Love is Like a Stove
Helen Steel is one of the heroes of the eco movement. She was one of the two who endured the 1986-2005 McLibel trial all through the courts, the appeal courts and eventually to the European Courts. She is no shrinking flower. A life time of agitating against capitalism and through Greenpeace has given her face a hardness which is understandable. As Orwell said at 50 everyone has the face they deserve. She is 48.
But of course the reason she is back in court is that she wants the Met to pay for “tricking her into a two year affair with an undercover officer”. She was only 25 had just begun the McDonalds saga when a new man John Barker aka PC John Dines started turning up at their meetings
Dines started courting Steel in 1990. It was Mills and Boon from the word go.Tall,dark and handsome, he went in deep, Helen realised things about herself she had never felt. She couldn’t believe it,she had had affairs and flings before but this was it, she had met the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. No one had gone deeper.
“He said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me,” she says. “In a short space of time I fell absolutely madly in love with him in a way I had never fallen in love with anyone before or since. He said he wanted us to have kids. He used to say he had once seen an elderly Greek couple sitting on a veranda gazing into the sunset, and that he pictured us growing old like that.” After Shirley Valentine what battled hardened eco warrior could not go for that line.
By the summer of 1991, as part of an exit strategy, Dines began exhibiting symptoms of a breakdown. “He kept talking about how he had nobody left apart from me,” Steel says. “His parents had both died. He had no brothers and sisters. The only woman he had ever loved before me, a woman called Debbie, had left him. He said he was convinced I was going to do the same.” Tough but vulnerable, this is what the modern woman is looking for, it just made the whole thing even more intense.
In March 1992 Dines left for South Africa, saying he could not handle things any more. After that, Steel received two letters with South African postmarks. Then her boyfriend vanished altogether: “I was sick with worry that he might kill himself.” Steel contacted the British consulate in South Africa and eventually hired a private investigator, who could find no trace of her partner. She was frantic ,where was her ,lover?
In fact, Dines had returned to a desk job in Scotland Yard. But he left the police in 1994 and was given a pension to compensate for ill health. He later returned to New Zealand, where he had claimed to have spent some of his teenage years.
In her search for clues to his whereabouts, one of the first things Steel did was locate a copy of what she believed was her boyfriend’s birth certificate. The document confirmed the details he had given her: he was born in Derby in January 1960. It was another 18 months before Steel decided to inspect the national death records. She was astonished to find the real John Barker had died of leukaemia as a child. “It sent a chill down my spine,” she says. “When I got the certificate itself, it was so clear. The same person. The same parents. The same address. But he had died as an eight-year-old boy.”
The discovery turned Steel’s world upside down. “It was like a bereavement, but it wasn’t something I could talk to people about. Now, suddenly, he didn’t exist. This was a man I had known for five years, with whom I had lived for two years. How could I trust anybody again? All the photographs I’ve got, all the memories I’ve got are of a nameless stranger. What do you do with that?” Bin ‘em honey, millions of girls do everyday.
Clues led Steel to a public archive in New Zealand and it was there, in 2002, that she found a document that linked Dines with Debbie, the woman he had married more than a decade before he and Steel met. Back in London, she ordered the couple’s wedding certificate. She immediately recognised her boyfriend’s handwriting. “What hit me like a ton of bricks is that he listed his occupation as a police officer,” she says. “When I read that, I felt utterly sick and really violated. It ripped me apart, basically, just reading that.”
So sick that there was only one way open. To the lawyers, someone must pay.
Looking back she now feels there was something phoney about the relationship. “In any normal relationships people have little arguments. But we never did. They’re trained to be what you want them to be.”
I have got hold of a police manual on this specialised training. “There will be times when the subject will demand sex in other ;positions beside the Christian way favoured by most officers . Do not act surprised, crack a joke about if its good for animals it must be Ok for humans. Most eco activists are very sympathetic to animal rights.”
Police training in sexual and social compatability,of course .Helen ,how else could they have tricked an experienced feminist, like yourself.. And all the cops will say , is equally hilarious.”sexual contact between and undercover officer and a member of the public is not an authorised tactic.” Says a po faced police spokesman. .
For those who want a precise definition of sexual contact we must refer of course to President Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman.”
Frankly, you have to larf. As we all know, all policeman carry truncheons which they get out when they get excited. But don’t worry Helen the police will pay,they always do its after all its not their money. And then and only then will “the bitter legacy that has consumed her for two decades” end. The things they say in court.
And whats next Helen? Get over him,spend the money and get a life. Failing that spend a few more years in court. You seem to like it.