He reminded me of a 2002 Gareth Gates, with his dimples and confidence. I was 22 and he was 40.
Looking back now, I think ‘run’. But back then I was sucked in – by his confidence, his job and his cheeky sense of humour – and it was hard to get out.
We met outside a nightclub. I used to go out a lot when I had just started working in London. I loved partying after work with colleagues, then reminiscing and laughing about the night with them the next day.
One Saturday night, my friend and I were approached by two men as we were queuing for a bar. They began talking to us, asking what we were up to that night.
One of them began flirting with me but I didn’t mind, so I told him our plans. Before I could finish my next sentence, I heard muffled chatter coming from his pocket, which prompted his friend to look at him and say, ’We’ve got to go’.
I asked what the noise was and he said, ‘I shouldn’t really tell you this, so don’t tell anyone, but we are undercover police.’
I completely freaked out with excitement. It felt like something you’d see in a Hollywood movie with Tom Cruise, not slap bang in the middle of Soho.
I didn’t know whether to believe him at first so I asked him to show me his handcuffs, which he did, as well as his walkie talkie. He looked at me and asked for my number quickly, and I punched it into his phone before they both disappeared into the night.
Initially, I was swept up into the drama and excitement of it all. When he texted a few days later I agreed to a date. He picked me up from Liverpool Street station and quickly hurried me into his car to drive us to a quiet pub.
But even on our first few dates, I only got two hours of his time – if that. He always ‘had a shift’ soon after. What I truly craved was his time to be able to hang out, go to the cinema, go for nice dinners, but he never gave it to me.
We had a similar sense of humour, and at that time I only wanted to see the good in him, but ultimately that was what shot me in the foot.
Not all police are bad apples, but it’s hard for women to trust they are in safe hands when there are reasons for us not to feel like it
Part of me enjoyed the mystery. I liked it because it felt like a challenge. It always felt like there was more to him. We shared some vulnerable moments, and sometimes I would feel I was getting somewhere with him, and he would do a 180 and pull back. He was the mouse, and I was the cat, chasing his attention and affection.
I would see him out and about arresting people, and I remember having to act like I didn’t know who he was. I felt a thrill when he popped up in a club pretending to look for suspects, when really he was looking for me.
We would meet up in the corner away from the CCTV and have a snog. He would then ask me to text him when I was leaving so we could meet up again.
At first, I found this exciting, like something out of a film.
But the relationship soon became traumatic, confusing and anxiety-inducing. I would question him about his job, his life, what he did outside of work – and he would give me vague answers, always shutting down my probes with, ‘I can’t tell you too much because of my job’.
The only thing I knew was he liked action films.
We stayed in hotels when he was doing 6am raids. He sometimes came to my house but I would never be allowed to enter his, and he would often disappear from my life, coming back after a few weeks.
The weeks I wouldn’t hear from him, I would be an anxious wreck, waiting for the moment he would text.
I would ask him why he would disappear, but he would say it was because he was an ‘undercover police officer’.
And I believed him. After all, his job was to care for the public and keep us safe from danger.
The thing is, he wasn’t caring for me. He was playing a character: the aloof crime fighter.
But as for me, I wasn’t playing any character except for myself.
It was only with hindsight that I can see that I was being manipulated and deceived.
After a couple of years of our relationship being one-sided, I decided to probe. I typed his number into Google and a name came up. Searching that name brought up a news article about a police officer making an arrest in the area where he was stationed.
But when I asked him he said that it wasn’t him, even though, as much as I Googled, I couldn’t find a trace of evidence of the name he was telling me was his.
I left it alone for a while, but my gut always knew something was off. Still, I didn’t want to distrust a police officer.
After three years, I noticed an account watching my stories on Instagram. I clicked on it to see who it was, and that is when his real profile came up: my boyfriend, with a different name (the one I’d found on Google), surrounded by his partner and children.
I felt terrible. I didn’t want to break up somebody’s family. I was in complete shock that he could lie to me like this.
Instantly, I took screenshots of the photos of him and his partner on their family holidays, so he couldn’t deny everything like he always did. He attacked me verbally for ‘stalking’ and going behind his back, telling me he’d wanted to be truthful but just never found the right time.
He blamed my behaviour as the reason he didn’t tell me anything about himself. He gaslit and manipulated me into thinking this was all my fault.
The truth is, I think, that he got a kick out of the deceit. Maybe it made him feel like he was in a Bond film. But it rocked my world, and left me feeling hurt, and scared to trust anyone ever again, let alone the police.
It also became apparent at that moment that he was never an undercover police officer, but a plainclothes one. He was a regular policeman, not some agent infiltrating the criminal underworld.
I had to go through a lot of therapy to feel like myself again after being taken advantage of like this. He’d enjoyed his role-play, not knowing the trauma it would cause me.
Now, I don’t trust the police and believe that placing them in bars to ‘keep women safe’ will have the opposite effect.
Not all police are bad apples, but it’s hard for women to trust they are in safe hands when there are reasons for us not to feel like it.
We are vulnerable at the best of times, let alone when we are intoxicated – that is the perfect time to take advantage. I would know, because that’s what happened to me.
The truth is we don’t need police in clubs because they are also men, and we don’t know if men will keep us safe – in uniform or not.
As soon as I found out about his secret life, I cut him off for good. He pleaded for friendship, and to stay in touch ‘from time to time’ – but we’d never been friends. Friends do not deceive each other.
I truly felt he wanted to ‘stay friends’ so he could keep tabs on whether I would tell his partner, but I didn’t want friendship. I wanted this chapter to end and stay in the past where it belongs.
The Truth Is…
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