Former Met undercover officer 'sorry' over relationship deceit

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Media captionHelen Steel describes the moment she met the undercover officer who tricked her into a relationship

A woman duped into a relationship with an undercover policeman has told how she tracked him down to Australia more than 20 years after he disappeared.

Helen Steel had a two-year relationship with John Dines in the 1990s before later learning he had been an undercover officer in the Met police.

She told the BBC that when she confronted him in Sydney he said he recognised "what he did was wrong".

Mr Dines told the Guardian he gave her a "personal and unreserved apology".

Ms Steel was one of seven women who received an "unreserved apology" and compensation from the Metropolitan Police for being deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers.

The relationships took place over the course of 25 years with five officers from two undercover units.

'Discussed starting a family'

Ms Steel met John "Barker" Dines in 1990 when she was a Greenpeace activist.

They were together for two years, and during that time rented a flat and discussed starting a family before he had an apparent breakdown and disappeared.

Ms Steel said she was left "distraught" by his disappearance and spent years searching for him.

She later learned he was a police officer and had relocated to Australia where he works for a university that trains police officers.

Image caption Helen Steel said she was "distraught" after John Dines left

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she confronted him at Sydney Airport.

"I basically approached him and said 'You owe me an apology', at which point he said 'Apologies'," she said.

"And then I said that I wanted to talk more and then we went and spoke for a while about what happened and why he had deceived me in the way he deceived me.

"I think he recognises that what he did was wrong."

She said Mr Dines said he also claimed he had been "harmed" by the squad he had been part of.

Judge-led inquiry

The officers had worked undercover for the Special Demonstration Squad, part of the Met Police and the separate National Public Order Intelligence Unit.

Both teams deployed officers on long-term undercover operations to infiltrate radical political or social causes, such as environmental campaigns, anarchy and animal rights.

The longest relationship lasted for nine years.

The relationships took place until the units were disbanded in 2008 and 2011. One of the officers fathered children.

In each case the officers eventually disappeared, leaving their partners searching for years for answers.

The women said the Met's "unreserved apology", in November last year, would "never make up for what we have endured".

Mr Dines did not respond to the BBC but told the Guardian: "You will already be aware that I met with Helen Steel on 6 March, where I gave her a personal and unreserved apology for all and any hurt that she may have suffered.

"I do not intend to make any other comment."

A judge-led public inquiry is looking into what happened within the two undercover units.

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