrote of him: 'He had a mullet style haircut, slightly greying. Sometimes grey/white goatee style beard. He reminded me of documentary maker Louis Theroux. Often wore a red lumberjack type shirt.'[10]

He told his girlfriend that he was an only child and had attended a private school on a piano scholarship. He said his parents embarrassed him 'as they were quite cultured middle England types.'[11] He avoided mentioning his family, and his partner never met them.[12] Others noted that he did not tell very much about his background.[9] He appeared to have no interest in other political activities besides animal rights,[8] though he did give the impression of being generally left wing.[12]

Personality and relationships

'Matt Rayner' during a visit to Manchester, undated.

Matt was friendly and popular and formed close friendships with activists he targeted. He came across as self-assured and laid back, and was comfortable in social situations. He liked socialising and enjoyed going to the pub, concerts, the cinema and on one occasion attended a football match with fellow activists (he claimed to be a Liverpool supporter).[12][3] [13] Often he would bring beers around on visits to people.[8] A campaigner who worked with him briefly in London Animal Action considered him as someone who was helpful and calm with a self-confident bearing. He was capable of drinking a lot, but even then remained in control.[13] In terms of activism, one person who knew him well said he came across as 'quite motivated and dynamic'.[14]

He appears to have used the tactic of becoming quite close to a number of the more active campaigners in the London animal right scene (but also elsewhere), forming good friendships with several that lasted throughout his deployment. These included Claire who believes their friendship was a part of his cover, giving him access to other people; she considered their friendship to have been a good one and he would flirt with her.[14] Another person he became close friends with was Paul Gravett, then prominent in the London animal rights scene, and member of London Greenpeace. In July 1995 Rayner took part in a pagan play in Gravett’s garden, which was filmed - he can be seen acting and speaking in a clip uploaded to YouTube.[15]

In general, animal rights campaigners found him to be a friendly individual who would go out of his way to help people, and was well integrated into the London animal right social scene. In contrast, another activist who only knew Matt socially through his former partner found him to be laid back, someone who tagged along and listened, not prying or really talking, and that he could be cold.[16][17]

At a time when cars were not common in activist circles, Matt was always offering to drive people around.[8] He helped one activist move home several times, including at one point hiring a large van to help her with this; and after meetings drop her at home even though it was out of his way.[14] on a number of occasions he used his vehicle to help people move house, including for one person moving to Bristol,[18][17] He also drove one activist to their parent's home, joining them for tea.[19]

He always celebrated his birthday (often at the Famous Three Kings pub in the Fulham / West Kensington area[10]) and as a result his date of birth was known - this would later prove important in confirming he had used a false identity.[3][20]

Due to traveling as part of his activism, Matt was known well beyond London and the South-East. He was close friends with a female campaigner from Liverpool and was also known in activist circles in Manchester, where he was apparently well liked.[21]

He was generally respectful of female activists, though during his time undercover he had a long-term relationship with a female campaigner.[3][20][14] This was confirmed on 23 May 2018 when the Inquiry issued a ruling joining Denise Fuller as a core participant on the basis of her relationship with Rayner.[22]

Occupation, vehicle and money

Matt drove a white Ford Cortina estate.[12] In 1992/1993 he drove a large blue van, larger than a Transit.[8] Later he had a red Transit-style van, which he used to take people to meetings and demonstrations.[5][10] He claimed to be a driver / salesman for a company selling musical instruments in Shaftsbury Avenue.[23][14] This job would apparently take him to France for days at a time, supposedly delivering instruments. Friends would receive postcards from France while he was away.[14] He once acquired a Fender Stratocaster for a fellow huntsab, though curiously its serial number was untraceable.[23]

He is noted for being a very good driver,[12] and was described as 'being at home with driving'.[14]

In terms of money, Matt came across as someone able to pay for things, helpful given that at the time most people in the group were unemployed. When covering travelling expenses he would often state 'give what you can afford'.[12] Even when just he and another campaigner drove to Manchester for a protest there he did not ask for much money to cover petrol.[14] He was somewhat unusual in the group in that he had a pager. Nobody else had one due to how expensive they were at the time.[14]


It it thought that his initial residence was in Chiswick, west London, and he was known as 'Chiswick' to certain people.[24] However, another activist who knew him said that: 'when he first turned up at West London Hunt Sabs they asked where he had come from and he said Chiswick, meaning he drove there via the Chiswick roundabout which is on the main route out of London. So the nickname Chiswick stuck.'[10]

Soon after his appearance on the scene he moved to Willesden (just around the corner from Willesden Green station[20] in Blenheim Gardens[25]) in north west London, where he had a sparsely furnished bedsit.[3][12] It was on the first floor of a Victorian house and described as a 'simple place', with a bed, a shared bathroom and not much else in it - other than a baseball bat which he kept under his bed, saying that he needed it in case any animal abusers ever found out where he lived.[26]


London Boots Action Group (1991-1994)

Matt Rayner (left) at a protest against Boots the Chemist at Oxford Street, London for World Day for Laboratory Animals, 24 April 1992. For an account of this photograph see Paul Gravett, "Matt Rayner and me protesting against Boots: the story behind the photo".

