How A Cop's Undercover Assignment Cost Scotland Yard A Hefty Sum

Undercover police work has been a thing for a couple of centuries, ever since French criminal-turned-informant Eugène François Vidocq ⁠— who, it bears noting, inspired the character Jean Valjean in "Les Misérables" ⁠— started the practice, according to Britannica. To this day, undercover police officers help identify and thwart drug dealers, human traffickers, terrorist cells, and other criminal elements. Sometimes cops will go deep undercover, often at great risk to their safety, in order to capture their target.

However, in at least a couple of cases out of the United Kingdom, it appears that undercover agents took their jobs a bit too seriously, even going so far as to cultivate romantic relationships and father children with women in their attempts to nab criminals. The activities of these men, and reporting by The Guardian, spurned a British judge to launch an investigation into Scotland Yard's undercover practices. At least one undercover officer has already cost his employer hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to his zeal resulting in a child being born.

An ardent animal rights activist

Back in the early 1980s, a woman identified only by the pseudonym "Jacqui" was involved in the animal rights movement (per Vice). She and her team most certainly raised their share of hell, such as a 1987 incident in which she and other activists targeted London-area shops that refused to stop selling fur. In one incident, the activists did £340,000 (about $430,000) in damage to a suburban London store.

Jacqui is clear that she was involved in criminal activity in those days. "[We were] becomingly increasingly a bit of a pain in the arse to the establishment, and no one ever got hurt, there was never any violence or anything. But there was a lot of economic damage being caused," she said (via Vice). She also knew, in those days, that her group was constantly being infiltrated by corporate spies, such as from McDonald's. In fact, she would later say that she believed that at least half of the people attending her group's meetings were infiltrators.

The British government takes an interest

The British government was concerned with the activities of Jacqui's criminal animal-rights group, but in a larger sense, they were also looking into other groups considered left-wing (via The Guardian). This gave birth to the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which is believed to have spied on thousands of activists over a 40-year period.

One of the agents sent to spy on such groups was Bob Lambert. To pull off a convincing act as a left-wing anarchist, he grew his hair long and took on the name Bob Robinson, which was actually the real name of a young boy who had died a few years earlier. As it would later be revealed, taking on the names of deceased children was a common tactic of SDS agents.

So committed to his role was "Robinson" that he even taught other activists how to spot infiltrators and "outed" another member of Jacqui's group as a spy. "We all ostracized this person. And yet [Bob] was the enemy within," Jacqui told Vice.

In too deep

Not only did Bob Lambert go deep undercover in Jacqui's organization, he also cultivated a romantic relationship with her — a tactic that a Guardian investigation revealed was repeated by at least two other Special Demonstration Squad agents. However, Lambert and the other two agents impregnated the women, as well.

Jacqui would later tell Vice that "Robinson" played the role of a devoted father and partner, even staying by her side while she went through 14 hours of labor for their son. He was also a part of Jacqui and the boy's life for the next two years; however, that came to an end following the attack on a suburban London department store. "Robinson," who all the while had a real wife and family, said that the heat was on and he was fleeing the country, but he would be back. He actually got promoted and went to work on a different case. As for Jacqui and her son, he simply ghosted them.

"He always said he'd be in touch as soon as he could; he'd never abandon his own son. And that's exactly what he did," Jacqui told Vice.

The truth comes out

Jacqui assumed that she and her son would never see his father again, so she simply moved on with her life (via Vice). She married again, got a legitimate job, and had another child. However, Jacqui and her older son's worlds were shattered one day when while reading the newspaper, Jacqui discovered that her son's father had been outed as an undercover government operative who had fathered a child while undercover. "What I realize now is that his time with me was his work," she told Vice.

Jacqui would later claim that she and her son, identified only as "TBS," suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological trauma — Jacqui even contemplated suicide — over the way the whole situation panned out. She took legal action, and eventually, the London Metropolitan Police paid her a £425,000 (about $555,000) settlement (per The Guardian). However, along with her check from the police agency came complete silence: She never got any answers to the multitude of questions she submitted to the agency. "It feels as though as they are not genuinely wanting to put a wrong right. I don't think they have ever really been that concerned about that. They were quite happy to leave all this in the past and not let anyone know the truth," TBS told The Guardian.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The aftermath

Bob Lambert himself has, however obliquely, addressed the controversy surrounding his relationship with Jacqui and their son, an Special Demonstration Squad tactic at large. In a 2011 interview, he said that it would take considerable time and the cooperation of his colleagues to even begin to give an explanation for why he did what he did. However, in another interview, he apologized. "With hindsight I can only say that I genuinely regret my actions. I apologize to the women affected," he said (per Vice).

Jacqui, for her part, says that she's fielded offers from the entertainment industry to turn her story into a movie or miniseries. TBS, meanwhile, is living with the knowledge that he may have inherited a rare genetic condition from his father, a condition that killed his two half-siblings on his dad's side. As for the tactics of its agents, Scotland Yard said that it does not condone its agents having sexual relationships with targets in the course of their work but that it does not rule it out in all situations. "Never say never," the police force's attorney told a court.