Part One: Enough
This is a story about a woman’s journey and experiences, an odyssey - a word derived from the Greek epic poem written by Homer. Her odyssey encompasses lies and truth, family and love, within a story of mothers and daughters, friends and lovers.
Kathleen O’Mara was an assassin, a clever, slick, well-trained assassin. Every kill was meticulously planned and executed, right down to the minutest detail. This one was no different. She carefully, silently, but purposefully, moved quickly through the crowd of commuters until she stood close by, directly behind her completely unaware victim. Her victim was standing at the edge of the busy London underground Oxford Circus station Victoria line platform waiting for the next train towards Brixton. It was a woman she knew well and totally despised. She had discreetly followed her from outside her office in nearby Great Castle Street, just off Oxford Street. Then she waited for the information board on the platform to show the next train would arrive in one minute before making her way through the crowd to take up her position. She timed her move to perfection, such that she was directly behind her victim for only a few seconds before the train emerged from the tunnel. When it was five yards away from the two women and slowing down to come to a stop she leaned gently forward with the slightest movement, placed her right hand unnoticed in the small of her victim’s back and nudged her off the edge of the platform onto the track in front of the train. Just as she had planned, at that time of the late afternoon the platform was so crowded with bustling commuters striving to get the best position by the doors to get on to the arriving train that no one noticed her nudge her victim. She wore a baseball cap over her short dyed blonde hair and made sure that she kept her head down so that any CCTV cameras on the platform couldn’t pick her out as the killer, should anyone think it was anything other than suicide. On those cameras, and to those commuters on the platform immediately around her, it appeared precisely that, a suicide. It was just as Kathleen and her handlers had planned.
Only a few short weeks before her victim, Sandra Weston, would have been much more aware, much more alert. That was what she had been trained to do in MI6, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Now though her mind was shot, blown. She’d verged on a nervous breakdown after what had happened to her professionally and personally, all deliberately planned and executed by Kathleen. At this time, therefore, she wasn’t focused at all, not concentrating in any way on her immediate surroundings. She had no inkling or sense whatsoever of the danger that she was in from the baseball capped woman who had sneaked up behind her. A woman who until a few weeks previously she’d believed was her best friend, and, like herself an MI6 operative.
Within a millisecond Sandra’s shuddering high pitched scream was piercing the air and rebounding off the curved station walls. People gasped and screamed as Sandra’s body lurched forward, plunged on to the tracks and then quickly disappeared beneath the wheels of the tube train. The panic and mayhem that followed gave Kathleen the anticipated perfect cover to leave the scene quickly. Just as had been planned she continued to keep her head down as she slipped back away from the platform’s edge and through the shocked and panicking commuters to make her way towards the exit marked Central Line. She never hurried unduly. She knew not to. She was well aware that there were CCTV cameras all over the station. So, she remained calm, confident that the plan would work to perfection and that her mission had been completed. Within two more minutes she was boarding a westbound Central Line tube train to West Acton station. There she would be picked up outside the station by her London based handlers, complete with her overnight bag and false American passport, and then driven straight to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 for her eight-thirty flight back to Boston that evening.
As she sat on the speeding tube train full of commuters heading home at the end of their working day and waited for it to negotiate the eleven stops to her destination she initially still felt excitement, fulfilment that her revenge was finally complete. However, that turned to an utter feeling of emptiness quite quickly. She was completely overwhelmed by it. She knew now that this was the time to end the hidden other life that she had lived for the past twenty years or so. It was time to change and she knew clearly what she needed and wanted to do.
For twenty years her greatest weapon in her professional life, her strength, was her silence. Listening, observing, being aware of all those around her, and everything around her, mostly whilst operating undercover. She’d allied that successfully to her cold, ruthless, dispassionate, minutely planned and detailed methods.
She’d been recruited to MI6 near the end of the first year of her media studies degree in 1997 at Bristol University by a student on the same course, Sandra Weston. Sandra only knew her then though under another of her false identities, Aileen Regan. Sandra had deliberately developed what she thought was a close student friendship with her throughout that first year. She’d been recruited into the British Secret Service a year before, having been identified by them while still in her private school sixth form as having the right attitudes and political beliefs for possible recruitment as an MI6 operative. In fact, it was one of the teachers at her school – a Secret Service contact and associate – who identified her and recommended her. She was already very active and prominent in the Young Conservatives group in the school, and the Conservative Association locally. She was very vocal in both those arenas in support for Britain, particularly English, nationalism. She hated the Irish with venom. That had its origins in her family military background.
