RC is the alias of a suspected undercover officer active in the animal rights movement between 2002 and 2006. He was based in Bedford where he was a key figure in the local animal rights group Bedford Animal Action. He was also involved in prominent national campaigns, including Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), and the SPEAK campaign against the animal testing laboratory under construction at Oxford University at the time.
- In this case, the final, definitive bit of documentation that would confirm the person profiled here 100% as a police officer is missing. For that reason we refer to him solely as RC, and no pictures of him are included.
- We accept this is less than ideal, but the blame for this is squarely on the police who continue to frustrate attempts to undercover injustices in the spycop saga. We have asked for confirmation, but the police have stuck to their policy of 'Neither Confirm Nor Deny'. However, remaining silent is not an option either, as there are potential miscarriages of justice associated with RC being a police officer and those affected would be hampered from seeking core participation in the Pitchford Inquiry.
- RC a #spycop? Police refuses to confirm or deny…, blog post setting out our reasoning for taking this approach.
- Read the Disclaimer below.
- 1 Description and personality
- 2 Background
- 3 Activities
- 3.1 Bedford Animal Action
- 3.2 SPEAC/SPEAK Campaigns
- 3.3 Other national campaigns
- 3.4 Hunt sabbing
- 3.5 UK Animal Rights Gathering
- 3.6 Arrests
- 3.7 Norway
- 3.8 Covert activities
- 3.9 Other political campaigning
- 4 Girlfriend and exit
- 5 Suspicions
- 6 Disclaimer
- 7 Notes
Description and personality
RC was a large man, over six feet tall, with medium-length/long, dark hair. He often appeared with stubble and wearing a ‘beanie’ hat.. He was in his late 30s to early 40s. One activist described him as “scruffy and bearded”. Others mentioned that his personal hygiene standards were quite low and he could be “grungy and smelly”.
He had a strong personality, but was an amenable, friendly person who liked to drink and have a laugh and was 'a fun going personality' and easy to get on with. He was a good listener, who didn't pry into people's lives. Most interviewees spoke of him as forming very close friendships with activists – some saying he was someone you 'could get close to quickly and could talk to', others that he was a “helpful, nice guy”.
RC was a very open person who knew all his neighbours and was friendly towards strangers, and generally fitted in very well, though one activist who knew him said he appeared to be more open than he actually was. To others he came across as a bit of a joker, and “mucked about in a laddish way”.
He appeared to have ready access to money and was willing and able to hand out food and drink; it was not uncommon for him to buy a round of drinks (alcohol, coffee, etc.). He was considered generous, and if people did not have enough money to cover fuel or vehicle hire, he would waive it.
RC was very much into food, to the point of being gluttonous, and regularly ate at the Veggie World restaurant at Bletchley, near Milton Keynes, where he was obsessed with their fake duck pancakes (he would teach people how to eat them properly). His love of the restaurant extended to him taking someone out for a telling off after they expressed some criticism of it. Like many animal rights activists he was vegan (see below). He could be a good cook (though not always) and came across as a dedicated vegan, and was willing to apply pressure for people to go vegan. (Though some remember saying he was not bothered if chips were cooked in with meat, something at odds with the culture of the social group of vegans he was with.) Another activist remembered him going on about the food at places where it was known they did not have vegan food, but never saw him buy food or eat anywhere else besides Veggie World - though he was apparently very fond of Indian takeaways.) He was also noted as a heavy drinker, who would often have alcohol around him. One campaigner said of him, “he was only interested in food, beer and animal rights, and ignored everything else”.
He was occasionally referred to as the ‘Jolly Green Giant’ after the TV adverts. However, he was often better known as ‘Hairy RC’. Early on in his time in Bedford he acquired the nickname of ‘Rxxx’ within the local animal rights group, a pet name given to him by a now deceased activist. He also called himself ‘Rxxx’ in his voicemail message.
To some he was a very non-‘politically correct’ character, and to others he presented as quite macho – for instance he had no hesitation in delivering abuse to hunters when passing them on the road – and he would talk himself up as a fighter, hinting that he was up for ‘harder stuff’.
