As a surveillance officer for MI5, you need to be 100 per cent sure you can do the jobs your team needs you to do, whether it’s following a suicide-bomber from their makeshift bomb factory all the way to their intended target without being seen, or talking your way out of danger when drug-dealers want to know what you’re doing on their turf.
We are not superhuman but we do have a unique set of skills that allow us to keep people safe. When our country is under attack from thousands of hostile threats, the public need people like us to stand between them and pure, unrelenting evil.
You can’t politely ask our enemies to kindly not blow our children up while they are at a concert, or offer forgiveness to those who hire a van and mow people down in the street.
We hunted the most dangerous terrorists in the world, out on the streets walking among people who were potentially about to be killed by these cowards. We prevented almost all attacks, but you can’t stop every single one. It’s impossible [File photo]
If the intelligence officers tell us you’re a threat to our country and its people, we’re going to track down you and every single person helping you.
Together with my team, I helped stop hundreds of attacks over the years.
We’d been to Bradford many times before, normally on the hunt for Islamic extremists, ranging from the facilitators to the men and women ready to commit mass murder at the drop of a hat.
As the team waited for our target to emerge, we maintained our cover within the local area. Passers-by would never have known we were MI5: variously, we looked like painters, builders, local chavs, business types, pregnant women, old age pensioners — we matched the whole landscape of the community.
I was starting to get the feeling, as the other members of the team would have been, that we weren’t going to see the target today.
Suddenly the radio fired up, ordering us to switch operations instantly to a new set of targets. ‘All stations from Base, Congo Cat and Green Town are to the south of you in the area of Hall Lane.’
The thing to remember is that our intelligence and military is the best fighting force in the world. Like any world champion, some attacks will find a way through our defences, but we can take the blows and keep fighting [File photo]
These were code-names for a husband and wife who were talking about potential attacks.
This was obviously a priority and I needed to move fast as I was some way away from the sighting.
Fortunately, code ‘Steel Badge’ had been authorised, an operational command that allows us to exceed the speed limits and not stop if we clip another vehicle. If required on an operation, we will drive beyond what is probably considered safe — all without sirens or flashing lights.
Approaching a red light at a crossroads, I slid up on the outside of the waiting vehicles, floored the accelerator and went straight through a gap in the traffic. No fuss, no screeching tyres or upsetting the locals, just fast, progressive driving.
‘From Base, all stations be aware that Congo Cat and Green Town are likely to be armed and about to launch an attack. We’ve notified Executive Action but it’s highly likely you are going to be the first to get hold of them.’
The good thing was that the armed units of the Executive Action teams were on their way, whether that was the Police Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers or military, we didn’t know yet.
But they weren’t here yet and if the two suspected terrorists were on their way to launch an attack, we’d have to delay them somehow.
I hadn’t seen these two for ages but I still remembered what they looked like — although if they were intending to attack right now it was likely Congo Cat would have shaved his enormous beard, common when an extremist is about to launch an attack.
I drove through another set of red lights, and took a short cut against the direction of the traffic through a roundabout.
We are not superhuman but we do have a unique set of skills that allow us to keep people safe. When our country is under attack from thousands of hostile threats, the public need people like us to stand between them and pure, unrelenting evil [File photo]
Emma, the team’s biker, came screaming up behind me at well over 100mph and followed me through. A message from base: ‘Executive Action is now five minutes out.’
It was up to us to delay Congo Cat and Green Town long enough for the strike team to deal with them before they reached their intended target.
Emma was the first to spot them. ‘Stand by. Congo Cat and Green Town walking south-west on Bowling Park Drive. He is in black top, black bottoms, clean shaven, carrying large holdall. She is in full black tracksuit, white trainers.’
It was a bad sign that Green Town wasn’t wearing a burqa. Any change in a target’s normal pattern of life is a clue they are about to do something out of the ordinary.
I caught sight of our targets walking down the pavement in the distance. ‘Executive Action four minutes out,’ Base informed us.
This was not looking good, especially after a call from another of our team. ‘There is a large crowd at the top of the park. Congo Cat has just pointed towards them. About 100 metres ahead.’
S***, they would probably be at the crowd before the strike team got here. ‘From Base, that could be the start of a large anti-far-Right demonstration, due to start marching from the park.’
That had to be their target. I moved behind Emma’s bike.
Then things went from bad to worse. Emma was back on the radio. ‘Congo Cat has stopped and opened the bag, showing Green Town the contents. I can see from here it’s definitely the butt of a weapon. Confirmed. He’s given Green Town a pistol. Where the hell is the strike team?’
People were about to die.
The job is never about jumping over bonnets wearing aviator sunglasses. It’s always about getting the maximum amount of intelligence without being seen, in order to keep people alive [File photo]
The rest of the team wasn’t close enough yet. Emma was right to raise her voice on the net, demanding an answer.
‘From Base, strike team is 60 seconds out.’
‘That’s too late, they have started running towards the crowd now. Green Cat is carrying the pistol in her right hand.’
Two armed terrorists were about to start firing into a crowd of 400 people who hadn’t even seen them approaching. Only Emma and I could stop them.
Emma bumped her bike up on the pavement and twisted the throttle hard, battling to keep the front wheel down as she rode as fast as she could towards the backs of both targets. She was putting her life on the line here.
The noise from the bike was deafening and the speed at which she came gave the two targets a massive shock. They spun round, eyes wide.
Speeding up behind, I dived out of the car and sprinted towards them. I saw the bag on the pavement where it had been dropped.
I grabbed it before Congo Cat had a chance to go for it, glimpsing two shotguns and a number of large hunting knives inside.
I passed it to Emma, who cradled it across her fuel tank and rode back onto the road and away.
Two more strides and I’d taken the pistol from Green Town before her brain had a chance to process what was happening. I couldn’t tell if she had a suicide vest on under her tracksuit and I wasn’t about to