In the early nineties there was an upsurge in activity against vivisection and much of this was focused on a high-profile campaign against Boots the Chemist, which owned animal research laboratories at the time.[5] It was the focus of many protests around the country, and was targed by the Animal Liberation Front.

A leading group in the campaign was the London Boots Action Group (LBAG).[27]

A description of LBAG from Arkangel magazine gives its activities as:[28]

Newsletters are produced with up-to-date information on Boots' activities. Monthly meetings take place in Endsleigh Street, Euston. Camden Boots is picketed every Sunday. Stickers and posters and other merchandise is available. The Boots AGM and Boots Aerobathon which raised money for animal tested research was picked again. A National Day of Action against Boots took place in the summer and was spearheaded by LBAG.

Matt first appeared at the inaugural meeting of London Boots Action Group in October[29] / November 1991 at the Conway Hall.[30]

It is known that he was active in the LBAG campaign[13] including attending the pickets in Camden[20] and the protests at Boots' Annual General Meetings.[14] During the 1993 AGM protestors were forcibly ejected for seeking to raise the issue of animal testing and deaths of both animals and humans, due to Boots' heart drug Manoplax.[31] Claire recalled that he was very active in the campaign by the time she arrived on the scene in April 1992. She considered him to be a core member who attended pretty much all the meetings and the Sunday pickets in Camden, and noted it was common for him to go to the pub with the rest of the group afterwards.[14]

In November 1994, Boots the Chemist sold its pharmaceuticals wing, including its animal laboratory, to the German corporation BASF,[32][33] effectively bringing the campaign against it to an end at that point.

London animal rights scene

Timeline of key events relating to the deployment of 'Matt Rayner'

Through his activities in the London animal rights scene, Matt Rayner became active or circled a variety of animal rights / liberation campaigns across the city and further afield, particularly from 1993 onwards. One campaigner from the time recalled him as going every meeting and always coming to the pub afterwards.[34]

Rayner went out regularly with the West London hunt sab group,[12][25] being known to them as 'Chiswick Matt'. They focused on protesting fox hunts in the Thames Valley and Hampshire areas, though occasionally going further afield to protest mink hunts in the south west, such as the Ytene.[23]

Matt is known to have attended the 15 May 1994 meeting of the London Animal Rights Coalition (LARC) at Conway Hall. This organisation had been inaugurated earlier that year by a group of people which had included Andy Davey.[35]

Following the decision of Boots to get rid of its animal research laboratory, the London Boots Action Group merged with the LARC and the London Anti Fur Campaign to form London Animal Action (LAA) in September 1994.[36] It is believed Matt was at the inaugural meeting for LAA.[13] He would become the treasurer for the group not long after it was founded (certainly by early 1995), and remained in that role until his departure in November 1996. In this capacity he had he had keys to its office at 5 Caledonian Road.[3][7]

In the mid-1990s, coinciding with the founding on London Animal Action, animal rights activists in London switched much of their focus to anti-fur campaigning, particularly against shops such as Nobles and Hockleys. It is known that he often attended the protests organised against Noble Furs on Regents Street.[14] This campaign was started by the London Anti-Fur Campaign in October 1994.[37] He also attended the anti-fur protests at Selfridges.[34]

In March 1996, London Animal Action held a 'day of action against the fur-trade' which included a demonstration at the home of Michael Hockley in north-west London. This received a very heavy police presence, including a helicopter. Accounts indicate that the police were very aggressive towards Matt but did not arrest him.[7]

Another campaign that he showed interested in and came close to a leading member was the Shark Protection League.[19] This campaign, which was founded in 1994 carried out protests against the annual shark angling festival at Looe, Cornwall and demonstrations against the trade in shark fins for soup.[38] Rayner attended a number of its demonstrations and supplied them with some expensive megaphones.[19]

After fellow undercover Andy Davey was extracted in January 1995, Matt took over driving to pick up copies of the animal liberation newsletter Arkangel from the printers.[17] He is also recalled as showing interest in various local campaign issues, including a small protest against a butchers shop on Holloway Road.[39]

He did not show much interest in campaigns outside of animal rights. He helped a friend move to the Claremont Road / M11 protest site in London in Autumn 1994 but was clearly not impressed with it.[14]

Direct action and the Animal Liberation Front

The early nineties was a period of rising animal rights militancy, especially direct action. It was said that Matt was 'up to his neck in direct action' at the time, and used his van to transport people to and from actions, whether against Boots, butchers or organisations funding animal research.[12] - and that he was willing to instigate things.[8]

In 1993 he was involved in the campaign against the Leyden Street chicken slaughterhouse in east London, the scene of protests since the mid 1980s, including direct action. In March 1992 a new animal rights campaign had formed to focus on it, with regular protests over the next few years, which faced violence from workers and a large police presence. On four separate occasions in 1992-1994 animals were liberated in raids on the building, twice during public protests.[40] Matt claimed that he had been involved in some of the actions against the slaughterhouse and that his house was raided because of one of the liberations.[7] One activist did recall that Rayner had helped a bit with some of the open liberations that had taken place there.[19]

