Duped into a relationship by an undercover cop: Woman finally gets to confront him.


Helen Steel thought she was in a loving relationship. But instead, she was part of an elaborate cover story for an undercover police officer.

Now, after almost two decades, she has finally confronted him about his long running deception.

The former police spy duped her into a two year relationship before disappearing, claiming he was having a “mental breakdown”.

Steel is one of a number of women who became involved with undercover officers in the UK in the 1980s. The police officers were planted throughout left-wing activist communities, allegedly to weed out “extremism”.

“John was part of the…special demonstration squad which spied on trade unionists, anti-racists and environmental campaigners,” Steel told the Guardian, who have shared footage of the meeting, which took place at Sydney airport.

An outspoken social justice campaigner, Steel characterises the deception as a “human rights abuse” and was part of a group action against the police force which sought reparations for the emotional trauma caused by “abusive”, “manipulative” relationships.

Steel spoke exclusively with the Guardian about the meeting:

In 1987 Dines was given the identity of an eight year-old-boy who had died of leukaemia and met Steel while posing as an anti-capitalist activist for five years.

The couple began a two year relationship and he told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

When he began having mental health issues in 1991 he said it was because his parents had abused him.

He said he needed to run away to escape his “inner demons”.

A year later when Dines vanished, Steel was left to cope with a “complete rollercoaster of emotions”.

While she worried he had killed himself, he was busily working at Metropolitan police headquarters.

“It was like a bereavement but it was not something that I could talk to people about,” she said.

John Dines via Islington against police spies blog.
John Dines. Image: Islington Against Police Spies

Steel spent years searching for him, only to uncover he was a police officer in 2002.

Dines is now a course director at Australia’s leading graduate police college at Charles Sturt University in Sydney.

Although he “apologised unreservedly” during their emotional reunion, Steel fears he is teaching the same harmful right-wing methodologies to another generation of law enforcement officers.

“He apologised to me, but in the course of the conversation that we then had he talked to me about how when he had been sent in to infiltrate groups in north London it was to look out for what they call extremists,” she said.

“It’s a vague term which is never properly defined that seems to include anyone who challenges people in positions of power.

“We don’t want to see these tactics perpetuated anywhere else.”