Dónal O’Driscoll and Eveline Lubbers, Undercover Research Group, 12 May 2017
Today we expose Andy Davey who was undercover in the animal rights movement in the early 1990s. His real name is Andy Coles, and he is currently a Tory councillor and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.
Simon Israel at Channel4 News at 7pm has an interview with ‘Jessica’, the woman Coles groomed into a relationship when she was just 19, and in the Guardian Rob Evans has Jessica calling for Coles to resign.
Breaking – Andy Coles resigns as Deputy Police Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, our blog, 15 May 2017.
Rob Evans, Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner resigns over spy claims, The Guardian, 15 May 2017
Each discovery of a new undercover police officer in protest movement comes with its own unique twists and turns. For Andy Coles, it began with a small paragraph in the autobiography of his more famous brother, the former popstar (The Communards!) Rev. Richard Coles. From there we were able to track not only what he got up to undercover, but also where he is now. These days, he is a Tory councillor and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The painstakingly unravelling of a hidden identity and documenting the activities of spycops is a process that usually takes months and months. More often than not, what you are left with after excruciating amounts of sifting out false positives is only 95% certainty that someone had indeed been a spycop.
Finding Andy Coles was a very different story: it moved much faster. His undercover persona Andy Davey, also known as Andy ‘Van’, was first outed by his former animal rights comrade Paul Gravett online in 2014. At the time, little was known other than that Andy fitted the pattern of spycops discovered to date. However, the investigation began in earnest when in January 2017 we got a little help from some friends. Someone reading Fathomless Riches, Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit, the autobiography of the pop star, broadcaster and Anglican priest Richard Coles, spotted the following intriguing paragraph:
My older brother, Andy, brought his own drama with him. 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; but his disarray was not like mine, an outward sign of internal distress, but suffered in the line of duty. He had joined Special Branch and was undercover, living a double life, infiltrated into some sinister organisation while his wife and baby daughter made do with unpredictable visits.
The reader, also called Richard, recognised the passage’s importance and told his friend Dave, who in turn contacted the Undercover Research Group. It took an amount of digging through the book, the Coles family tree and online sources before we were able confirm Richard’s suspicion that Rev. Coles’ brother is the current Deputy Commissioner for Police and Crime for Cambridgeshire, Andy Coles.
The next issue was to identify who he had been when undercover. Coles’ CV includes a period with Special Branch at the Met which fitted the timeline. Family records tied together with the small fragments of details in the book, allowed us to pinpoint the undercover paragraph to the year 1994.
Based on the fact that spycops usually kept their first names, we knew he would have been called Andy. Confusingly, we had more than one candidate of that name as spycop for that period, in different movements. One was called Andy Davey, nicknamed ‘Andy Van’ because – as is common with spycops – he conveniently came with a vehicle to facilitate activists to go to protests or to prepare actions. To complicate things even more, there was another activist who also went by the name ‘Andy Van’ – and he was definitely not a spycop! To solve these issues, we cautiously circulated photos of Andy Coles to a small circle of people active at the time to see if they recognised him.
Paul Gravett came back almost immediately – 100% sure it was Andy Davey. From there we could start moving and reaching out to others. We then got a call from ‘Jessica’, who had coincidentally just learned of the suspicion around Andy Davey through Paul’s website. He filled her in with the latest on Andy’s real identity.
The moment Jessica saw the video of Andy Coles being accepted as Deputy Commissioner of Police for Cambridgeshire last July, she knew he was one and the same as Davey. The voice matched exactly. ‘Shirley’, a campaigner who had known Andy in Brixton and who had already been suspicious of him twenty years ago, confirmed it too. In addition, two other people who had known him well in his undercover identity made clear and positive identifications.
Jessica told us that she had been in a relationship with Andy Davey from 1992 when she was just 19. He claimed to be 24, while in reality he was 32; she now feels she was groomed, and used by the police to get access to animal rights activists.
Up to that point Jessica had not been following the undercover policing scandal or the Pitchford Inquiry. So not only was her life turned upside down after discovering her first serious boyfriend had in fact been a secret policeman with ulterior motives, she was also learning that she was not alone. She is now part of a growing group of people asking for justice, for truth and transparency about how they were targeted through relationships by political police. She was interviewed by Channel 4 and the Guardian, to speak out on what has happened to her.
Release the cover names!
Jessica’s story underscores yet again the importance of the demand to release the cover names of the dozens of spycops and the list of campaigning groups they have infiltrated since 1968. Releasing those would significantly speed up the research and help people targeted to get closure.
In their apology to the eight women who fought a long a bitter battle in court over similar long-term intimate sexual relationships, the Metropolitan police conceded that these were abusive, deceitful, manipulative and wrong” and that “these relationships were a violation of the women’s human rights, an abuse of police power and caused significant trauma”.
On retiring from the police, Coles went on to take up positions as a trusted member of civil society – school governor, local councillor and then Deputy Commissioner.
In the light of what has been discovered about his past, Andy Coles’ continued participation in a position that demands integrity and transparency is untenable. It is difficult to see how he has any other choice but to stand down.
- Jessica’s statement at the Police Spies Out of Lives and the PSOOL blog, 12 May 2017.
- Paul Gravett, Andy Davey, the quiet spycop turned tory councillor an deputy police and crime commissioner, ARspycatcher, 12 May 2017.
- Rob Evans, Cambridgeshire deputy police commissioner facing calls to resign over spy allegations, Guardian, 12 May 2017.
- Simon Isreal, Police official under pressure to quit, Channel4 News, 12 May 2017.