Also in around 1993, he drove activists to a protest against a French circus with animals which was putting on a show in Kent. Paul Gravett recalled that he said 'something in French to one of the workers, who became angry and slapped him across the face. His glasses were knocked off but he wasn't injured.'[7]

Matt was involved in a liberation action at a neglected farm where animals were being kept in particularly horrendous conditions. Activists drove there and removed a number of the animals, with Matt driving a van to the place twice to collect the rescue animals.[14] He was also involved in a daylight liberation of several chinchillas from a shop during a separate protest in London.[19]

In late 1995 while returning from a protest against a hunt ball (an event organised by fox-hunts as an annual get-together / fund-raiser), a fellow activist in the car with him asked him to stop the car so they could get out and spray-paint a Shell garage, because the Nigerian state had recently hung anti-Shell activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others with the corporation's complicity. At the time Matt neither supported the action, nor did he argue it.[14]

Geoff Sheppard case (1995)

Matt Rayner at a summer garden party at the home of Paul Gravett, July 1995.

In May 1995, the house of animal rights activist Geoff Sheppard was raided by the Anti-Terrorist Squad; though a number of people living there were held (Matt was not around at that point and not arrested), it was clear they were only interested in Geoff. The others were released without charge, while Geoff was arrested for possessing a firearm and materials to make incendiary devices after police raided his home in London.[8] A few months later he was sentenced to seven years for his role in an ALF campaign against Boots the Chemist.[3]

Sheppard says Matt Rayner 'deliberately encouraged him to take more serious direct action against Boots'. He had already served a long sentence in the eighties for conspiracy to commit arson against Debenhams department stores which sold fur garments, and says he was reluctant to commit serious offences again until Rayner persuaded him otherwise.[41] He also claims Rayner transported people to sabotage targets such as Boots’ stores.[6]

In July 2020, it was confirmed by the Metropolitan Police that there was a criminal investigation into Rayner, which included the '[...]allegations against Rayner [that] have been outlined in legal papers lodged in the court of appeal by the activist, Geoff Sheppard, who is seeking to overturn his convictions.'[42]

McLibel trial (1995 onwards)

Until 1997, London Animal Action had an office at 5 Caledonian Road, home to Housman's Bookshop and Peace News. A number of other groups, including London Greenpeace and the McLibel Support Campaign also used space in the building and received post there.[12][37] Rayner therefore had access to papers relating to the McLibel trial taking place at the time (it had begun in 1995). McLibel Support Campaign meetings were held in the same building. Someone who knew Matt well recalled that he attended a number of McLibel campaign pickets,[43] and it is believed he attended protests at McDonald's London headquarters.[39]

Around 1992-1993 Matt is recalled as regularly visited the house next door to were the McLibel defendant, Dave Morris, then lived in Tottenham;[7] while in the YouTube video from Paul Gravett's garden, Rayner can be seen talking to other people who were then prominent in the McLibel Supporters Group.[12]

Contrary to some rumours, Matt was not involved in the setting up of the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (LDMG). However, it has been raised as a point of concern that he did have indirect personal connections to those who were involved in its founding in early 1995.[44][8][45]

Grand National protests (1993, 1994)

A contemporary newspaper article on Merseyside Police and Special Branch preparations for 1994 Grand National protests (part 1).

In 1993, Rayner drove campaigners from London to protest against the Grand national horse race at Aintree in Merseyside. They travelled the night before and stayed at the house of a Liverpool activist, Serena, then the subject of attention from Special Branch's Animal Rights National Index.[34][46] Interestingly, those who travelled up with Rayner were asked to contribute £7 towards petrol.[47]

A contemporary newspaper article on Merseyside Police and Special Branch preparations for 1994 Grand National protests (part 2).

The protests had been called by a group called 'Action to Abolish the Grand National', and had lead to a heavy policing operation. Press at the time stated that Aintree was spending an extra £20,000 on security following the announcement of protests by the group 'Action to Abolish the Grand National'.[48] Despite the police operation, fifteen protestors evaded security and police to run onto the track and disrupt the start of the race by sitting down in front of one of the fences.[49][47] Half of those who did this were from London; all were arrested. This and other problems caused the race to be declared void, costing the racing industry around £60 million at the time - making it probably one of the most successful animal right actions ever in terms of financial losses caused, Nevertheless, no charges were pressed against those who had occupied the track.[7] [12][47][50][51][52] Rayner did not take part in the run-on to the course, put picked people up from the cells afterwards.[34]

