Mark Jenner

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Police undercover officer Mark Jenner, aka Mark Cassidy

Mark Jenner a.k.a. Mark Cassidy was an undercover officer who infiltrated the activist scene in North London from 1994-2000, though was mainly active in the period 1995-99. He worked as part of the Metropolitan Police's Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad and much of his deployment was served under the supervision of its then head of operations Bob Lambert[1] His targets were a number of groups based around the Colin Roach Centre, particularly union and anti-fascism.[2][3] He was first outed in 2011, and this reached national interest in 2013 when his former partner "Alison" testified before a Home Affairs Select Committee[4] and the Guardian carried out an expose of him.[1][5] The Metropolitan Police have maintained the position of neither confirm nor deny if he was deployed by them.[1]

Background: the Colin Roach Centre

Founded in 1993 the Colin Roach Centre (CRC) was at the centre of radical political life in North London. Based in Bradbury Street in the borough of Hackney it was the home of, or connected to a number of community and family justice campaigns, including the Hackney Community Defence Association (HCDA), which was successfully highlighting police corruption in the borough.

It rapidly became the centre of political radicalism in the Hackney area of London, with a number of groups of interest to the police associated with it, including apart from the HCDA, street campaigning Anti-Fascist Action, as well as union related work and squatting advice. Links between Anti-Fascist Action and the IRA through Red Action would have also been of interest to the police. The Malcolm Kennedy justice campaign was also based here, as will be explained below.

In December 1994, the Centre was burgled and damaged, though money and valuable equipment was left behind. It is strongly believed this was an attempt to find the Defence Information Service database on corrupt police which had been assembled by members of the HCDA.

Cover Story & Personality

When Jenner was deployed he claimed to be aged 27, born in Dublin but raised in Birkenhead.[6] He gave his occupation as a builder / joiner[4] and said he was still involved in that trade, but was new to Hackney.[2]

The account he told to Alison was one of a story of a father who was killed by a drunk driver when he was aged 8 and that his mother had remarried to someone he did not get on with. A half-brother lived in Rome, his grandmother was dead. His grandfather was apparently alive, but when Jenner and Alison visited to Birkenhead where he supposedly lived, he was away on a church outing. He would close down or deflect conversations that that would cause him to touch on his childhood or past life and Alison was never allowed to meet his family or friends.[7]

He is described as exuding a 'tough, working-class quality', tough and coarse as well as being irreverent and funny; he also apparently saw himself as 'something of a poet'.[1] Alison speaks of him making friends easily.[7] Until he moved in with Alison, he lived in a small, bare bedsit in Hackney.[6]


Jenner arrived on the London's left-wing political scene in late 1994[6] and turned up at the Colin Roach Centre in early 1995. According to Mark Metcalfe, who was a co-ordinator for the Centre:[2]

Within weeks he had thrown himself into virtually every area of the centre’s political life and quickly began writing for our internal bulletin and the quarterly magazine (called RPM) sold to the public. As the owner of a van he could also be relied upon to transport people and equipment to meetings and ensure they got home safely afterwards. Always polite and happy to help out he soon became well liked and respected.
Jenner claimed to have seen TV coverage of a demonstration by the families of people killed at the hands of the police, and radical lawyer Gareth Pierce speaking afterwards, and wanted to get involved.

He drove a red ex-postal van which had been converted to live-in, but which he used extensively to transport activists around, something which would have allowed to find out where they were living.[6]

Union activity

The work that Jenner engaged in with was initially union related. This focused on the Building Workers Group[3], including transporting people to picket sites where people had been killed[2] and writing for their newspaper.[3] He was also elected to chair the Brian Higgins Defence Committee. Higgins been a radical building worker who was being sued by the UCATT union official (Dominic Hehir) for libel for suggesting that workers were not being properly defended by the union.[2] In July 1999, Jenner was prominent in a successful picket in support of a campaign on behalf of construction workers whose pay cheques had been bouncing. [8]

Higgins was named on the blacklist of building workers maintained by the Consulting Association (CA), and his file contained several pages from RPM, as is detailed below.[3] Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group says:[3]

We now want to know why an undercover cop posing as a building worker turned up on picket lines and at campaign meetings, the details of which were discovered in the CA files. Were names of building workers or any information gathered by this police officer passed on to the CA blacklist? It sure as hell looks dodgy.

