The case of Gary R & Abigail L … another two unconfirmed undercovers.

SPEAK logoDonal O’Driscoll and Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 13 July 2016

Today the Undercover Research Group is able to release profiles of two individuals strongly believed to have been undercover police officers infiltrating animal rights groups in Oxford. They particularly associated with the high-profile SPEAK campaign against a local vivisection laboratory. They turned up in 2006 as a couple, with Abigail leaving in 2008 and Gary in 2010.

URG believes that, as we set out below, everything now points to them being undercover police, though nothing official has been found to confirm this definitively. This is why we have not provided their full cover names or images at this stage. Nevertheless, their connections to several high profile cases means the danger of miscarriages of justice cannot be ignored either, and hence why we have decided to publish at this stage.

Abigail and Gary have been a difficult case for Undercover Research Group. Suspicion regarding Gary began early on – while he was still active – and our extensive research shows that he and the woman he presented as his partner fit the profile of undercover officers – as we will explain below. Most importantly, they don’t seem to exist in official records, outside the time they were active in Oxford. It is clear to us that the lack of background is strong enough to say that Gary and Abigail are effectively ‘ghost identities’.

Much of our research work involved the effort to actually find these two people, to disproof the suspicions by showing that they just moved on from being activists and lost contact with old friends. We followed as many leads as possible, difficult in places as their apparent background stories overlapped with those of other people who really exist – perhaps deliberately so.

However, every lead dried up. In particular, we have not been able to find birth certificates for either of them, and they effectively only have electoral roll records for the times they were active in animal rights, or the year before or after.

Of the various possibilities as to what they may have been, we believe on balance of probabilities, that both were serving police officers rather than, say, private intelligence agents. Much of their activity sits within the picture of police tradecraft built up from confirmed undercover officers. Given that at the time SPEAK was a very high profile campaign and that another strongly suspected undercover officer, ‘RC’, had recently exited the group, there is reason enough to believe that a replacement would be sent to focus on this group.

We reiterate, that in this case, as with RC, no proof has been found that is as conclusive as was the case with say Mark Kennedy or Carlo Neri. However, given the high chance of miscarriages of justice having taken place, given significant court cases Gary would have touched on, and having exhausted all other options, it seems to us that the consequences of not going public outweigh the residual risk that we are in error. As with RC, we are prepared to offer an apology if they come forward and clear up the various outstanding questions marks hanging over them.

Undercover active in Norway?

One of the reasons why we have decided to publish our research about Gary and Abigail now, is the possible connection to the court case of Debbie Vincent: Gary’s presence at an animal rights gathering in Norway. We may need to add him to the long list of undercover officers who have been active abroad.

Debbie Vincent is an animal rights campaigner currently in jail having been convicted of conspiracy to blackmail the research company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and its clients. Her trial, which revealed that an undercover officer posed as an employee of drugs company Novartis in an sting operation against her, is also interesting in the context of Gary R.

Court documents show that at least one NPOIU police officer attended an animal rights gathering in Norway to spy on Debbie Vincent, and reported back on who she was meeting. Careful reading of the short bit of prosecution evidence in Debbie’s case file implies that the officer was not an external monitor (though at least one other NPOIU officer, intelligence gatherer Ian Skivens was seen in hanging out in the back of an Oslo police vehicle), but someone with access to the group. This indicates that he was a relatively trusted individual known to the UK animal rights campaigners present.

This is the same gathering that Gary attended and is known to have volunteered to wash-up alongside Debbie.

Gary is also know to have associated with Mel Broughton, of the SPEAK campaign, and attended his court hearings on at least one occasion. Broughton was later sentenced to jail for an arson attack on Oxford University.

Continue to our profile of Gary and Abigail.

What we have found on Gary and Abigail

Interviewing people who knew him and trying to find detailed answers to the fifteen questions we work with, it is clear that Gary is the lead individual in this particular infiltration, so we primarily focus on him. However, if he is a police officer, then it is highly probable that Abigail was one too, or was at least in on the secret.