Rayner would drive animal rights activists from London to Aintree again the following year, when Action to Abolish the Grand National repeate its call-out for protests. As in 1993, 1994 saw a significant police operation in response, lead by Ch. Insp. Sue Woolfenden and Supt. Paul Burrell.[49][53] Several couple of days prior, three local activists were been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage at the course. It was also noted in newspapers that Special Branch were preparing to take action against protestors, including having at the ready boltcroppers and other tools in case protestors chained themselves to fences, and were preparing to eject activists from the grounds. On the day there were around 100 protestors present at the entrance to the racecourse with many arrests - twenty people were arrested on the way to the protest and another three inside the grounds.[47]

One activist present on the trip recalled that eight people came up from London the day before in the West London hunt sab van, driven by Matt. As part of the trip he took them that evening to a demonstration against a vivisection conference in Lancaster. The following day, at the Grand National protests, two of the group from London were arrested (among twenty in total). As four out of the group in total had been arrested over the weekend, Matt stayed in Liverpool with his van, awaiting their release, while others from London made their own way home.[54]

Activities outside London

He was usually willing to use his vehicle to take people on demonstrations around the country, which made him very useful as nobody else at the time had a vehicle to use for this.[14] It is thought that he drove for demonstrations at various vivisection targets including GSK at Stevenage, Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire and a home demostration at a Buckinghamshire vivisector.[39] At an unknown date, he drove animal rights campaigners to a protest against a Ministry of Defence laboratory in Kent.[8]

In August 1995 he drove a group to Yorkshire as part of a set of large protests against the 'Glorious Twelfth', the official start of the grouse-shooting season. Writing of this, Paul Gravett, one of those who went with him, said:[5]

While there he was arrested and taken into police custody, only to be released a few hours later. He wasn’t charged but this brush with the law only served to improve his standing.

He was the only one arrested from this vehicle. Contemporary reports note there were protests across the north of England with 11 arrests,[55][14] including a large protest of 200 anti-shooting campaigners at the Stang Forest, Arkengarthdale in North Yorkshire which saw nine arrests following police moving against protestors.[56] Other protests took place at Grinton on the same day.[57] though it is believed it Rayner was arrested at the former for public order offences.[58]

He also showed a lot of interest in the large live export protests taking place at Shoreham in 1995, using his car to take down to these quite a bit, night or day,[14] and likewise drove to similar protests at Dover.[39] He is also known to have attended a protest at a hunt ball in or near Cheltenham.[54]

He is unknown to have gone to Scotland,[39][59] though he did establish a residence in France as part of his exit strategy.

Targeting Liverpool & Manchester campaigners

Matt Rayner is known to have shown interest in animal rights groups in the north of England, particularly Liverpool and Manchester and to have visited them on a number of times.[14] He was known to people in the Wolverhampton group as well.[25] A key point of contact was through national events as part of the campaign against Boots.[14]

Cheshire hunts

Matt's first known trip to the north of England is believed to have been for the protests marking the first anniversary of the February 1991 killing of hunt saboteur Mike Hill. Matt is said to have drove to the protest at the Cheshire Beagle kennels.[39][60] He subsequently turned up on protest against the Cheshire Forest foxhunt, which took place outside the Blue Cap pub at Sandyway, near Nantwich, possibly as part of a national day of action against that hunt.[60]


In Liverpool, he focused in particular on one leading activist Serena, who was the point of contact for the local group. At the time there was considerable animal rights activity in the north west.[9] Matt first met her in 1993 when he drove people to protest at the Grand National; at the time her image had just appeared on the front of a briefing from the Animal Rights National Index, naming her as one of their four 'most wanted' activists.[46] She said she found him 'likeable and chatty, that he showed interest in you as a person and came across as polite and courteous. He was very natural in his approach.[60]

He visited Liverpool a number of times, mainly with groups of protestors for specific events (including the 1993 Grand National protest[7]), but on one occasion travelled there by himself. This would have brought him into contact with a number of other leading animal rights activists who were associated with the area - though he did not go out of he way to meet them. Though everyone liked him, his interest in Liverpool did arouse some suspicion.[9]

In Liverpool, he twice attended the heavily policed demonstrations against the hare coursing event, the Waterloo Cup at Altcar (this annual event took place over a week each February until banned).[61][62] On the evening after the 1995 Cup, which had in the region of 100 protestors present,[63] he accompanied other activists to a live exports protest at Heysham.[9][14] (Altcar and Heysham are nearby, in Lancashire.) He also helped on a stall at an animal rescue event in the Wirral. It is of note, that during one of his stays at Serena's flat, the barrister of Roger Yates, then involved a high-profile animal rights trial, was also staying over.[9]

The week before the February 1995 Waterloo Cup protest, Claire had been injured by police at Windsor Castle during a mass trespass as part of the campaign against the Criminal Justice Act. She was still suffering from her injuries when she travelled to Liverpool and it was Matt who took her to a local hospital to have them checked out. She subsequently sued the police successfully over the events at Windsor.[14]


Around 1994-1995 he showed interest in Manchester, driving activists to support protests being held there, including at one point driving himself and his friend Claire to a protest in Manchester against the bullfighter Frank Evans. Claire believes he used her to introduce him to people there.[14]

