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Spycop was ordered by senior police to claim his bosses were unaware of his covert activities, public inquiry hears

by Bethany Rielly
at the Undercover Policing Inquiry in the Amba Hotel, central London 

AN UNDERCOVER officer who was unmasked as a spycop was ordered by senior police to claim that his bosses were unaware of his clandestine activities, the continuing public inquiry heard today. 

After his cover was blown, “Dave Robertson,” an officer who infiltrated small Moaist groups in the 1970s, said he was paid a visit by the Metropolitan Police’s deputy commissioner and the head of the force’s special branch.

He claimed senior officers had created a “masterplan” to deal with the problem, and said that if he was confronted for being a spycop, he should say that he was “acting completely ‘off my own bat’ and that my superior officers were unaware of what I was doing,” the inquiry heard.

The officer was giving evidence to the Undercover Policing Inquiry, which is investigating the conduct of officers who served in the special demonstration squad (SDS), a secret Scotland Yard unit accused of serial abuses over decades. 

“It was them covering their tracks,” he told the inquiry, adding that he felt “very upset that, when a little bit of support was needed ... it was not there.” 

The activities of spycops were not only known and supported by their bosses, but also senior Met officers, the Home Office and MI5. 

The inquiry earlier heard that police chiefs and the Home Office had been aware the SDS’s activities would be a “source of acute embarrassment for the Home Secretary,” and had stressed discretion. 

“Mr Robertson” was outed as a police spy after he was recognised by a woman at a meeting, leading to managers pulling him out of his three-year deployment in 1973. 

The former officer, who is now in his 80s or 90s, was questioned over accusations that he had threatened the family of the woman who recognised him.

The accusations were made by campaigner Diane Langford, who was spied on by “Mr Robertson” when he infiltrated the Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League group that she co-founded. 

Giving evidence to the inquiry on Monday, Ms Langford said “Mr Robertson” grabbed the wrist of her co-worker Ethel after she appeared to recognise him and pulled her from the room. 

“Mr Robertson” is said to have threatened to do “something nasty” to Ethel’s family in Ireland if she told anyone he was a police officer. 

Dismissing Ms Langford’s account as “completely inaccurate,” “Mr Robertson” said he had gone up to Ethel and “pretended to give her a hug, and I whispered in her ear …  ‘‘I’m getting out of here now, say as little as you can about me’.” 

The officer also dismissed accusations that his reporting of campaigners included sexist and racist remarks. Asked why he had detailed the ethnicity of campaigners in one report to his superiors, he claimed that “race was not a problem in my day.” 

He also claimed that he had no recollection of a meeting in which he was accused of glossing over an allegation of attempted rape.

The former spycop repeatedly claimed that he did not remember many of the events, which happened 50 years ago. 

This contrasted heavily with Ms Langford’s evidence the previous day, which gave a detailed account of the campaigning activities, meetings and events she was involved with in the 1960s and 70s. 

The inquiry continues. 

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