Interview with friends of Spycop Marco Jacobs
In the summer of 2005 Marco Jacobs, 44, a gardener and long-distance lorry driver moved to Cardiff after the break-up of his marriage.
He quickly became involved with protest groups and made friends in the local activist scene.
So far, so normal.
But Marco Jacobs was not his real name and, unknown to friends who welcomed him into their lives, he was an undercover cop sent by police to infiltrate political and social justice groups.
Marco originated from the Leicestershire Constabulary and may still be in active service today.
As the current Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing chaired by Sir John Mitting has confirmed, he was just one of at least 144 undercover officers spying on more than 1,000 protest groups since 1968.
Media coverage so far has rightly focused on the abuse of women, but we hear from some of the men whose lives were infiltrated.
Tom Fowler, 37, a printer and activist from Newport, maintained a five-year friendship with Marco.
Along with a number of women whose lives were infiltrated, he is the only male who went on to sue the police over the deception.
“When I found out about Marco the overriding emotion, one that sticks with me, is essentially fear. He was so involved in my personal life it was horrific.
“When you find out that your friend of five years was not a person – that person was not an individual, it was a state actor. Then the shock and fear hits you.”
His legal battle against The Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police and The Association of Chief Police Officers lasted seven years, and his claim was recently settled out of court.
Marco Jacobs infiltrated many local and international campaign groups including: the St. Petersburg anti-G-8 Group, the campaign against the privatization of military training at the St Athan defense academy in South Wales, the broad anti-globalization movement, No Borders South Wales, Dissent Network, Climate Camp, Swansea Animal Rights, Cardiff Anarchist Network, and Eat Out Vegan Wales.
Marco played his role to completion and travelled across Britain, France and Germany, gaining intelligence for the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).
Tom, who was involved in many social action groups, said:
“We were very close friends, he was my closest friend at the time. He was certainly aware of my innermost thoughts.
Andy Williams, 40, an activist and lecturer from Cardiff had a four-year friendship with Marco.
He would spend time with him at social gatherings, and when he had celebratory drinks for the birth of his first child, Marco was among the first to be invited.
“Marco was a lovely bloke, he was a good friend which makes it all the more horrible really, as none of it was real.”
The Cardiff activists worked with the Guardian newspaper to unmask Marco in late 2010.
Andy said: “It’s almost like bereavement, you’ve lost a friend, but been betrayed by them as well.
“Marco intentionally destroyed the lives of close friends, and that makes me really angry.”
Tom believes he was directly targeted by the police and intentionally used as a gateway into local, national, and international political groups.
In court proceedings police lawyers disclosed his name was officially referenced in 58,000 national police record files:
“This betrayal and infiltration of my life became my identity, and the most significant thing in my life. I’m still feeling the consequences every day, I have trust issues and it has changed me as a person.
“I had no new emotions left when I found out my name had been referenced in so many files. There’s no justification for this interference in my life for five years, it’s psychologically devastating.”
Damaged activists, damaged individuals:
What did Marco achieve in his role as an undercover officer? Tom said:
“In terms of destruction he was very successful, he planted and created distrust within groups, and this was felt for many years, Marco left us with many damaged individuals who did not trust anyone new.”
Andy said: “We know that sex was used as a key weapon for gaining trust by spycops, and Marco did this too, this is one of the most disgusting methods they used, and like others who were affected I see these women as victims of state rape.
“The life-long effects, won’t ever go away for me and my friends. We’re still dealing with this.”
Are spycops still out there?
Are undercover spycops still in activists’ lives, posing as friends? Both Cardiff activists think so.
Tom explained: “The undercover units have obviously changed tactics since the revelations, and now the use of informers is high, and a significant amount is now spent surveilling in real time, with electronic surveillance.”
Andy said: “There’s plenty to suggest they’re still infiltrating lives of political activists. I strongly suspect this is still happening.
“This is something the current public inquiry should look into, but there’s no guarantee we’ll find out.”
The Undercover Policing Inquiry
The inquiry was due to finish this year and has been delayed until 2023, and the activists who are core participants recently walked out after losing faith in the process.
As highlighted in a campaign by retailer Lush and the campaign group Police Spies Out of Lives, they state that until the undercover officers’ names, and the groups on which they spied, are released it will be impossible to get justice.
Andy revealed: “I think it’s disgusting that the inquiry will not be releasing the real names of Marco and the other undercover officers’ we know about, and really worrying that it hasn’t released the cover names of others.
“When the rights of abusive police officers are more important than the rights of people whose lives have been invaded and blighted by police spies, something is seriously wrong.
“This is supposed to be a public inquiry, but so far it looks more like a cover-up and an exercise in damage limitation, it should be renamed the secret inquiry.”