He had no pets or rescue animals, unlike many other animal rights activists. He was, however, very much into bird-watching and talked about it, apparently going for days at a time to do it. At one point he took a carload of activists on a detour after a demonstration to a place where a rare bird had been spotted - many other ‘twitchers’ (bird-watching hobbyists) had turned up as well. Although he was not seen with bird-watching equipment and it was noticeably absent from his car, it was considered to be a genuine interest of his. He told one activist that his background as a twitcher had allowed him to get out of a reconnaissance situation where he had been spotted.
RC did not like his picture being taken.
RC claimed to be from Essex, possibly Harlow, and told a story of going to a rough school from which he was expelled, having stolen a lump of magnesium from the school laboratory and throwing it into the pond of a posh boys' school following a rugby match. He also claimed his mother was Spanish.
A story he gave one activist was that he had been living with his partner and child, when he had been arrested with someone else, apparently in relation to peace activism. This other person gave RC's address as theirs, causing his relationship to break down and him to be kicked out of the house. He then spent several months living in his car before moving to Bedford. To others he said he came to Bedford looking for a ‘new start’ or ‘fresh start’, and never talked about his background.
For the entire time of his deployment, RC lived on his own in a small house in Bedford, which he rented. An RC with middle name A. is recorded on the Electoral Roll for 2003 at this address, putting him in the age range of 44–48.
His house was near The Phoenix pub on St John's Street, where he drank often and knew the landlady and regulars. The pub also became the meeting place of Bedford Animal Action (see below).
The house was filled with animal rights paraphernalia, and he would often put up animal rights activists in his spare room, including quite prominent ones and others visiting from abroad. Several activists were scathing of the house, saying it was dirty and badly cared for: “a shithole and skanky” in the words of one. A Dutch activist who stayed with him described his house as a “pigsty” with rickety fittings, old furniture and beer cans everywhere. The house was overgrown at the front, and the garden was so covered in weeds that friends who helped him clear it discovered a clothesline of women's clothes hidden in the middle of it.
Relationships with animal rights activists
RC was considered to be someone who flirted a lot, to the point of being lecherous 'when drunk [he had a] tendency to be a bit of a nob, hitting on random girls'. He is not known to have had any relationships with those he targeted, though he would occasionally share a bed with activists and there would be intimate contact, albeit no outright sex.
After one such event where he kissed another activist, he rang up the following day in a panicky state, saying sorry. Not long afterwards he said he had a phone call from his ‘ex-girlfriend‘, ‘Nellie‘, saying she wanted him to come to Norway to see her. However, this did not stop further sharing of beds while “he would struggle to keep this professional”. When female activists stayed over in the spare room at his house, he would ask them into his room for a cuddle.
He confided to someone that he did not like animal rights women, which was at odds with how others experienced him: he openly expressed to some how much he was attracted to particular women in the movement; he had a crush on one particular activist, though she kept him at arm's length. One activist recalled that he stood out from other animal rights men in the degree to which he could objectify and at times demean women – which includes making lewd gestures on stalls.
He apparently worked in sales, sometimes abroad and in bar furniture, which he claimed to supervise the fitting of. These jobs would take him all over the place and for weeks at a time. He would pay for people's coffee and other things, saying he would put it through his business account.
Later during his time in Bedford, RC sold air-conditioning units. Apparently he did this with another man, though for a larger company. His partner died of a heart attack on the job, while covering for RC who was in Norway to see his girlfriend. RC felt guilty towards the widow.
However, he did mention having an ex-partner by whom he had a son he was not allowed to see, something that upset him. Another activist says she heard the same, and that he had lost contact with his child, who was aged about ten, following his supposed early arrest (see below), but neither name nor place were ever given.
To someone else he gave a slightly different reason for why he had not seen his son in years – namely, that he had caught his ex in bed with someone else, and had attacked him in a fit of jealous rage. This had led to him being arrested, and he had made a decision to stay away in the child's interest – he did not want his son seeing him angry or violent.
Vehicle & driving
RC had a car (an Astra), which he used to ferry people around, something that came with his second job. At one point he drove a van, which he also used to carry animal rights activists and materials to protests. Whereas other activists would take the coach to protests in Oxford (partly because it was the habit of police at the time to harass protesters by regularly monitoring and stopping their cars), RC always insisted on driving his own car to the demonstrations.