So, when Sandra was approached tentatively by the same teacher about a possible future career working for a British government agency she was instantly curious. She didn’t take much convincing at all and was quickly receptive to the idea. Her interest was only heightened when it was explained to her that MI6 was developing a programme of identification and recruitment of exceptional young people with what the teacher described as, “the right sense of patriotism”. She was one of those people. Their role and purpose was to infiltrate the student movement at various key universities, identify like-minded sympathetic students, and change the political climate and agenda within the student body. A Tony Blair Labour government was looking increasingly likely to be elected that year and the fightback against them was to begin through being pursued amongst young people, particularly students. The attitudes and values propagated so successfully within sections of the UK student body during the years of the Thatcher government in the nineteen-eighties, and so evident in many of the thirty-something generation of the nineties, were being challenged by the middle of that decade. Sandra Weston, and some carefully selected young people with similar values, was to be one of the instruments MI6 employed to meet that challenge. She embraced it eagerly and energetically, along with her role as unofficial ‘recruiting officer’ within the student body,.
Aileen Regan quickly became her prime target and she keenly cultivated their friendship during that first year. They became inseparable. Sandra pursued her aim carefully and slowly, just as she had been coached and advised to do by what was by then her MI6 handler. She occasionally made a few carefully placed right-wing politically loaded remarks just to test the water. Aileen always appeared receptive and in agreement, even when Sandra was deliberately scathing about Irish nationalism. She was from Bantry Bay in West Cork, but never betrayed any indication to Sandra that she disagreed with anything derogatory that Sandra voiced on that subject.
Aileen’s southern Irish origins made approaching her a gamble. She didn’t appear to be the most likely type ripe for recruiting to MI6. For some reason Sandra was convinced otherwise and was determined to proceed. So, by late March 1997, after various consultations with her handler and numerous MI6 investigations and background checks, it was agreed that Sandra should take the plunge and put the suggestion of MI6 recruitment to Aileen. In effect, it turned out to be not at all difficult or awkward. She was very receptive, even though she feigned some surprise initially and then a little apprehension. What Sandra never realised at the time was that all along it was the aim of Kathleen - in the guise of Aileen - to allow, and even provoke Sandra to recruit her. Kathleen’s true allegiances certainly never resided with the British State, let alone MI6. They lay elsewhere. In fact, her purpose and mission was to infiltrate that organisation as a ‘sleeper’ for her Irish nationalist heritage and the IRA, of which she had been a secret member since she was sixteen. In that aim she was successful, thanks to Sandra Weston.
Kathleen maintained that deceit for almost twenty years, including within her continuing friendship with Sandra. Even when both women married they maintained the secret of their MI6 lives between them without sharing it with their husbands. In any case, that was a condition of the Official Secrets Act they’d signed. Kathleen, as Aileen, subsequently divorced her husband, but Sandra remained married, even though her husband was a blatant womaniser. Neither woman had any kids. Far too complicated in their secret profession they agreed. Sandra had her own freelance fashion photography agency as cover for her other activities for MI6, while Aileen had various jobs as a P.A., as Kathleen O’Mara.
By 2016 both women were thirty-eight. Although approaching middle-age Kathleen was still an attractive woman. It was an attribute she had no hesitation in using to her advantage when required. She could use men easily to achieve her objectives professionally and personally, and had no qualms or remorse in doing so. She enjoyed it, revelled in it, and was undoubtedly very good at what she did in every conceivable way. She was five foot six inches tall with a good, slim figure. Her high cheekbones were perfectly framed by her shoulder length dark black hair that was ever so slightly curled at the ends, emphasising her striking features and her dark brown eyes. In her secret professions though - both as an IRA operative and an MI6 agent - she wasn’t averse to changing the colour and length of her hair, altering her appearance somewhat in the same way as she changed her name. In the middle of June 2016 it was shoulder length and deep dark black, as it had been for some time. Soon after, from necessity, she changed it again to short dyed blonde for her mission to London to assassinate Sandra. Whatever the length and colour of her hair however, if features exposed character, then Kathleen’s immediately exuded and prompted a wilful determination and strength. Most of all those characteristics were constantly displayed in her piercing deep brown eyes.
Sandra wasn’t as slim as Kathleen, although by no means fat, and was about the same height. She had engaging blue eyes and natural dirty blonde short hair, cut in a bob that highlighted her slightly chubby cheeks. Both women could be ruthless in their own fashion. There was an often hidden hard edge to their characters. When necessary they were totally determined and focused on what they had to do, without any trace of remorse or hesitation. Those elements of their characters, and the unavoidable clash between them, were to be fully evident in the eventual final chapter of their supposed friendship in mid-summer 2016.
