Spycop liberated chickens, and other updates on Andy Coles

Andy Coles undercover with Gulf War Resisters at Fairford, 1991. Photo Noor Admani; (c) Peace News.

Donal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group, 6 June 2017

Since the exposure of Andy Coles as the former spycop Andy ‘Van’ Davey, more information on him has been steadily trickling in. We’ve collected the most important updates:

  • Infiltrating the anti-war group ARROW
  • Another allegation of inappropriate behaviour
  • Andy’s role in a 1993 chicken liberation;
  • Questions over possibly illegally obtained police warrants.

New discoveries: infiltrating anti-war groups

Peace News has revealed that prior to infiltrating animal rights groups, Andy Coles targeted the small but highly visible anti-war group Gulf War Resisters, later Active Resistance against the Roots of War (ARROW). As Andy Davey, he attended their meetings and demos throughout 1991. Peace News also unearthed the first proper full face photo of Andy undercover (shown above), and two of him on a protest.

Davey’s time as an anti-war protester preceded his tour in animal rights, but his cover was already in place – he would wear the clothes, and use the same pager and the van he would appear with later on. To the anti-war activists he made out that he was already involved in the Animal Liberation Front – not true as far as we know –  which he used to add an aura of mysteriousness about his background. In Peace News Emily Johns explains she found this very weird at the time:

He told me, to impress me I thought, that he was a press officer for the ALF (Animal Liberation Front).

I remember thinking: ‘What kind of a fool do you take me for? Or what kind of a fool are you to tell me that?’ The ALF was and still is a very secretive group, carrying out direct action against animal exploitation. Either Andy was not a press officer for the ALF, and he thought that I was the kind of person who would be impressed by that boast, or he was an ALF press officer breaking the secrecy of the group with someone he barely knew.

It got so bad protesters didn’t think Andy was his real name.

As with animal rights, Andy Davey tried to start up relationships with those he was targeting. At one point, while staying at the home of activist Emily Johns, it was clear he was hoping to initiate something (which she has also described as grooming); when offered the couch rather than her bed he left in a rage. After this, he immediately vanished from the group.

In an ironic twist, a few years ago Andy Coles wrote an anti-war poem on the destruction of Aleppo, Syria’s Woe, published by the Peterborough Writers Circle in 2014. When writing it, one wonders, did he ever feel a twinge of guilt over infiltrating anti-war groups all those years ago?

Andy liberated chickens

There is another new story we can reveal. In 1992, Andy was a driver and key person for a chicken liberation, when 83 birds were taken from the Great Hookley farm in Elsted, Surrey. One participant told us that the action would not have happened without Andy driving, and it seems he was enthusiastic in recruiting for it.

With the curious twists that turn up so often in the spycop scandal, the first time the group tried the action, they encountered a groups of squaddies carrying out training manoeuvres across the same fields. When they went back the following week, the farm was suddenly covered in floodlights – something the activists put down to the encounter with the soldiers. In hindsight, it is clear the farm were tipped off by police.

Nevertheless, the group went ahead with the raid, and went into the sheds to rescue the chickens. The various people who were involved all told us Andy actively participated and recall it was likely he went into the sheds as well.

As they made their get-away, Andy’s van was stopped by police. Yet, despite chickens flying around the back, the officers simply waved them on, something they considered a miracle at the time. The birds were taken to new homes.

Curiously, the main Brixton hunt sab house was raided by police shortly afterwards in relation to this liberation. Andy would have known though these people had nothing to do with the action. Yet, among those carrying out the raid were officers from Special Branch’s Animal Rights National Index (which later became the National Public Order Intelligence Unit) – who would have worked closely with Andy’s own unit, the Special Demonstration Squad.

Which begs to the question – given the police behind the raid knew the Brixton house had nothing to do with the raid – was the warrant obtained under false pretences….?

Illegally obtained warrants

This is not the only time that Andy was probably connected to dubious police activity. We are now fairly certain it was Andy who drove for the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit (ALIU) to do an inspection of the MAFF Worplesdon faculty in 1993.

Months later, the faculty was visited again, now by the Animal Liberation Front, and animals were taken. However, the ALF action was used as an excuse to raid the house of people involved in the ALIU inspection were then living; the police ripped up floorboards, and unnecessarily took a significant amount of campaign material as ‘evidence’.

Questions remain – More answers needed

So, many more questions remain, for Andy Coles and for the Pitchford Inquiry. Why is Andy Coles not yet recognised as an undercover officer? And will the Inquiry be looking at  raids conducted under false pretences?

In the meantime there are still questions over his actions and why he remains a Tory councillor in Peterborough. He does appear to have stepped down from some positions (or may not have had much of a choice), but he still holds a number of others. These include school governorships, which people find particularly inappropriate given his behaviour as a undercover. Those who have put in official complaints are still waiting to hear the outcome.

As some on Twitter have spotted, Coles stepped down as spokesman for the local Conservative Party – not long after he was first approached by media for his response to the allegations.

Coles has yet to issue statement, including any denial; the Undercover Policing Inquiry has yet to comment either. Other authorities prefer to hide behind the referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC has still to say whether it is even going to accept the referral, which may take some time.

As ever, our thanks to all who have come forward with information. Please do keep it coming, as you never know when a small detail will open a whole new aspect worthy of investigation. We are still looking for more information on Andy’s activities undercover, particularly regarding driving for the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit. If you have memories of that time, please get in touch. We are also seeking to find more information on what role he had, if any, in relation to arrests of hunts sabs at
a) Farnham in October 1993
b) Essex in 1994 leading to a large case at Chelmsford.

Read our updated profile of Coles undercover as Andy Davey.

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