The poor quality of his driving is a theme among activists, one describing their experience of him driving as “a right arsehole driving crazy”, and he was always hitting the kerb. Others said he was “quite special” in how unsafe it made them feel or they felt he put them at risk; over the years various activists refused to get in vehicles with him as a result of previous experiences with his driving. Some noted that this seemed to be him playing up to a 'wild boy stereotype'.
He would regularly smoke and text while driving, be on the phone and not wear his seatbelt. People recall him driving with his knees turning the wheel while he texted. His phone was one of the earlier Nokia camera phones on a contract, which at the time was unusual amongst activists, partly because a contract was not a cheap option and required good credit.
He would drive while under the influence of drink, including driving to a protest in Oxford still smelling of alcohol from a heavy drinking session the night before, and clearly not fully sober. His activist friends were surprised at his lack of concern of encountering the police, who were heavily monitoring the protests at the time. (See also under UK Animal Rights Gathering (below) for similar a account.)
RC apparently also had a terrible sense of direction, readily getting lost, which seemed odd to one activist for a sales person often on the road for his work (this was pre-satnav days).
On leaving for Norway, he gave his car to prominent animal rights activist John Curtin.
RC never talked about animal rights or how he got into it, though he came across as very professional; the Bedford group was noted for how organised it was. He rarely got angry about animal abuse.
A website has captured a post by him to a list dated sometime in 2003, where he introduces himself:
rc [xxxxx] === Questions about you === 1/ What is your name (or what do you like to be called)? RC 2/ How old are you (a rough idea will do)? 35 3/ Do you know many vegans in real life? loads 4/ How long have you been a vegan, and how long vegetarian before that? nearly 2 yrs about ten 5/ Why did you become vegetarian/vegan (if you are neither it would be useful to explain why you joined this list)? A friend told me about the cruelty of factory farming, I later read assault and battery by Mark Gold and that was it I knew I could never put an animal in my mouth again, i gave up eggs and milk staight away fish was initially my weak point.Vegan cos became involved in animal rights became vegan as i learnt more found cheese and guiness the hardest to give up or would have been vegan 3yrs ago === Questions about your area === 6/ Whereabouts do you live? bedford 7/ How good a place is it for vegans? three whole food shops no vegan/vegitarian restraunts but veggie world in bletchly is not far i have a pub which makes me vegan food and two take aways === Questions for fun === 8/ Which is your favourite type of bean? kidney 9/ What is your favourite country, or region, to visit? tough one never go same place twice abroad love anywhere with a bit of wilderness Wales, Scotland 10/ What types of film do you like? all even pants ones escapeism you cant beat it last film most enjoyed 28days later 11/ What was the last meal you ate? sage majarom tofu sausage sandwich this morning well lunch time really 12/ Are you a morning, evening or night person? night === Questions for dull administrative purposes === 13/ How did you find out about this list? fed up with american groups thought i would change my search thingy and put uk in === Other comments === 14/ If there is anything else you want to add to the above please feel free to do so. listen to all sorts of music love moby and coldplay most of all at mo but very fickle
RC said he had been active in a group down south, near London. He was introduced to some activists based in Bedford during a large march near Hyde Park in London (possibly World Day for Laboratory Animals, which was held annually around 24 April). He said he was already living in Bedford and wanted to meet like-minded people; this led to an exchange of emails.
He is known to have used megaphones and to have made speeches at various protests – being considered an articulate speaker. He also attended a private commemoration at the grave of deceased animal rights hunger-striker Barry Horne. One activist, Mark, described him as “someone who took part in stuff – he did not stand back”. Charlie recalls him leaning out the window to shout at the site of GlaxoSmithKline in Stevenage when they drove past.
Bedford Animal Action
Before RC arrived 2002, there were scattered animal rights activists in the Bedford area. Bedford is close to Northampton, which has a history of animal rights activism; however, there was little in the way of local groups at the time. Having moved into the area, RC established Bedford Animal Action at his own initiative, helping to turn it into quite a large group of up to thirty people at one point. He did, however, keep a strong hold on the group.
One activist, Charlie, recalls meeting campaigners for the first time at a local protest and being given the number for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) to ring. SHAC passed her details onto RC, whom she first met when he turned up on her doorstep to take her to an animal rights meeting.
He was involved in a number of campaigns carried out by BAA:
- A 2004 campaign to stop a geese cull by Bedford Town Council.