From just before Christmas 2015 Kathleen, as Aileen, embarked on a mission to secure the ultimate complete revenge for herself and the Bhoys - as she referred to them - on Sandra and MI6. It was an act of personal revenge for her that she’d worked towards as an IRA infiltrator of MI6. The vehicle initially for that was her affair with Sandra’s arrogant womanising husband, Richard. The aim was to destabilise Sandra psychologically by destroying her already fragile marriage, then discredit her professional MI6 reputation. It was revenge for the Bhoys after all the problems Sandra had unleashed on them as an agent in MI6 ‘Irish Section’ over years. That revenge was twenty years in the making, beginning with Kathleen befriending Sandra at university as Aileen, and eventually allowing her to recruit her to MI6. Finally, the plan required Aileen being revealed as an IRA infiltrator after she’d disappeared, which would ultimately discredit Sandra professionally; the person who’d recruited her.
There was a more personal element to the plan for Kathleen. The MI6 assassination in 2002 of the Irish man she knew as her father, coordinated by Sandra Weston, a fact revealed to Kathleen by the Bhoys a couple of years later. At that time Kathleen knew him as her father simply because he was married to her mother, although it stated on her birth certificate, ‘Father unknown’. She’d asked her mother about that a number of times before she died, but got no explanation. Kathleen was always their daughter, not just her mother’s. It was that way in the Ireland of that time.
The Bhoys told her an informant had told them it was definitely Sandra who’d set up the killing of the man she knew as her father. Because of Kathleen’s false identity and name as Aileen Regan, Sandra had no idea that it was her father of course. There was a bombing, and Kathleen was convinced that although they had no clues or evidence as to who was responsible British Intelligence was determined to have a sacrificial lamb, even though there was clear evidence he was nowhere near the bombing. His alibi, was there plainly for them to see, but they hid it. Then they let loose one of their death squads on him, even though it was five years after the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Because of that it was all kept quiet under the Official Secrets Act. Even though Kathleen, as Aileen, was working for MI6 at the time, or at least they thought she was, it was all kept so tight security-wise that she never even got a sniff of it, and nor did many people at all, except for Sandra Weston. She was right at the heart of it, coordinated it all according to the Bhoys. Because of the sensitivity of it being well after the peace agreement Sandra kept it all to herself and her tight small MI6 team, which Aileen wasn’t part of at that time. All she understood then was that the man she knew as her father had committed suicide. Such was her undercover identity that she couldn’t even attend his funeral, for fear of that being discovered by MI6. The Bhoys made sure she kept away, as she was ordered to do.
What at the time she believed would be the beginning of the final chapter of Kathleen’s revenge came to a head during a two week holiday she took as Aileen with Sandra in the picturesque tourist village of Lindos on the island of Rhodes in mid-June 2016. She’d planted the idea that the two friends should take a holiday together a few weeks before, taking advantage of the fact that at the time Sandra was telling her that she and her husband, Richard, were having difficulties in their marriage. Sandra told her she could do with a break, a holiday with just the two of them, her and Aileen. The choice and suggestion of Lindos was Sandra’s, however. She said she had a friend who recommended it and went regularly. Of course, Sandra’s marital difficulties were related to the affair her husband had been having with Aileen, not that Sandra had any inkling of that. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence though where Richard Weston was concerned. He had a history, a predilection for them. Sandra had already caught him out at least once before and forgiven him. From the background briefing information she’d been supplied by the Bhoys Aileen knew there had been more than one or two marital slips and affairs, by Richard. By the time of their holiday, however, Aileen had brought the affair to a halt, as was the plan, knowing that although Richard agreed they should stop at the time he wouldn’t be able to leave her alone. He was that type of man. Never took no for an answer.
So, the plan involved conveniently, supposedly accidentally, allowing Sandra to discover some texts to Aileen from Richard. She had seemingly carelessly left her phone on a small table between the two women’s sunbeds on the beach on the first day of their holiday, switched on while she went for a swim in the clear sea. Earlier that day she’d purposefully texted Richard, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to resist replying. She was determined to ensure Sandra would see his reply, thereby revealing their affair. Richard had initially wanted to go on the holiday, worried that Sandra would discover the affair if she went with Aileen alone. Besides some comments in the text Sandra saw about missing Aileen, it also included some revealing details about their affair, as well as he was insistent about joining them for the second week of their holiday. So, that is what he did. In order to initially avoid him, Aileen embarked on a sexual liaison on the holiday with an English academic, Martin Cleverley, whom she met on the flight to Rhodes.