The Metropolitan Police’s first spy cop operation began with a female undercover agent having sex with a Vietnam war activist, an inquiry has heard.
Helen Crampton is alleged to have been in a relationship with campaigner George Cochrane in 1968.
The allegation would mean undercover police have been having sex with targets for nearly 50 years, with the most recent in 2015.
The claim against former Special Demonstration Squad member Crampton – who is dead – is the second time a woman has been accused of sleeping with a suspect.
Lynn Watson, her covert name, was the other as she hooked up with a climate change activist in a tent as she covered protests in Leeds from 2002 to 2008.
Helen Crampton (pictured) is alleged to have been in a relationship with campaigner George Cochrane in 1968
A demonstration in Grosvenor Square, London, against the Vietnam War is pictured in October 27, 1968
She was with the SDS’s replacement the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and wore a clown outfit during an anti-war parade.
Bizarre footage from the march showed her wearing a colander on her head, saying: ‘What this country needs is more clowns’.
Rajiv Menon QC, representing a group of activists, aired the claims against Crampton at the Undercover Policing Inquiry yesterday.
He said it would be the ‘first example of an officer of the SDS engaging in some form of intimate relationship with a member of a target organisation’.
He claimed he had been given details about a possible relationship from another person ‘as a result of developments in the last few days’.
The inquiry, which started heading from witnesses last week, is being led by Sir John Mitting.
The retired judge has caused outrage among the alleged victims’ families for stopping lawyers from questioning witnesses.
Sir John let Mr Menon ask about a possible link between Crampton and Cochrane as ‘an exceptional course’ because the activist is not expected to give evidence.
But on Thursday he blocked the QC from asking another undercover cop all the questions he wanted to, telling him he would be silenced if he carried on.
Crampton and Joan Hillier – another member of the SDS – infiltrated the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) and attended their Notting Hill meetings in 1968.
At the inquiry Menon asked Hillier, now in her 80s, about chairman of the VSC’s Notting Hill branch Cochrane.
He asked her: ‘To the best of your knowledge or belief, did your former colleague Helen Crampton have some kind of intimate relationship or go out with a member of the Notting Hill Vietnam Solidarity Campaign?’
She said: ‘I don’t know for certain, but I would say I doubt it very much.’
Menon followed up: ‘Did she never at any stage whilst you were both colleagues in the SDS indicate to you that [she had] any kind of social or intimate relationship with anybody in the Notting Hill VSC?’ Hillier said: ‘No, never.’
At least 20 undercover police had sex with suspects while spying on them, with many lasting for years.
The majority were male officers leading campaigners to claim sexism was the root reason the tactic was used.
There are also three known occasions of cops having children with their female targets.
Earlier last week the inquiry heard millions of pounds of public money was ‘misspent’ on undercover policing operations – which included an officer being trained as a clown.
Peter Weatherby QC, who is representing 18 individuals and organisations who have been spied on, played a video of an officer known as EN34, whose undercover name was ‘Lynn Watson’ infiltrating the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
Peter Weatherby QC, who is representing 18 individuals and organisations who have been spied on, played a video of an officer known as EN34, whose undercover name was ‘Lynn Watson’.
In the clip, filmed in Leeds in 2004, she appears in costume and clown make-up, waving a feather duster, as part of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (Circa) – a street performance campaign group.
Mr Weatherby said EN34 infiltrated the group, along with a series of other peace and environmental campaigns, over a five-year period during which she ‘befriended and tricked countless individuals’.
He also showed a picture of HN118, whose assumed name was ‘Simon Wellings’, who he said used his time undercover to build an orange military tank out of plywood and cardboard.
The officer was photographed at an anti-arms trade protest in the tank with the Globalise Resistance group, which he infiltrated from 2002 until he was unmasked in 2004.
‘Lynn Watson’ attended several protests with the clown group at government sites to spy on members activities
Mr Weatherby asked: ‘How is that legitimate policing?’
He told the inquiry: ‘The absurdity of investing massive resources into infiltrating a clown army and groups which oppose wars and the arms trade is well illustrated by these images.
‘This is what the debacle of the last 50 years of undercover political policing looks like.’
‘It goes from the farcical yet deeply damaging involvement of the state in activist organisations and campaigning to the outrage of the deceitful relationships of trust formed with our CPs (core participants), their children, their families and friends, and to the abuse of intimate liaisons, which have been the subject of submissions by others, and which have been profoundly devastating for those involved.
He also showed a picture of HN118, whose assumed name was ‘Simon Wellings’, who he said used his time undercover to build an orange military tank out of plywood and cardboard
Mr Weatherby asked the inquiry into the use of undercover officers: ‘How is that legitimate policing?’
‘This is what millions of pounds of money, diverted from budgets that could have been allocated to the police to protect our communities, or that could have been allocated to other public budgets – to the NHS, to schools to libraries or to the arts – was misspent on.
‘It was misspent over the course of decades and decades of state sanctioned clandestine activities by the police monitoring justice campaigns, anti-racism, anti-police violence groups, environmental campaigns, community solidarity networks, animal rights groups, and the political activism, rebel clowns, musicians, artists, campaigners and others.’
Mr Weatherby told inquiry chairman Sir John Mitting ‘there is nothing funny’ about the images shown and that he was not making a ‘light-hearted point’.
‘It’s profoundly sinister, and an affront, not just to the basic fundamental rights of those I represent, but to democracy itself,’ he added.
The Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI) was set up in 2015 by then-home secretary Theresa May after a series of disclosures about undercover tactics.
It is looking at two units – the Metropolitan Police SDS which existed between 1968 and 2008, and the undercover section of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which existed between 1999 and 2010.