Jenner was also involved in the Malcolm Kennedy campaign (see below).[3]

Anti-Fascist Action / Red Action and republican paramilitaries

For background information see under Colin Roach Centre

Closely connected with the Colin Roach Centre was the local Anti-Fascist Action group, which in Hackney was dominated by Red Action, both being militant street-fighting groups. Red Action / AFA had links to the IRA and INLA, and in the same year that Jenner was deployed, one of the leaders of Red Action, Patrick Hayes of nearby Stoke Newington, had been convicted for carrying out a bombing campaign on behalf of the IRA. Anti-Fascist Action had also been active in carrying out large street protests against right wing groups and engaged in physical confrontation.

A number of Anti-Fascist Action associated with the Colin Roach Centre were involved in direct confrontation with BNP:[2]

Centre members were involved in physically clearing the BNP from its Sunday morning paper selling point at the top of Brick Lane, an almost exclusively Asian neighbourhood.

Jenner displayed considerable knowledge of Republican politics.[2] Early in his deployment he went on a week-long trip to Belfast with other English activists in solidarity with the nationalist struggle. According to Rob Evans and Paul Lewis:[9]

Special Branch sources believe Cassidy was asked to gauge the appetite among hard-core republicans for an end to violence.[...] The fact he was trusted to spy in Ireland was testament to his reputation. Among other SDS officers, Cassidy was considered a top operator.

Personal relationships: "Alison"

Alison is the alias of a left wing political activist who as involved with the Colin Roach Centre and anti-racism/fascism activity in Hackney from around 1993.[7][4] Jenner joined this group in 1994 and they began a relations about May 1995.[4] She was 29 at the time and he and moved in with her soon after.[1]. Alison describes this relationship as: 'he was completely integrated into my life for five years'[4], including participation in family events. She believed that she was selected as she provided him with 'an excellent cover story'[4], as he was able to build on the trust she had in her causes and because he was being welcomed into her family.[1] Evans and Lewis make the point that his relationship with Alison was crucial to his success as a police spy from the point of view of the SDS.[9]

During his time living with Alison, Jenner maintains the fiction of being in work, rising at 6.30pm and earning enough to take long holidays to the Middle East and Vietnam. They visit a counsellor to discuss his reluctance to have children. [2]

Unlike other undercover officers, Jenner's relationship with Alison appeared to be full time in that he lived permanently at their shared flat, despite him having a wife; something he and his wife needed counselling for (at the same time as Jenner is having counselling with his actual wife.[1] She describes the relationship from her point of view as being a very committed one, and that she was deeply in love with him.[7]

Commenting on the effect of Jenner on her life, Alison said:[4]

Some of the consequences of that have meant that I have, for the last 13 years, questioned my own judgement and it has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationship and other subsequent relationships. It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex, and it has had a massive impact on my political activity.
and I withdrew from political activity.

Elsewhere, Alison describes the relationship as ultimately being abusive because of the humiliation, the impact of his disappearance and the revelation that he was a police officer so she had been deceived for five years of her life.[7]

On 3rd February 2013, Alison was part of a group of three women who spoke in a private session to the Home Affairs Select Committee on the nature of their relationship with undercover officers and the effect it had on their lives.[4] She submitted further evidence in a written statement shortly afterwards.[7]

