Freedom Press

Small Town Girl: Love, Lies and the Undercover Police


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“You live with someone for two years and then . . . they simply don’t exist.”

Over 40 years, two British police units acted undercover to infiltrate activist groups. At least 20 of those officers deliberately targeted women and entered relationships with them. One of those women was me.

This is my story. Men wrote the police files. They wrote the scripts and the headlines.

Men wrote the court orders to make us anonymous and they will sit in judgement at the coming public inquiry. In a system that doesn’t see women, you have to fight to be heard. When they take your identity, you have to find your voice.

Learning the truth nearly destroyed me – but an accidental activist was born.

A voice at the centre of the Spy Cops scandal. The great love story of Donna McLean’s life wasn’t just built on lies, it was one. With an inquiry underway, Small Town Girl is a reclamation of a truth that was ruthlessly buried.


“McLean excels […] in resolving a mystery bigger even than her fake lover’s identity: who she is and how she can survive such a devastating shock. For this and more, this is one not to miss.” – Irish Times

‘It reads like a movie… absolutely astonishing’ – Lorraine Kelly (on Lorraine)

“Mind-blowing, gut-wrenching, shocking and beautifully written.” – Chris Atkins

“Utterly compelling from the first page.” – Kerry Hudson

“Donna McLean experienced the stuff of nightmares. But this profoundly compelling memoir reclaims the truth with eloquence and guts.” – Wendy Erskine

“Bold and brave, Donna McLean’s courageous and vivid Small Town Girl is both a timely exposure of corruption and a searing story of emotional betrayal’ – Catherine Taylor

“Small Town Girl is a revelation, it is a brilliant and brave quest for truth, I found it deeply moving and brutally frank and honest.” – Salena Godden

“Donna suffered horrifically but it is a testament to her immense courage that she was able to take these deeply disturbing events and channel them into confronting the state and its diabolical abuses towards women.” – Maxine Peake

“This is a thoughtful and intimate account of the lived experience of state sanction betrayals. Donna and the other victims of the Spycops disgrace shine through with wit, kindness and resilience. This should be mandatory reading for all in the Met police, indeed everyone.” – Siobhan McSweeney

‘So unbelievably shocking it reads like a work of fiction… McLean is a natural storyteller, her book a fascinating glimpse into that strange world.” – Belfast Telegraph