Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner facing calls to resign over spy allegations

Andy Coles accused of deceiving a 19-year-old political activist into a sexual relationship while he was an undercover police officer in the 1990s

Andy Coles is facing calls to resign




Andy Coles’ past as an undercover officer began to unravel following a reference by his brother in his autobiography published in 2014
Photograph: PCC

Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner facing calls to resign over spy allegations

Andy Coles accused of deceiving a 19-year-old political activist into a sexual relationship while he was an undercover police officer in the 1990s

A deputy police and crime commissioner is facing calls to resign from his post after his hidden past as an undercover spy infiltrating political groups was revealed.

Andy Coles, the deputy police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has been accused of deceiving a 19-year-old political activist into forming a sexual relationship while he was an undercover police officer in the 1990s.

The woman is taking legal action against the police, alleging that Coles groomed and manipulated her.

His past as an undercover police officer began to unravel following an apparent indiscretion by his younger brother, the broadcaster and former pop star the Reverend Richard Coles.

In his autobiography published in 2014, the broadcaster made a passing reference to his brother living a double life as an undercover police officer.

A member of the public who had read the book tipped off campaigners at the Undercover Research Group, a network of activists examining the work of police spies.

Investigations by the campaigners and the Guardian have pieced together how Andy Coles spent four years infiltrating animal rights groups.

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous and is known only as “Jessica”, has called for him to step down from his current post of deputy commissioner, where he is responsible for helping to monitor the work of the Cambridgeshire police.

“He is a disgrace to the police. He is contemptible. I think that ordinary police officers would be disgusted by him,” she said. Coles has not responded to requests to comment.

The woman’s action follows a series of lawsuits launched against the police by women who have discovered that they had relationships, often lasting many years, with undercover officers.

Police have been forced to apologise and pay compensation to at least eight women for the abuse and deception they experienced.

After joining the Metropolitan police in 1982, Coles went undercover between 1991 and 1995, adopting a fake identity and living in a bedsit. He pretended to be “Andy Davey”, a removal van driver, while he spied on animal rights groups, according to activists.

The campaigners nicknamed him “Andy Van” because he often gave them lifts to demonstrations in his vehicle.

They were unaware that he was a member of the Metropolitan police’s undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad, feeding back information on them to his superiors. He adopted a rescue dog as part of his manufactured identity.

Jessica has described how she met him in 1992 when she was “naive, idealistic, unsophisticated and a very young 19”.

She says he was her first proper boyfriend. She had just left home and moved into a shared house with other activists.

She says he was a regular visitor to the house when one day he unexpectedly kissed her when they were watching a film alone. “I did not know how to react when he made advances towards me. I was embarrassed, awkward and what truly makes me feel sick now, is that I did not want to hurt his feelings.”

She says she would not have consented to the relationship which later developed if she had known that he was really a police officer.

She says he concealed from her not only his real job as a policeman, but also his marriage to another woman. He was 32, although she says she thought he was about 24.

“Although not legally underage, I feel that my youth and vulnerability were used to target me. I was groomed by someone much older, and far more experienced, and I was manipulated into having a sexual relationship with him. I didn’t even know his real name.”

According to her legal claim, their relationship lasted more than a year. For nine months of that time, she maintained a long-distance relationship with him as she was working abroad.

Coles’s brother, a former member of the Communards who later became a priest, wrote in his 2014 autobiography that his older sibling’s double life involved infiltrating “some sinister organisation while his wife and baby daughter made do with unpredictable visits … He looked like he had just walked out of the woods, his hair long and shaggy, with a straggly beard, his ears rattling with piercings.”

Coles disappeared from the animal rights movement in 1995, telling activists that he was moving to eastern Europe to teach English. The following year, he sent a letter from Hungary to campaigners implying that the police were investigating him.

In reality, he had returned to Scotland Yard where he continued working until he retired from the police in 2012.

In 2015, he was elected a Conservative councillor in Peterborough. Last July, he was appointed to the paid post of the deputy police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

He was personally selected by Jason Ablewhite, the commissioner, who praised his “wealth of experience both in policing and public service”.

Ablewhite said he would not comment when asked if he retained his confidence in Coles, or if Coles had disclosed his undercover mission or the relationship to him before he was appointed.

Jessica says she has suffered “severe shock and distress” after discovering earlier this year from other activists that he was a police spy. “This has been one of the most stressful times I have ever known, my life as I knew it was a lie. One of the people I trusted most never existed. I can’t look back at those times in the same way now. I can’t trust my judgment because I got things so wrong.”

She asked for a public inquiry into the undercover infiltration of hundreds of political groups since 1968 to examine his conduct.

The public inquiry was set up by Theresa May when she was home secretary following a series of revelations about undercover police officers.

The inquiry – led by Lord Justice Pitchford – is scrutinising the activities of other undercover officers who formed intimate relationships with women they were spying on.

Police apology to women deceived into long-term relationships

Police have so far apologised to at least eight women who were deceived into forming “abusive and manipulative” long-term relationships with undercover officers.

One woman, known only as Jacqui, was profoundly traumatised after she discovered by chance that an undercover officer, Bob Lambert, was the father of her son. She found out 24 years after Lambert, who pretended to be an animal rights and environmental activist, had abandoned her and her son.

The Metropolitan police also paid compensation to seven other women in 2015 who had intimate relationships, lasting years, with undercover officers.

Martin Hewitt, assistant commissioner at the Met, acknowledged the “courage and tenacity” of the women in taking legal action, adding that some officers had “entered into long-term intimate sexual relationships with women which were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong”.

Police chiefs have claimed that the undercover officers were not permitted under any circumstances to sleep with people they were spying on.

The police are facing more legal claims as other women have discovered that their former boyfriends were undercover officers.

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