In Manchester, he showed particular interest in 'Kelly', an animal rights activist he met through their mutual friend Claire, going out of his way to visit her. He was one of a small number of animal rights activists who attended Kelly's small, private 21st birthday party at her mother's house in early 1994, having managed entry by giving a lift to some London-based activists who had been invited. There are photos of him being present at this event, and his presence was justified on the ground that he was in Manchester in any case. He would stay over at her place in Manchester later that year, when he brought people up from London for the second protest at the Grand National, and they needed somewhere to stay. She found Matt intelligent, unassuming and lovely, if nosy. They did not have a relationship, though wrote letters to her, inviting her to visit him in London and later in France.[64]


13 Rue du Chai de Farines, 33000 Bordeaux. 'Matt Rayner' used the third floor of this address when he left London as part of his exit strategy.
112 rue Camille Goddard, 33000 Bordeaux. Second address used by 'Matt Rayner' when exchanging letters with animal rights activists following his exit.

Matt’s exit strategy was extremely elaborate and took about 18 months to execute.[12] It began in the summer of 1995 when he changed jobs, saying he had started working for a wine company. A year later, he told a few close friends of his growing disillusionment with activism after being raided by the police (see above under the Leyden Street chicken slaughterhouse campaign) and the breakdown of the relationship with his girlfriend.[3] He hinted at wanting to move on.[12] Then in the autumn of 1996 he said he was moving to Bordeaux, France where his employer had a branch. As he could speak French and had always shown an interest in that country (including talking about how much he liked the town of Carcassonne[14]) it did not come as a significant surprise he was moving there.[7]

A big farewell party was organized in November 1996 at the Hemingford Arms in Islington, with the large upstairs room hired for the occasion. People came from elsewhere in the country.[7] He was presented with a camera and a speech wishing him well.[5] This farewell party, which continued afterwards at Paul Gravett's house (which was nearby) was a joyous affair.[12]

The day he left for France, he took a couple of activist friends with him. At the port they say his vehicle was stopped by a Special Branch police officer who questioned Rayner about what he was doing. This is now believed to have been a stunt arranged by the SDS in the knowledge that the activists would tell others about it when they returned, lending further credibility to Matt’s departure.[5]

Other friends of Matt visited him while he was supposedly living in Bordeaux and he made at least one excursion back to London to see people. He also wrote letters and made phone calls.[3] He invited Serena to visit him in France, an offer she took up though they did lose contact after this. She recalled the place where he lived as a flat on the top (3rd) floor of a large, old and grey tenement block. Her recollection is of it as being pretty bare without personal stuff, though this did not seem odd as it appeared he had not yet settled in. While she was there with him, he drove to a vinery where he collected a load of wine bottles, giving the impression this was related to his claimed work with a wine company.[9]

He wrote letters into Autumn 1997 to Paul Gravett (and others), the contents of which focused on his life and work in Bordeaux then in Argentina, football and personal stuff relating to Paul. He also asked in 1996: 'Drop me a line sometime if you can. I wouldn't want to miss out on the gossip!!' In Autumn 1997 he wrote of have found a girlfriend in Argentina.

The addresses for Matt provided in them were:[65]

13 rue des Chaai des Farines, 33000 Bordeaux
112 rue Camille Goddard, 33000 Bordeaux
Casilla de Correo No.958, Mendoza, Argentina CP5500. This address is a mail box.[66]

The following year, he said he was moving to Argentina, 'the reason being that the company has just landed a new contact importing Argentinian wine... which has inevitably meant a huge amount of extra work for us all'.[67] A few more letters were sent, including one in which he claimed to have become 'involved with someone that I’ve got to know over the period of this year,[68] but contact eventually dwindled away and he was never heard from again.[3] One activist recalls getting emails from his for several years after.[23]

It is known that Bob Lambert authored a report stressing 'carefully crafted withdrawal plans' to convince 'increasingly security-conscious target groups of the authenticity of a manufactured departure... inevitably this entails travel to a foreign country'.[2] Gravett, speaking of Matt's departure, said it bore the hallmarks of Lambert (whom Gravett also had known):[3]

The exit strategy Rayner employed is probably the most elaborate yet detected and it is intriguing to speculate on the reasons for that. Perhaps Lambert was concerned that certain activists... might be suspicious of why so many people were going abroad. Or it may have been that the usual excuse of a feigned psychological crisis wouldn’t appear credible in the case of someone who always appeared confident and in control.