- 2004 protests at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park as part of the Captive Animals Protection Society campaign against zoos, where he was given as a point of contact for the local group.
- Demonstrations against the selling of fur at the Walberry's shop in Bedford.
- The campaign against Posh Pets in Bedford, when it was selling puppies.
Bedford Animal Action spearheaded the protests against a proposed fish laboratory in Stewartby, near Bedford, known as the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH); the ‘Say NO to NIRAH’ campaign took place from 2004 onwards, including mass protests. RC was not prominent in the campaign, though he was active behind the scenes. He authored a letter published in the Bedfordshire on Sunday in 2004, arguing against NIRAH on behalf of Bedford Animal Action.
Ejecting individuals from BAA
Although RC had been instrumental in creating a new animal rights group in Bedford, there had been a small previous group of three individuals, including RC. He apparently considered one of the other two individuals to be dodgy and physically ejected him when he came to an early BAA meeting, making it sound like he should not be trusted.
There are a few incidents where RC acted out of character around people who were no longer welcome at BAA meetings. One involved a long-term animal rights campaigner, whom RC had made welcome the first time he came to a BAA meeting around the time the NIRAH campaign was starting.. The second time he turned up, RC grew angry, alleging that he was there to spy on the group and was not to be trusted. Others in the group were also suspicious as the person had travelled several hours just to attend, which did not make sense to them. The campaigner did not come back thereafter, partly because of behind-the-scenes discussions, resulting in a phone call from RC to the individual.
RC was noted for his ability to do stalls, doing them very regularly (he would do them every weekend if he was not away seeing his partner M. in Norway), particularly on behalf of Bedford Animal Action and SPEAK, and being good at reaching out to people through them. Through the stalls he helped introduce several individuals to animal rights who would go on to become close to him. Some of these activists were then introduced by him to leading animal rights campaigners in SHAC and SPEAK with whom he had become friends. One campaigner remembers him giving a group of children a piece of his mind because they were laughing at pictures of animals being abused. He is also noted for the humour he showed, and for the amount of money he was able to raise on these stalls – some of which would go towards hiring vehicles to allow people to attend protests, or supporting the local group's campaigns. He genuinely appeared to like doing stalls, as he loved talking to people and “had the gift of the gab”. The stalls were done around the Bedford area and local towns, and at Carfax Tower in Oxford.
One activist subsequently recalled that while RC was doing stalls, there was very little attention from the police, but this changed after he left. However, this may have been partly to do with a general shift in the police's attitude to animal rights stalls following high-level pressure from politicians and pharmaceutical companies.
RC was involved in protests for the Stop Primate Experiments At Cambridge (SPEAC) campaign. SPEAC existed from 2002 to early 2004 to organise national opposition to a proposed new primate laboratory at Girton in Cambridge, in conjunction with a local campaign, X-CAPE. This capitalised on a strong animal rights movement that had seen a series of successes in closing down vivisection breeders and the then high-profile campaign against nearby Huntingdon Life Sciences and at Newchurch Guinea Pigs. SPEAC used a combination of large-scale protest and challenging planning permission to get the project cancelled, which succeeded in the end - huge victory for the anti-vivisection movement. A high-profile project - which Prime Minister Tony Blair had spoken out in favour of - it was subsequently abandoned because of animal rights protests and the effect they were having on the city, both then and potentially in the future.
RC was a point of contact and co-organiser of a coach to a large day of protest held in Cambridge on 11 October 2003.
After 2004, the campaign focused on another primate laboratory, then under construction on South Parks Road by Oxford University. The campaign changed its name to SPEAK and continued to organise protests on a national level, including regular pickets at the laboratory site.
RC would become a regular face at the weekly protests (though he did not attend every one) at the building site and at the larger protests held in the city against the laboratory. One campaigner recalled that he was at the front of the very first SPEAK march to take place in Oxford, and had attended the group's protests at the Oxford University Press site in Corby. However, someone else remembered that “he made a beeline for Mel Broughton”, one of the founders of SPEAK, and became friends with him.
SPEAK became the subject of a civil injunction by the University to stop the protests, a move actively supported by the police's National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit. RC attended demonstrations during this time, and at one point brought an unknown individual to a protest at the University awards ceremony. The new guy tried to provoke a confrontation, which could have been used in Court as a reason to justify the imposition of harsher terms in the injunction.