  1. Background & family

Both Gary and Abigail provided little on their background. Abigail’s is non-existent, though Gary did have a story of a volatile ex-partner and a daughter he went away to see at weekends (with Abigail), but whom nobody ever met in person. The one chance at meeting the daughter, during a vegan fair in Bristol, was called off. Gary did have a photo of his daughter, and one apparently of his ex (they were not married), but nothing further. No evidence of his family has been found in official records, nor of himself outside the time he was active. Gary stated he had spent time outside of the UK previously which would justify some gaps in the records, however, the time line does not entirely match as there is a significant gap between the birth of his daughter, in the UK after he and his ex came back from Canada, and his appearance in Oxford

Both came with very little in the way of friendships outside animal rights groups. Abigail appeared to have none until she left; while Gary had one friend: Neil, whose behaviour raised concerns in itself.

  1. Getting involved

Gary said he had partaken in some form of political activity in Manchester prior to coming to Oxford, including having been involved in some sort of riot there, though it is not clear what this was. He was not active with Manchester animal rights groups as far as has been ascertained. When he turned up in Oxford, he said he had not done animal rights before, and now was his chance. Abigail has no background story on why she was into animal rights.

  1. Politics

Both turned up as fully fledged vegans. Gary said he had once worked in a battery farm, which had turned him vegetarian. While Gary gave the impression of being very into animal rights, he was scathing of environmentalists and showed no interest in other projects around him.

  1. Occupation

Gary claimed to be a web-designer working from home, while Abigail said she was a photographer. Both jobs allowed them to be away for periods at a time. In the small community of East Oxford, this line of work allowed him to be around and generally available, while not having to give the impression of having a regular job.

Questions were raised over the quality of his work – for example, at the time it was next to impossible to find a website he had designed for the local group. He explained this away by admitting he was a lazy person.

A search on projects he and Abigail might have worked on have turned up nothing. No photos are mentioned as having been taken by Abigail or sold by her, and there are no mentions of Gary as a team member in web-design group or project; there are no sites advertising either of them. No trace was found of Gary having previously worked in the music industry, as he claimed to have done.

  1. Residences

Their place at East Oxford did not look like a home. It appeared to have been created from scratch with all matching crockery, and a lack of personal items. This could have been because they had only recently moved there, but claiming to have already spent some time in the UK prior to coming to Oxford, one would expect more personal and family orientated items.

  1. Cars & driving

Gary had a car which he was willing to use, including taking people to demonstrations. His driving skills did not stand out though one person described him as making them feel safe. Abigail apparently had been a courier at one point.

  1. Character and helpfulness

Gary came over as a friendly, jolly bloke who was easy to be around. Abigail was also friendly, but harder to get to close to. Both were sociable though. Gary was considered helpful, and even going out of his way at times, such as taking people to the funeral of a leading animal rights activist who he had never met.

  1. Money

Neither were flash with money. Gary had a bit, but the job he claimed to have justified him having slightly more than those around him.

  1. Focus on key people

To some extent Gary focussed on leading activists in the Oxford group and in SPEAK. This included one person he had previously mocked, but whom he later made an effort to get quite close to. However, its noteworthy that after she entered into a relationship with another person, Gary left the scene.

  1. Arrests and police activity

Neither Gary nor Abigail have no known arrests. No obvious changes in police behaviour were noted during the time they were around. Nor are there specific suspicions about police being aware in advance – possibly through inside knowledge. However, it is difficult to conclude anything about this, as public SPEAK events were always met with a police presence. And the NPOIU is known to be careful to protect the identities of their officers, and rather keep gathered intelligence to themselves than sharing it with other police or the CPS, as we have seen with Mark Kennedy and the Radcliffe trial.