However, it was not until much later that people who had known Matt Rayner, Bob Lambert and John Dines started to recognise the pattern of disappearances.[7]

Suspicions and exposure

At the time one activist maintained that Matt Rayner was an undercover, though this was not fully accepted at the time. A number of those who were interviewed recalled there being suspicions at the time, including those around the Leyden Street campaign, but it was not recalled what the particular basis of the suspicion was.[14][34] The basis of this suspicion was that when he first appeared in the London animal rights scene, he claimed to have been active with the Essex hunt sabs. Chris Tucker who was immediately suspicious of Matt, recalled ringing up someone active with the Essex sabs who said they didn't know who Matt was. Not long after, he challenged Matt that he was a police while in the back of a van going to a hunt protest, but Matt managed to laughed it off.[19] In the recollection of one person, this or a similar conversation about the suspicions, took place when Matt used his van to drive a group to a protest at a hunt ball in or near Cheltenham.[54] Though Chris was vocal at the time that Matt was not to be trusted, it did not become common currency at the time.[69]

After Lambert was uncovered in October 2011, those who had known Matt became suspicious that he too was a spy.[12] During discussions, they realised that details of his birthday parties were in their diaries so they were able to place it as September 1967.[6]

By now it was known that it was standard practice for SDS agents to assume the identities of dead children. Though checking birth certificates it became clear that the only Matthew Rayner born that month had died from leukaemia aged four in 1972, confirming their suspicions.[6] This lead to Paul Gravett publishing a series of articles exposing the undercover officer, and the story was subsequently reported on in The Guardian.[70]

Previous undercovers in London animal rights

Undercovers in AR timeline (April 2017).png

It is now known that in 1983-1984 the SDS placed two infiltrators into the animal rights movement, Mike Chitty and Bob Lambert. Lambert, then known as Bob Robinson, targeted Geoff Sheppard at the time and it has emerged that Lambert was in the same group which planted incendary devices in Debenhams along with Sheppard.[71][72]

John Dines would succeed Lambert in London Greenpeace (a group whose membership overlapped with the animal rights scene) towards the end of the decade, but by 1991 his deployment was nearing its end.[5] It is thought by Gravett that Rayner for the most part followed the same blueprint for infiltration as used by Lambert, including extensive travelling to meet other campaigners and the use of both football and music as a key to creating relationships.[12] Given that Dines extraction took place in at the end of 1991 (his last bit of political activity was November 1991, and a month later he changed his appearance, considered a sign his deployment was effectively over), it is thought that Rayner was put in as his replacement.[43]

At the same time that Matt Rayner was being deployed into animal rights in the north of London, another undercover, Andy Coles, known as Andy Davey or Andy 'Van', was being deployed into the south London scene. Both undercover first turned up at the same London Boots Action Group meeting, and both were involved in London Animal Action and hunt sabbing. 'Tanya' noted that it would have been unusual if neither Andy or Matt were not at the monthly LBAG meetings.[39] They also shared interest in other campaigns, including anti-fur protests at Selfridges and the Leyden Street chicken slaughterhouse demonstrations, as well as the Arkangel newsletter.

The social scenes they both moved in also overlapped to a degree. One campaigner who knew both undercovers, said they did knew each other though does not recall them hanging around together. She found Matt a respectful person to be around, and when she him about Andy being lecherous he expressed disapproval.[73] It is also known that Andy Davey was aware of Matt's own relationship with a female activist.[34]

In 1994 Lambert became operational manager of the SDS, and would have been overseeing Matt Rayner when the latter was also involved with targeting Sheppard. According to Lewis and Evans he was 'the gaffer, pulling the strings like a puppet master'.[2] Gravett who experienced a number of the undercovers spies in London, believes Matt was the closest to Lambert in personality and deployment, and commented about Lambert that there 'can be little doubt that he was guiding Rayner on how to spy on activists he himself had known a decade earlier'.[12]

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.[74] 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, while others present would have included Matt Rayner and Peter Francis.

Police chain of command

For part of his deployment, Matt Rayner 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.[75] 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: Det. Insp. Bob Lambert (1994-1998)

Undercover Policing Inquiry

Matt Rayner was formally identifed as the officer HN1 in May 2018, though this had been suspected by campaigners prior to this date.[76]

Of HN1, the Inquiry Chair, Sir John Mitting had written that there were 'allegations about his conduct which require to be publicly ventilated to permit the Inquiry to fulfil its terms of reference.'[77]

Mitting did not believe there was sufficient justification for HN1's real name being released and was minded-to restrict it, as revealing it would supposedly carry 'significant risks to his physical safety and well-being and the well-being of his family.' This would interfere with HN1's Article 8 rights (under the European Human Rights Convention) and if the risk did materialise the result would be 'substantial'. Even if the risk didn't materialise, the 'interference would still be significant'. Mitting also said full reasons could not be set out openly and a closed note expanding on them would also be provided.[77]

On 3 July 2018 the inquiry released a press notice saying Mitting was still minded to grant an order restricting Rayner's real name from being published. [78] This was despite it having been acknowledged that Matt Rayner had a relationship with a woman he targeted while undercover,[22] and the Chair previously stating the real names of those who had relationships would be released.[79] It was directed that any objections to this 'minded to' be made by 20 July.[80]

Open application from Metropolitan Police Service to restrict real name of HN1 (dated 1 August 2017, published 3 July 2018[81]).