Exit strategy

In the run up to his exit, he starts acting erratically, including sleeping on the settee in his clothes.[2] Christmas 1999 he is called away 'up north'[4] (apparently as he had received a message on his pager saying 'Call Father Kelly', and which he responded saying that his grandfather in Birkenhead had a stroke[9]). However, he did not let Alison come with him, and on his return she says of him: 'When he came back he was a very different man, and I don’t know what happened.'[4] In Undercover, Alison says that he claimed to have rowed with his grandfather and punched him, and he subsequently went into a withdrawn, 'downward-spiral'.[9] This was also the first Christmas of their relationship which they did not spend together.[9]

In March 2000 he leaves the home he shares with Alison, leaving a note saying 'We want different things. I can’t cope. We want different things. When I said I loved you I meant it, but I can’t do it'. [4][9] He returns the following weekend and stays for ten days before vanishing for good on 11 April 2000.[2]leaving a note saying he is going to Germany to look for work[10]

He subsequently contacts Alison, claiming to be in Germany. This is a phone call according to Mark Metcalfe[2], while in Undercover it is a postcard sent from Germany.[10] Evans and Lewis refer to his tactic of extracting himself as 'standard operating procedure for departing SDS spies'.[10]


Alison becomes suspicious within a month of Jenner's disappearance.[4] She finds a passport in someone else's name among other materials. When Alison contacted his place of work, she was told he had left three years previously.[2]

She continues to check into his life and find out that his story that his father had died in 1975 in Birkenhead was not true.[2] In 2001, she contacts Metcalfe, having learned he was suspicious of Jenner earlier. Over the next decade she continues to try and find him, including hiring a private detective[1], who basically confirmed that Mark Cassidy was a fictional character.[4]

News that Mark Cassidy was in fact Mark Jenner first emerged publicly in 2011 in an article by Mark Metcalfe.[2] This was followed up by by Evans and Lewis at the the Guardian who were able to confirm to Alison that he had a serving police officer, that his real name was Jenner rather than Cassidy and that it was believed that at this point he was still with the police.[10] He would be publicly exposed in the Guardian newspaper in 2013.[1]


A number of groups have expressed concern over the role that Mark Jenner would have had in their campaigning work, particularly as some of the issues are connected to policing.

Concerns within the Colin Roach Centre

In 1997, Mark Metcalfe, a co-ordinator of the Centre began to have concerns about Jenner which included:[2]

  • He participated in a visit to see the situation in republican West Belfast, which he transported people in his van, though it would invariably be noted and have its registration recorded by the police. He also, despite claiming to be a Catholic, taken a walk down the Protestant stronghold of Shankhill Road.
  • Nobody met his family.
  • Said he was a fan of Tranmere Rovers, but did not know any of their fans when he attended their matches with Metcalfe.

As suspicions grew through-out 1997[3], he was quietly removed from opportunities to gain information. However, at this point he was moving towards activity in Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action, his activity at the Colin Roach Centre declining, though not completely severed.[2]

After his exposure, other oddities would come to light:

  • At one point Alison discovered a credit card in the name of "M. Jenner"[10], which he claimed he had purchased for £50 in a pub in order to obtain petrol. He claimed to be ashamed of this, and also made Alison promise to never tell anyone about it.[1].
  • When a car backfired Alison saw him reacted by ducking down and covering his ears with his hands, the training position for security officers if a bomb goes off.[2]
  • Displayed extensive knowledge to a friend about events in Ireland in 1970s, despite claiming to be new to political activity.(Jim Kelly, taxi driver)[2]
  • When the BNP threatened to attack the Colin Roach Centre, Jenner describes himself as being there as a 'shield'. ('Amanda')[2]
  • Lack of interest in the migrant / asylum seeker support work done by CRC.[2]
  • Despite claiming to be a joiner, he had struggled to use a router and it took him a long time to fit a new kitchen in the home he and Alison shared just before he disappeared in spring 2000.[7]
  • Despite his prominent union activism, he does not appear on The Consultancy Association blacklist despite others he was connected to doing so.[8]

Concerns within the Malcolm Kennedy justice campaign

Malcolm Kennedy was a Hackney based business man who had been convicted of the murder of Patrick Quinn in a police station. It was alleged he was framed to cover up a police killing, resulting in a long standing campaign by the HCDA to clear his name. The campaign 'Justice for Patrick Quinn, Free Malcolm Kennedy' was based at the Colin Roch Centre and the HCDA released a booklet on his case in December 1994. He maintained his innocence and sought to clear his name long after his release, and claimed that he was subject to further targeting by the police as a result.

