My name is Lowri Davies, and I’m an organiser with Black Lives Matter Swansea. My role is purely organisational; I plan protests, speakers, and sound systems, do the graphics for them, and then get the word out.
In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, I helped to organise a BLM protest in Swansea which saw 2,000 people at its peak and was one of the biggest protests in Swansea. After the protest, we decided to start BLM Swansea. We started by setting up the social media and getting volunteers. BLM Swansea was set up in September/October 2020.
Our next protest as BLM Swansea was in the February of 2021; we organised the protest to shed light on deaths in custody within South Wales and surrounding areas. These are the deaths of Mohamud Hassan, Mouayed Bashir, and Christopher Kapessa. The far-right attended this protest. Whilst the atmosphere was very tense, we remained calm and continued our protest. There was no physical push back to the far right.
On March 30th 2021, I woke up to 3 missed calls. The first call was at 11:20 am, the next at 12:51 pm, the third at 12:54 pm. I usually sleep to the afternoon, and people usually know not to contact me any time in the am as I won’t respond. I woke at 1:02 pm, just minutes after the third call, and attempted to call back. There was no dial tone, and it went straight to voicemail; I assumed it was a scam call, but something in my gut told me something wasn’t right. I put the number into Whatsapp, Snapchat and Facebook to see if it would come up with a caller ID; it didn’t. I googled the number to see if there was anything about scam calls from this mobile number; there was nothing.
Then the number called again, and I picked up. The conversation went roughly follows:
“Hi, is that Lowri?”
“Hi, yes, speaking.”
“Hi, my name is Rachel Williams, and I’m from South Wales Police.”
It struck me as odd, as there were no protests lined up, and I didn’t know this police officer. So I asked:
“Hi Rachel, could I ask for your badge number and what station you work out of?”
Rachel seemed stumped. She didn’t expect those questions, or any questions. Instead, she replied that she didn’t necessarily work out of a station, which struck me as odd. She then asked:
“Are you alone? Is anyone else in the room?”
After these questions, I opened my MacBook and muted the sound so that I could click on Photobooth and record. The recording has now been published on YouTube. She informed me that she was a covert (undercover) police officer, and couldn’t risk identify herself with me by turning up at my address or meeting me at a police station. I felt confused and scared, worried this was a strange prank, and I asked to see her police badge and her bosses. Rachel then offered to identify herself by meeting me.
This meeting took place on March 31th 2021.. Before meeting the officers, I had arranged for my partner and friends to stay nearby and wait for me in case anything happened. Rachel was driving, and her boss was in the passenger seat. Upon entering the vehicle, I was checked, and later my mobile phone was taken from me and placed in the centre of the car so both officers could see it. They drove me around for approximately 90 minutes. I felt completely numb the entire time; they asked me questions about my family, associates, other left-wing organisations, and my even my sexuality. They asked me to share information on BLM Swansea and associated groups, and offered us protection from the far right groups that were targeting us in exchange. I refused. When I finally got out of the car, I was shaken and scared and just wanted to go home.
I spoke to Netpol throughout this, and I was advised not to meet with the police officers, but I had to know whether this was a prank or actual officers. I am glad that I met them that day as I got the evidence that I needed, saw the officers, and concluded that this was a genuine attempt to get me to become an informant.
After this, Netpol helped me get legal counsel and work with the fabulous journalist, Rob Evans, who published my story accurately and worked with me throughout. With support from a solicitor, I was able to take action against the police and end their attempts to recruit me as a spy. Netpol also kept in touch to support me, and I spoke to these two groups exclusively. I couldn’t tell anyone else; who would believe it? I didn’t feel I could seek support for my declining mental health after this. Any mention of covert officers trying to recruit me as an informant sounded too paranoid and dangerous for me to share it with friends.
I had legal counsel, and the story was released in the media. I finally felt I could speak about it now, and I finally had a bit of support. I can’t explain how badly this experience has affected me. Every day, I have fleeting flashbacks of being in the car. What road I was on when questions were asked about my sexuality and family. Flashbacks of different routes, flashbacks of the supermarket carpark where I met the police officers, flashbacks of the shopping centre I was near.
Needless to say, I didn’t become a police informant. It was how I was asked to become an informant that has traumatised me – I was asked to be an informant under manipulative false pretences, and asked questions that made me fear for my safety as well as the safety of my loved ones. The questions asked and the questions not asked are what haunts me.
Some questions I will never get the answer to, some questions that I don’t want the answers to may be answered. How long was I being watched for? When did it start? When did it end? Has it ended? Can I trust anyone in my life? Can I have relationships in the future? What about my sexuality? Why were they making sure that I was a lesbian? Why were they trying to make sure that men were definitely ‘off the table’ when questioning my sexuality?
I am sure I’m not the only person who has been through this. Here are some tips and advice based on my experience.
- The call may not come from No Caller ID; I suspect many people don’t answer these. So it will be an unknown mobile number.
- When ringing the unknown mobile number, there will be no dial tone and go straight to voicemail. The voicemail is not standard; it will not say the service carrier; it will just tell you to leave a message.
- Are they asking if you’re alone? Start recording. No good can ever come from someone asking if you’re alone.
- The call may seem scripted; ask personal questions such as their badge number to throw them off.
- Be aware and listen to their tone and voice, and they may seem personable and friendly.
If you’ve been approached by police and need support, you can contact Netpol securely on firstname.lastname@example.org.