30 July 2018: final ruling granted that HN1's real name cannot be published, with the Inquiry Chair stating:[82]

When I made the statements in paragraph 7 of my opening remarks of 20 November 2017, I had not envisaged the circumstances which apply in this officer's case. The compelling reason for disclosure to Denise Fuller of the real name of HN1 is outweighed by an even more compelling reason of public interest which cannot be stated openly. It is indicated in the closed note which accompanies these reasons. I had hoped that this issue could have been dealt with in a way which was more respectful of, and sensitive to, the feelings of Ms Fuller at a later stage of the Inquiry. The submissions made, however, require me to deal with it unequivocally, now.

HN1 is not a core participant in the Inquiry.


  1. Email to core participants, '20180523_UCPI_to_all_CPs_publishing_HN1_HN12_and_CP_RLR_costs_rulings', Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 May 2018, referencing update of the webpage
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rob Evans & Paul Lewis,Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, Chapter 9. Peter Francis notes that there were two undercovers in animal rights when he starts his own deployment in January 1993.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Paul Gravett, Report on 'Matt Rayner', Summer 2015, unpublished.
  4. Paul Gravett, Police Spies and Surveillance, Red Black Green (blog), undated (accessed 3 October 2015).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 'ARSpycatcher', How Special Branch Spied on Animal Rights Movement, Buro Jansen & Jansen (blog post), 26 February 2014 (accessed 3 October 2015).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Paul Gravett, Flashback: 30 July 1995 – police spy dresses up at pagan garden party, Red Black Green (blog), 30 July 2015 (accessed 3 October 2015).
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 Paul Gravett: email to Undercover Research Group, 5 February 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Undercover Research Group: email from A/L, 16 February 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Undercover Research Group: phone-call with Serena, 20 November 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Undercover Research Group: email from 'Patrick', an animal rights activist, 8 February 2016.
  11. Facebook message to Paul Gravett, March 2013.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 12.14 12.15 12.16 12.17 Undercover Research Group: interview with Paul Gravett, 12 September 2015.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Undercover Research Group: interview with Brendan McNally, animal rights activist, 16 October 2015.
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 14.16 14.17 14.18 14.19 14.20 14.21 14.22 14.23 14.24 Undercover Research Group: interview with Claire, an activist close to Matt Rayner, various communications, February 2012.
  15. Death of the Summer Lord Rayner excerpt 30 07 1995,, 30 July 1995 (uploaded 30 July 2015).
  16. Undercover Research Group: interview with Lee, 3 December 2015.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Undercover Research Group: Robin Lane, interview of 14 February 2017.
  18. Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Cara', 12 December 2015.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with Chris Tucker, an animal rights activist, 14 March 2016.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Undercover Research Group: interview with Greta, an animals rights campaigner active with London Animal Action, 3 November 2015.
  21. Facebook message from former colleague of Matt Rayner to Paul Gravett, August 2015.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Sir John Mitting, Core Participants Ruling 18, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 23 May 2018.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Undercover Research Group: phone call with a member of the West London hunt saboteurs, 18 May 2017.
  24. Email from former colleague of Matt Rayner to Paul Gravett, October 2013.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Undercover Research Group: interview with "YJ", 23 February 2016.
  26. Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Frank', 25 January 2018.
  27. Paul Gravett, Flashback: 25 April 1992 – the biggest anti-vivisection demo ever, Red Black Green (blog), 25 April 2015 (accessed 2 February 2016).
  28. Local Group Reports, Arkangel, issue 10, undated (accessed 2 Feb 2016).
  29. Local Group Reports, Arkangel, issue 12 (part 1), 1994 (accessed 2 Feb 2016).
  30. Undercover Research Group: interview with Paul Gravett, 12 September 2015.
  31. Martin Flanagan, Animal rights protesters ejected from Boots meeting, The Times, 23 July 1993 (accessed via Nexis, 20 February 2016).
  32. Philip Ryland, A Week in the Markets: Why tax policy must stay tight, Investors Chronicle, 18 November 1994 (accessed via Nexis).
  33. Jeff Randall, Boots, The Sunday Times, 20 November 1994 (accessed via Nexis).
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 34.5 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Emma', animal rights activist, 15 May 2017.
  35. Undercover Research Group: notes of meeting Animal Rights Coalition (London) meeting of 15 May 1994 taken by Paul Gravett.
  36. Alex Bourke & Ronny Worsley, Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook, Scamp Media / Miso Publications, 2001 (accessed 2 February 2016).
  37. 37.0 37.1 The "Close Down Noble Furs" Campaign, Arkangel, issue 13 (part 1), undated (accessed 6 Feb 2016). Has background material on the Noble Furs campaign.
  38. Chris Martin, Shark Protection League, Arkangel, issue 18, 1997 (accessed 12 October 2017). Contains background story to this campaign.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 39.6 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Tanya', 7 May 2017.