At the time of his death in 2013, Malcolm Kennedy was attempting finding out from the Metropolitan Police what Jenner had passed onto his handlers in relation to his defence campaign when he was in prison trying to overturn his conviction.


The Colin Roach Centre was involved in supporting a variety of industrial and union disputes, particularly those in the construction industry. It was home of the Building Worker Group, which Jenner was a member of.[8] A number of those involved at the time have found their details on the blacklist of union activists in the construction industry put together by the Consultancy Association. This includes a list of associates of Brian Higgins dated from October 1996, though the source is not given.[8]

There is evidence that Special Branch (of which the SDS was a secretive unit) has passed information on to this list, in particular, the IPCC wrote to the Blacklist Support Group: [11]

...initial scoping by the Operation Herne team identified that the Consulting Association was an organisation that had developed from a number of other organisations dating back to 1917. The scoping also identified that it was likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information about potential employees.

The exposure of Jenner has led a number of those on the blacklist to ask questions about Jenner's role. This includes the current RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley (and Socialist Party member), who was a friend of Jenner’s and invited him to stay at the family home in Derry, during a trip to Ireland. He said:[12]

I feel utterly violated by a police officer befriending me, then spying on me and passing information on to the blacklist which resulted in me being unemployed for a year. This man stayed at my family home as a guest. Are we now living in a police state?

Brian Higgins wrote:[13]

As a target of this undercover police operation I can only hope, with other victims, that Jenner and his co-conspirators and those behind this utterly obscene and extremely sinister practice are called and held to account by any public inquiry into all aspects of the Consulting Association and those organisations and individuals who aided and abetted it. Justice cries out for and demands this."

Other officers

Jenner is one of a number of SDS officers known to have been active in Hackney. Others include Bob Lambert who was in the area in the 1983-88 when targeting London Greenpeace and animal rights groups, and John Dines who was active 1987-92 in London Greenpeace, Reclaim the Streets and anti-capitalist groups.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Police spies: in bed with a fictional character, The Guardian, 1 March 2013, accessed 27 April 2014.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 Mark Metcalfe, I Spy - Mark Cassidy, 31 January 2011. Accessed 25 April 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Mark Metcalfe, ‘There is no way of knowing how much damage Jenner caused’, The Big Issue in the North, March 2013, reprinted on SpinWatch 15 March 2013, accessed 25 April 2014. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "mm.2" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 Home Affairs Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Parliament UK, 5 February 2013, accessed 27 April 2014.
  5. Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, Scotland Yard spied on critics of police corruption, The Guardian, 24 June 2013, accessed 14 April 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, p.97.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Alison's written submission, Police Spies Out of Lives, accessed 27 April 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Mark Metcalfe, Undercover but in plain sites, The Big Issue in the North, 7 April 2014.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, p.98.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, p.99.
  11. Charlie Pottins, State snoops and private blacklisting, RandomPottins blog, 20 September 2013, accessed 27 April 2014.
  12. Evidence of Police Blacklist Involvement, Northern Voices, 21 September 2013, accessed 27 April 2014.
  13. Police admit involvement in blacklisting conspiracy - documentary evidence, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, 21 September 2013, accessed 27 April 2014.
  14. A brief, incomplete but hopefully somewhat illustrative contextual timeline of spycop infiltrations around London Greenpeace and beyond throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Bristle's Blog, 23 June 2013.