Exit
Abigail’s disappearance was rather sudden, she did not even say goodbye to people. Her break up with Gary was very low key. After she left there was no further contact from her.

Gary’s move out of Oxford and his extended travelling made his exit is more a gradual process. Gary has always used the cover of his job taking him abroad, towards the end he went to Canada for several months. Moreover, by the time he disappeared, he was under considerable suspicion – so certain people had stopped engaging with him altogether. However, those who had remained close to him, saw a pattern of distancing now familiar from studies of other undercover officers: of going abroad, and after that sporadic contact via email, two quick visits, then total silence with him not responding to contact attempts.

Gary was active in animal rights from 2006 to 2010, which fits the standard deployment period for undercovers in the political police units.

  1. Oddities

  • The relationship between Gary and Abigail was clearly problematic, including Gary kissing and making passes at another activist while she was around.

  • Why did Gary appear to have a secret meeting with a plain-clothes police officer at night, in a park & ride on the outskirts of the city?

  • Gary’s moving to Abingdon is unusual in that it took him away from the centre of things and he seem to have no reason for going there. However, the move took place after Gary had become aware that some in the Oxford group suspected him of being an undercover officer. And his address in Abingdon, placed him just over a mile down the road from the local Police Station – the base of Operation Rumble, Thames Valley Police’s operation against animal rights activists.

  • When Gary came back briefly to catch up with one activist, he had changed appearance, smartening up and looking fitter. It is also of note that he was asking her about the situation with the SPEAK campaign.

  • The DVD he made of campaigners is of concern as it had clear images and voices of many activists.

  • Gary’s age given at the Electoral Roll is different from what he told activists, placing his date of birth about seven years or so earlier.

Checking out the background

Core to each of our investigations into suspicions of infiltration, is trying to find the person in question in public records or anywhere else, to disprove him or her being an undercover. There are all kinds of reasons why people disappear from the activist scene and move on with their lives – so we check out the background stories first.

In this case, a cursory investigation of Gary and Abigail would appear to indicate their background stories are correct. The electoral register shows a Gary R. in Stockport in 2006, and Abigail turns up in Doncaster in 2008. However, there is a lack of substantial material outside of this.

(i) Abigail L.

  • There is no trace of her prior to moving to Oxford (when she does appear at the Hurst Street address), and we have not been able to find a birth certificate for anyone of this name in the appropriate time period, including the 1963 date listed when she was in Oxford.

  • After she disappeared from Oxford, she seems to be registered in Doncaster in 2008, living with a Charles J. After this, she vanishes from the official registers. No record of her as a photographer has been found.

  • There is only one other Abigail L… in the UK, but it is straight-forward to trace that persons movements – for instance, she is consistently in the electoral register for the age range 18-21. She does appear in Manchester but this is in 2007.

(ii) Gary R.

  • He appears in the electoral roll as Gary J. R…, with the J believed to stand for John.

  • One activist was able to provide some detail of Gary’s date of birth, as being 23-28th February in the years 1972-1974, and that it was in the UK. There was one possible candidate, born in late January, 1973. However, a look at his family showed that he had two sisters; whereas Gary in Oxford spoke only of a brother.

  • A date of birth was given on the electoral roll as 25 February 1977, but there was no matching birth certificate.
  • The search was widened to take in other possible candidates, but they could pretty much be ruled out following careful consideration of their histories in official records.

  • A Gary R… appears as living in Denton in Manchester, but it has been possible to rule this person out as a candidate. His birthday is given as 28 October 1972, and he stopped being on the Electoral Roll for this address in 2006 in somewhat convenient timing for being our Gary. However, directorship records show that he continued to be based there until the present.

  • As noted above, no trace of Gary’s web-design work could be found.

NCND

We are in the process of contacting the police but do not expect that we will get anything further than the usual ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ response. Likewise we have emailed Gary on his known email addresses and have yet to receive any response.

If you have any further information on these individuals, please get in touch.

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