To a Dutch activist friend he played up a macho side, often talking about being raided as part of SPEAK and fighting with the police, and of finding listening devices in his pillow and salt-shaker.
Other national campaigns
RC is known to have driven vehicles, including minibuses taking activists to protests organised by various other prominent national campaigns at the time, including Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs in Staffordshire and against the military animal testing centre at Porton Down in Wiltshire. On other occasions he would drive to Kent to join live export demonstrations, and seemed willing to drive people to protests even if just one would come along. He attended meetings of the Animal Rights Coalition (ARC), a national meeting of grass-roots animal rights groups and campaigns, including in October/November 2003, and organised an ARC meeting to take place in Bedford. He also attended the national marches marking World Day for Animals in Laboratories.
He also stated that he taken part in the campaign against the hedgehog cull on the Outer Hebridean island of Uist, he went on his own. The campaign was set up by a coalition of groups in opposition to the cull, running from 2002 to 2007, attracting animal rights activists from across the UK in the early stages to take part in hands-on protection of the hedgehogs, though that phase was over by the time RC supposedly went there. One activist recalled meeting him there April / May 2003.
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
RC drove cars as part of SHAC days of action, including ‘home visits’ to targets (which at the time were still legal). He also drove a minibus for SHAC protests, and one activist recalls him texting regularly while doing this (as well as him singing). Another said that he never asked for petrol money to cover driving costs, saying he could write it off through his job.
He knew many of the leading figures in SHAC, and hinted that at some point he expected to go to jail, though he did not act like it.
RC went ‘hunt sabbing’ (sabotaging fox hunts) with the Northampton group. He was introduced to them through a woman in BAA who had also been going out with them. Others recall seeing a copy of hunt magazine Horse & Hound in his car, which would not have seemed out of place as it was read by anti-hunt protestors with a view to gaining information and insight.
His interest was sufficient that he began organising to set up a similar group in Bedford. In preparation for this he asked someone in the Northampton group to obtain a van and do it up. However, at the last minute, RC rang up to say he did not want it and squashed the idea of a separate Bedford group, leaving his friend out of pocket. RC then acted quite out of character by cutting off all communication with the Northampton hunt sab thereafter.
However, none of the people who knew him from Bedford Animal Action recall him wanting to set up a sab group there and were not certain that he even went hunt sabbing. Others said that there had been talk of getting a minibus for Bedford Animal Action, so they would not have had to spend so much money renting but that the idea had eventually fallen through and petered out.
UK Animal Rights Gathering
RC attended the 2006 International Animal Rights Gathering in Kent, where he is noted for the amount of alcohol he brought with him and consumed. It is of note that he brought his car and regularly volunteered to pick people up from the nearby train-station, while he was still drinking. Given the heavy police presence in the area, there was some surprise that he was never stopped, and that he had the nerve to do this in the first place.
- March 2004: RC drove a minibus on a SHAC protest as part of a mobile day of action, which was stopped by police near Staines. Several people got out, but the police gave them ten seconds to leave the area, though they had already taken the minibus' keys. A few minutes later, the police decided to arrest everyone after all. Everybody, including RC, spent over twenty hours in cells before being released without charge. RC was part of a successful claim against the police, which resulted in the arrestees getting a pay-out. At the time of the arrest, bail conditions were given not to go to Staines and to sleep at home each night, both of which RC claimed he had breached for work.
- 6 March 2004: RC was arrested at the Oxford laboratory site along with a number of other demonstrators. As he had driven the van that had taken them to the protest, they all had to wait until his ‘release’ before they could go home – he was the last one out.
- 22 November 2004: a series of home raids and arrests were carried out against animal rights activists, and RC was allegedly among those visited. This was in response to a protest that had taken place several weeks earlier. The story he gave was that he had been away (out of the country) at the time of the arrests, but that his house had been raided and his door smashed in – something that seemed drastic in comparison to other people's experiences. He also claimed that he was avoiding being at home as he had an air-conditioning job that had to be done, so had taken to sleeping in his mate's car to avoid being arrested.
