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The horrifying story of Helen and her boyfriend the police spy


You've probably heard the horrifying stories in the Guardian this week about the police spies who infiltrated every kind of protest group over the last 50 years. Our great friend Helen Steel - she the star of our McLibel documentary - has very bravely come forward to say publicly what her friends have known for many years: that the boyfriend, John "Barker", who she lived with and passionately loved for two years back in the early 90s, was in fact police spy John Dines, who was cynically using her to get information on the campaigns she and her fellow protestors were involved with. John had been trained to reflect her dreams back at her, making her feel that she'd found her ideal man, so she would fall ever more deeply in love and reveal more and more information he could pass back to his superiors: they even discussed and planned their future, with him pretending to share her dream of living together on a smallholding, raising their children... So when John suddenly disappeared, Helen was understandably beside herself with worry, not knowing whether he was alive or dead - and she then spent the next 18 years searching for him as far afield as New Zealand, when in fact he was working a desk job back at the Met, with his long hair cut off, just a few miles from the home they had shared. (See Helen's interview on Channel 4's Dispatches here:

If you've seen our McLibel film (if not, watch here:, you'll know that Helen and her co-defendant Dave Morris were also spied on by seven McDonald's spies, making her undoubtedly one of the most spied-upon people in history. It is also now publicly known that police spy Bob Lambert - who fathered and then abandoned a child with his activist girlfriend and who, according to Caroline Lucas MP speaking under parliamentary privilege, was one of three ALF activists responsible for a firebombing campaign of department stores - was also one of the people who wrote the McLibel leaflet over which Helen and Dave were sued! So now McDonald's know who actually wrote the leaflet - it was always known that it wasn't Helen and Dave - I trust they will be seeking damages and a retrial of McLibel with Bob Lambert MBE (oh yeah, he was awarded an MBE for "services to police work") as defendant. Count me in to make a documentary about that trial... Somehow I doubt it, though, as the police and McDonald's were, surprise surprise, working closely together - after McLibel, the police admitted handing Helen and Dave's personal information to McDonald's during the trial, awarded them a cash settlement and agreed "to remind their officers of their responsibility not to disclose information on the Police National Computer to a third party".

Helen and seven other women who unwittingly had relationships with the spies - one of whom said "it's like being raped by the state" - have launched a legal action against the police. Their statement is here: and they are appealing for donations here: It is hard to think of any campaign more worthy of helping, so please give your credit card an outing on their behalf - and then go to this page: where the women list all sorts of other ways you can help.

You can see how angry I am about all this... And therefore may not be surprised to hear that Lizzie and I are hoping to put these stories onto film... tho film not of the documentary persuasion... Watch this space....

Here's a thought: if the suffragettes had been targeted by these kind of police tactics, would their campaign have ultimately succeeded or would women today still not have the vote? And so what kind of world would we be living in now, if the state had not deliberately damaged these movements for social change over the last half century? Would the economy have collapsed? Would the climate be on the brink of catastrophe?

Please help the women fight back.

Yours in disbelief,
Twitter: @frannyarmstrong

PS Wow, what an incredible response to my last message, "We've passed 400 ppm, now what?", by far the most replies ever. I've posted loads of the messages on our website and am intending to summarise them and write another mailing list as soon as I can get round to it.... well, definitely before we hit 450ppm...