  40. Mark Simmonds, Leyden Street slaughterhouse - the fight continues, Arkangel, issue 12 (part 2), 1994 (accessed 2 Feb 2016). Contains background story to this long standing campaign.
  41. Rob Evans, Undercover police spy accused of encouraging activist to crime, The Guardian, 4 December 2014 (accessed 3 October 2015).
  42. Rob Evans, UK undercover officer accused of encouraging activist to buy shotgun The Guardian, 15 July 2020 (accessed 15 July 2020).
  43. 43.0 43.1 Undercover Research Group: conversation with Helen Steel, 9 October 2015; email from Helen Steel, 7 February 2016.
  44. LDMG, (website), undated (accessed 20 February 2016).
  45. Undercover Research Group: email from 'S', who was involved in the founding of the LDMG, 17 July 2018.
  46. 46.0 46.1 Undercover Research Group: email from 'Emma', 8 November 2017.
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 47.3 Paul Gravett, the year the Grand National was sabotaged – with help from Special Branch, ARSypcatcher (blog), 10 April 2016 (accessed 29 June 2016).
  48. Colin Mackenzie, The Champions Choice; Protestors ready to march on big race, The Times, 2 April 1993 (accessed via Nexis).
  49. 49.0 49.1 Lin Jenkins, Animal rights activists aim to wreck the National, The Times, 8 April 1994 (accessed via Nexis).
  50. Greg Wood, Grand National farce: 20 years on from the race that never was, The Guardian, 4 April 2013 (accessed 2 February 2016).
  51. Paul Hayward, Racing: Grand National 1993: Day of disaster for National: History made as world's greatest steeplechase is declared void, The Independent, 3 April 1993 (accessed 2 February 2016).
  52. Grand National declared void, BBC News, 3 April 1993 (accessed 6 January 2016, footage of news broadcast uploaded to
  53. John Goodbody, Police improve the odds at Aintree, The Times, 6 April 1994 (accessed via Nexis).
  54. 54.0 54.1 54.2 Undercover Research Group: interview with 'RB', animal rights activist, 15 May 2017.
  55. Carry on protesting! Activists turn up the heat in summer scorcher, schNEWS, Issue 36, 18 August 1995 (accessed 20 February 2016).
  56. Shoot protesters arrested, The Independent, 13 August 1995 (accessed via Nexis).
  57. The inglorious Twelfth, Mail on Sunday, 13 August 1995 (accessed via Nexis).
  58. Undercover Research Group: email from Paul Gravett, 26 February 2016.
  59. Undercover Research Group: email of 15 November 2017 from 'Tanya'; he had an opportunity to drive a group of activists on a holiday in Scotland but did not take the opportunity.
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 Undercover Research Group: phonecall with Serena, 17 December 2017.
  61. Danny Penman, Cup's hare-coursing supporters are facing their Waterloo, The Independent, 22 February 1995 (accessed 5 February 2016).
  62. Clement Freud, Battle lines remain despite groups' common ground, The Times, 24 February 1995 (accessed via Nexis).
  63. Mark Thomas, Peaceful protest at hare coursing, Press Association, 21 February 2015 (accessed via Nexis).
  64. Undercover Research Group: phonecall with 'Kelly', Manchester based animal rights activist, 27 November & 19 December 2017.
  65. Undercover Research Group: transcripts of letters from Matt Rayner of 6 December 1996, 25 January 1997 and Autumn 1997.
  66. Casilla de Correo translates directly from Spanish as 'mailbox'.
  67. Letter of 25 January 1997 from Matt Rayner to Paul Gravett.
  68. A 1997 letter from Matt Rayner to Paul Gravett.
  69. Undercover Research Group: a number of people spoken to regarding Matt Rayner recalled that Chris Tucker had strong suspicions at the time, but the suspicions were not widely believed at the time.
  70. Rob Evans, Undercover police spy accused of encouraging activist to crime, The Guardian, 4 December 2014 (accessed 16 February 2016).
  71. Rob Evans Secretive review into claim that police spy set fire to Debenhams, The Guardian, 25 June 2012 (accessed 1 March 2016).
  72. Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Questions remain over animal rights activists' case, The Guardian, 13 June 2012 (accessed 1 March 2016).
  73. Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Joy', 12 February 2017.
  74. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, Undercover: The true story of Britain's secret police, Guardian Faber, 6 March 2014.
  75. 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.
  76. 'Red Black Green', Mitting to reveal cover names of one or possibly two animal rights spycops, ARSpyCatcher (blog), 17 December 2017 (accessed 14 July 2018).
  77. 77.0 77.1 In the matter of section 19 (3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstrations Squad ‘Minded to’ note 2, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 14 November 2017 (accessed 15 November 2017).
  78. Publication of documetns relating to anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad - November 2017, January 2018, March 2018 and April 2018 'Minded' to notes, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
  79. Dónal O'Driscoll, A long account of Mitting’s first hearing: legal arguments, Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, 13 December 2017 (accessed 14 July 2018).
  80. Sir John Mitting, Restriction Order Applications by HN1, HN3, HN8, HN9, HN12, HN19, HN20, HN27, HN60. HN72, HN353 and HN355, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
  81. List of applications and evidence publshed on 03 July 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
  82. Sir John Mitting, Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad: Minded to note 12 and Ruling 10, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 30 July 2018.

Category: UndercoverResearch