- On 25 November, while going to a SPEAK demonstration in Oxford, he asked another activist, ‘Laura’, to drive in his stead, saying he had a feeling he would be arrested. In Oxford, he was arrested while parking his car on Mansfield Road, around the corner from where the protests normally took place. Later that night he contacted a fellow activist and asked to stay at hers that night as his house had been broken into by the police and was boarded up. In the end he did not stay over but went for drinks with her and another activist.
In neither incident did the cases come to court, and one activist was able to confirm that at no point did RC ever end up in court.
RC is known to have visited Norway and attended animal rights demonstrations there, including the ‘March Against Vivisection’ on 27 April 2004, and went out drinking with activists there. One Norwegian animal rights activist whom he befriended was in regular contact with him from November 2002 (a Moby concert in London) until June 2005 (G8 protests at Gleneagles), both in Norway and the UK. It has also been discovered that he attended a large international anti-globalisation demonstration against a meeting of the World Bank that took place in Oslo in June 2002.
To British activists, he claimed he had stayed in the home of Norwegian activists. Norwegian activists recall him telling them that he had a girlfriend who lived in Fredrikstad, a small town an hour away from Olso, but they never met her.
After his departure, RC did not appear in the Norwegian animal rights scene and those who knew him asked visiting UK activists how he was, as they were surprised they had not heard from him. Around the time he was vanishing from the animal rights scene, a Norwegian woman, calling herself Elisabeth, turned up in the Norwegian scene. She claimed she had become a friend of RC when she spent time in England".
It is of note that RC's time in Norway covers the period of the state-employed infiltrator Christian Høibø, who would target anarchist groups among others and also attended the G8 protests in Scotland.
One activist recalls that RC was always going on about wanting to get involved in animal liberations and said he was up for taking part in them if they happened. He would encourage people to do liberations, and gave the impression of trying to set up actions.
Charlie recalled that in his house he had newspaper cuttings of animal rights activists wearing balaclavas and having carried out animal liberation actions. He hinted that he was one of those wearing a balaclava. He used the metaphor of a swan to describe animal rights, all peaceful on the top, but under the water, pedalling like mad, and said that animal rights had to have a ‘PR front’; however, in her recollection he did not generally big himself up.
Miscarriages of justice
Concern has been raised that the closeness of RC to Mel Broughton while the latter was active may have influenced his subsequent trial and conviction.
Another concern is the case of ‘Martin’, an activist from the south of England who was arrested for a chicken liberation action in Bedfordshire. During the course of his trial in 2005, the activist was put up by RC at his home, and RC would also pay part of his subsequent fine and costs. However, Martin has questioned whether the knowledge RC may have gained of his defence would have prevented there being a fair trial.
Other political campaigning
The majority of his known activities centred on animal rights, though he hinted at being involved with other issues and campaigns. To another activist, he said he had been involved in the peace movement, but had become fed up with their politics and left. He also stated how much he hated fascists. However, no known activities with groups outside animal rights have yet been substantiated.
He attended the protests against the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland, though he refused to stay with European activists, and it is not known where he stayed. It is of note that the other known undercover officers from that time, Lynn Watson, Mark Kennedy and Marco Jacobs, also attended this event.
He is known to have travelled in Europe in the company of animal rights activists. and is said to have been on one tour of protests against pharmaceuticals and other anti-vivisection targets in Germany as part of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.
Girlfriend and exit
RC told friends that he was dating ‘Nellie’, a woman from Scandinavia (activists separately recall her as being from Norway, Sweden or Denmark). It was not clear how they were supposed to have met and he described his relationship with her as being ‘on/off’. By the time he appeared on the animal rights scene it was in the ‘off’ stage. He would claim he was flying to see her in Norway every couple of weeks via EasyJet, and they would go on exotic holidays to places such as the Seychelles (he is known to have shown photos of this to Fran Cornwall).
It appeared that he texted ‘Nellie’ quite often, and at one point while driving campaigners to the Animal Aid Fayre he suddenly became very frantic and got into a blind panic, saying he had upset her. It surprised his passengers as he seemed to be like a completely different person. The fact that he was always texting her so regularly was also a point of conversation among those who knew him, as it was at a time when texting abroad was still very expensive.
‘Nellie’ came to the UK on a number of occasions and was met at several animal rights social events in and around Bedford (including a SPEAK benefit at the Allen Club, a local working men's club). She did not attend any animal rights meetings, though she may have gone to one SPEAK demonstration. She came across as someone who was quite normal and not an activist, though others recalled she was supposed to be involved in human rights/peace activism and that she was thinking of going vegan. She was apparently quite jealous of RC's female friends and caused a fall-out between some of them and RC.
RC was described as being a different person around ‘Nellie’, appearing besotted with her and behaving as a loyal, loving and well-behaved boyfriend. This raised eyebrows among those who knew him to be constantly flirting with female animal rights activists, and into toilet humour. It seemed like a split in his character.
According to RC the long-distance relationship with ‘Nellie’ was problematic, and complicated by her mother having a mental illness. Though he was going to see her in Norway on a regular basis, he told his friends that he had given her six months to decide whether she was going to move to the UK or not. Shortly after this apparent ultimatum, in late 2005, he told a BAA meeting that ‘Nellie’ was pregnant and that he was going to Norway to join her. He seemed upset about this and wanted to stay in England. A leaving party was held for him on 5 February 2006 at The Phoenix pub, though he did not actually leave straight way, perhaps as much as several months later.
He left a Norwegian address for a location in Oslo 0192. When asked what he was going to do for work in Norway, he spoke of working illegally on building sites there. However, he is also known to have said the following to several activists at a final BAA meeting: “Don't try and look me up.”
Once gone he remained in contact with Fran Cornwall, a leading campaigner with Bedford Animal Action, with whom he had been close. She said that he was feeling low and wanted everyone to email him. However, there was no further contact with him after that. It is thought this contact with Fran was brief, as another member of the group recalls trying to text him a week after he left for Norway but not being able to get through.
- At the time of his deployment, few if any, appeared to have had suspicions regarding RC (though one said he “just didn't feel right even though we were best mates and I trusted him.”) His easy-going nature and the fact that he had set up an animal rights group that had brought people in to the movement effectively disarmed many people's concerns.
- It was considered rather strange at the time that all contact was lost with him following his supposed move to Norway. That someone known to be so gregarious was not in contact via social media seemed out of character. A close friend of his within the animal rights community sent a card to RC at his Norway address, but it was returned as person not known.
- Others were concerned about the lack of contact from him despite their close friendship, and that he did not come to the funeral of Fran Cornwall in June 2010. One said that this had caused a “niggle in the head over the years that something was not quite right.”
- Someone else said they disbelieved the account of how ‘Nellie’ had become pregnant, apparently because “her coil fell out”, something that is very unlikely to happen. Others expressed their doubts around the story of her accidental pregnancy, feeling that it was a 'dodge'.
One group of former colleagues tried to track RC down in Norway, but were unable to find him there. Activists in Norway said they either did not know him or that they had not heard from him – some apparently asking after him via visiting UK activists after him – not being aware he had supposedly moved to that country. A similar attempt by a Dutch friend also failed.
Others were suspicious about his ability to avoid being arrested in situations where it would have been expected, such as the drinking and driving episodes.
Independently, another group started asking questions following the exposure of Mark Kennedy and the details of tradecraft that emerged in the book Undercover by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis. In August 2015 these, activists working in conjunction with the Undercover Research Group, began investigating RC and attempted to find him with the hope of disproving suspicions. They were unsuccessful in this, including attempts to locate him in Norway as well as the UK - there was no evidence of him appearing on public tax records from 2008 (that is when they became publicly available).
Please do not repost this article without including this disclaimer.
We, the Undercover Research Group, are aware there is no definitive confirmation that RC was an undercover officer. However, having examined all the material, interviewed people who knew him 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 he was an undercover officer who infiltrated animal rights groups.
We have made an attempt to reach RC at known points of contact. If RC comes 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 RC was an undercover officer. 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:
- C.W. Sutherland, Head of Legal Services, East Midlands Police, letter to lawyers, 28 January 2016
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Max Gastone, August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: telephone interview with Charlie, an animal rights activist who worked closely with RC, 6 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email from Charlie, an animal rights activist close to RC, 9 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Amanda and Evonne, animal rights activists close to RC, 3 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Kris Tiller, an animal rights activist who worked closely with RC, 9 August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: telephone interview with Clive, a Northamptonshire-based animal rights activist, 25 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: telephone interview with Mark, an animal rights activist who worked with RC, 24 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email exchange with ‘K’, a Dutch animal rights activist.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Brendan McNally, an animal rights activist, 16 October 2015. The meeting is thought to have been the September 2004 Animal Rights Coalition meeting - see Sunday 17th February 2008 Animal Rights Coalition, Veggies CalendA/R, 2008 (accessed 18 October 2015).
- Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Laura', a Bedfordshire-based animal rights activist close to RC, 10 August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with 'Doreen', an Oxford-based campaigner, 10 August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Charlie, an animal rights activist who worked closely with RC, 4 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with 'M', an activist who worked closely with RC, 24 July 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: telephone interview with Charlie, an animal rights activist who worked closely with RC, August 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: Emails from ‘Laura’, a Bedfordshire-based animal rights activist close to Ritchie, September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group search of 192.com, 5 September 2015.
- Email from Kris Tiller to Undercover Research Group, 11 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: conversation with John Curtin, 11 August 2015.
- Reference removed, IndiaDivine.org, 2003 (accessed 5 September 2015).
- ‘Geese granted stay of execution’, Bedford Today, 4 May 2004.
- Easter Monday: Zoo Awareness Day, Veggies CalendA/R, 2005 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- Bedford Animal Action, ‘Walberry's – Vendors of Real Fur’, undated, archived by Wayback Machine on 11 September 2007.
- Bedford Animal Action, Campaigns, 16 August 2006, archived by Wayback Machine on 22 August 2006.
- Vikki Miller, Water fight, Building.co.uk, issue 28, 2007 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- Reference removed Newshound.org.uk, undated (accessed 6 September 2015). The article originally appeared online at SeriousAboutNews.co.uk
- Meetings, 8 April 2008, archived by Wayback Machine on 19 July 2008.
- James Meek, ‘Protest fears halt animal research plan’, The Guardian, 7 February 2002 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- Alok Jha, ‘Cambridge abandons plans for primate lab‘, The Guardian, 28 January 2004 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- Andrew Tyler, ‘HISTORIC VICTORY! – A stunning triumph... and the next steps’, Animal Aid, undated (accessed 6 September 2015).
- ARCrew, STOP PRIMATE EXPERIMENTS AT CAMBRIDGE!, Cambridge Indymedia, 10 October 2003 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- ‘A defeat for primate research’, Nature Neuroscience, 7, 413, 2004 (accessed 6 September 2015).
- Uist Hedgehog Rescue, Welcome to Uist Hedgehog Rescue, undated (accessed 6 September 2015)
- Undercover Research Group: email from 'AS', 10 April 2018.
- Undercover Research Group: telephone call with ‘Laura‘, 19 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email from ‘Laura’, 19 September 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email exchange with Geir Olson, a Norwegian animal rights activist, September / October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email from Silje, a Norwegian animal rights activist who knew RC, 28 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group: email from Silje, a Norwegian animal rights activist who knew RC, 23 November 2015. For background to the protest see, ‘World Bank Oslo 2002 Protests’, Wikipedia, undated (accessed 23 November 2015).
- Undercover Research Group: forthcoming report. See also: Janine Griffiths, ‘Police spies wreak havoc among peaceful protest groups in Europe’, Akashic Times, undated (accessed 28 October 2015).
- Undercover Research Group: concerns in relation to the safety of Mel Broughton's conviction has been raised by a number of those interviewed.
- Undercover Research Group: conversation with ‘Martin’, 24 October 2015.
- Undercover Research Group note: a search for him in relation to other movements, September 2015, was inconclusive.
- Undercover Research Group: interview with Lynn Sawyer, animal rights activist, 7 August 2015.
- Information provided by ‘Laura’ to Undercover Research Group.
- Undercover Research Group: this is a theme that came through all the interviews we conducted.
- Undercover Research Group: private communication, 2015.
- In Norway a man with a name quite close to RC, born in 1966, was found,Reference removed RC, BIIP.no, undated (accessed 5 September 2015).
- Undercover Research Group: research conducted August 2015. Numerous people of the name R. A. C. were found for the different possible ages for him, leading to this aspect being inconclusive. No appropriate RC was discovered. It is also notable that he does not appear in the 192.com electoral register database other than the one time in 2003, though again this is inconclusive.