The mystery van

Bait Van
Illustration by Maria Bovor

—UPDATE 26/11/2010—

Reposted here because hundreds of people are reading this but still not clicking through to my update post

I have received information from a few people that have changed my mind on some of my original points. I really don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, I just want to correct an injustice and set the record straight.

  • It has no number plates
    • Actually the van did have number plates on arrival, although there are no clear photographs or videos of it. The best I have seen is this one from ITN.
  • It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
    • I am told that the police routinely use vans of this age.
  • It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.
    • Several of their vans are rusty, and in fact you can see on this picture that it was rusty even in 2008. We should probably be concerned at the lack of preventative maintenance there.
  • It has a POLICE AWARE sticker on it, that has been there a while.
    • This one was true. Some people have suggested that the sticker was placed there as a joke by a police officer, or that it was placed there to mark the van for attention by a mechanic. I’m not sure I buy that.

I still believe that this van was planted as bait to incite vandalism and provide an excuse for kettling. The only alternative theory I can think of is that the police are really, really stupid. It could be that I suppose.

—Sky news video busts police claims—

Via @a6ruled
Sky news video shows van accessible, police standing near it and crowd all calm. Busted!


I am not a journalist. I have simply gathered some observations that looked odd to me, and some of them have been refuted. Please read all of the article and the comments and then weigh up the evidence before you decide.

During the protests in London today the police stated that they had started “containing” the crowds after they violently attacked a police van.  I contend that the van was deliberately planted in order to provide an excuse.

At around 12:30 I started watching BBC News which as showing live footage of the protests from a helicopter. The police were already blocking the route of the planned march with a huge amount of vehicles and offices. I watched that van be driven through the crowd from behind, angering all the people that had to jump out of the way. It was quickly surrounded by furious protesters and forced to stop. A little later, a few (unknown) people started to attack the van, trying to break the windows, roll the van over and paint graffiti on it. Some brave kids tried to stop the attacks, but were eventually pushed aside.

The moment it started:

And some more brave people:

Alternative photo:

But there is something really interesting about this van.

  • It has no number plates
  • It is painted in the OLD livery of the Metropolitan police.
  • It has been out of service long enough to get rusty.

Jump to 28 seconds in to this video to see what I mean. Look just under the windows.

The rust:

And thanks to @psweetman for spotting this. Does that say “police aware” ?

Front of police van showing Police Aware notice

Draw your own conclusions from that.

Despite all this, the protests were mostly peaceful.

In response to Rob W, here is the ITN video. There is a number plate visible at 6 seconds in, although not clear enough to identify a number.

This picture shows “POLICE AWARE” sticker is aged and has been there a while. (Thanks to Harry Watko for these.)

I think these things are clear. I saw the sequence of events on live TV and it could be verified if anyone can get hold of a recording.

  • The police started kettling several minutes before the van arrived.
  • The van was driven in to the back of the crowd, (relatively thin at this point) pushing protesters out of the way. Some got angry at being driven in to or made to jump away, and pushed or hit, or sprayed graffiti on the van.
  • The police abandoned the van.
  • The bulk of the protesters arrived to find their route blocked and an already slightly gratified van in the middle of the crowd.
  • Some (very few) people started smashing the van in spite of attempts to stop them.
  • The police justified their use of kettling by citing the attacks on the van, which happened after they started kettling.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

162 thoughts on “The mystery van”

  1. One upshot of this of course is that the Met. will get a shiny new van to replace the 6yr old (maybe decrepit, maybe decommissioned, certainly high mileage) unit courtesy of their insurers. I am making the assumption that they are insured and it’s not simply 3rd Party on the basis that to get their fleet on fully comp. would cost more than the vehicles they have written off every year.

  2. From the police statement: “The van was following the crowd to determine which direction they might take. In a very short space of time, protesters surrounded the van. The officers felt vulnerable and decided the best course of action was to leave the van.”

    Does this video, from SkyNews, portray a tense, volatile situation, in which police officers are in a vulnerable position?

    1. I’d also question why they needed a van to determine where the demo was heading, given that a helecopter was used for exactly that purpose.

  3. the one thing i think you all missed was the van was bare
    no bars on the windows..
    even the police “after the poll tax riots” know you put the guards on the windows.
    but hey it had the mountings for the grill but no grill
    look at the other vans i havn’t saw any without the grill on ??

  4. Really obviously a set up. There’s a handful of videos out there of protesters testifying they asked the police to remove the van before the vandalism – THE POLICE REFUSED TO MOVE IT, EVEN WHEN SAFE TO DO SO.

    2:55-3:20 in this video, a protester tries to explain to the kids they’ve fallen for ENTRAPMENT. Then testifies the police refused to move the van.


    1. Weirdly enough, not every cop will have a key to move that van. That is a conspiracy theory, you’ve no evidence of a set-up, much less entrapment, which requires that police PERSUADE people to break the law.

      1. Aha! That explains everything! They had lost the keys! Of course! “Oi Gary, stop smacking that kid around, we’ve lost the only set of keys to our damn riot van again. Have a look around for em would you”. Case closed.

        If entrapment is persuading someone to break the law, what’s the word for deliberately INCITING them to break the law. Aggravation?

        1. I didn’t claim they’d lost the keys, why lie?

          The cops in the video are TSG, the van is not a TSG van, ergo those cops had no key to that van. You seem to be suggesting ‘the police’ can magically start any police vehicle.

          Entrapment is incitement by law enforcement, and again requires persuasion.

  5. All around the Western world police tactics like these are used. It is a stage managed event and invariably they get the police get what they want. Their whole aim was to kettle the students on Wednesday, they had no intention of allowing them to march on Parliament or the Libdem headquarters. The police are facing funding cuts just like the rest of the country, you don’t think they’d use the situation to their advantage to try and reduce their cuts to the minimum?

    Add to that the fact that our police force has been effectively privatised, as their operational body is ACPO, a private limited company and the picture becomes one not of public safety but one of profit. Their government masters say jump….they say “how high”?

    The van was a set up, to occupy a vast number of students while they increased their numbers and established control of the ‘kettle’. Despicable behaviour but not unusual for our police force.

  6. A point that doesn’t seem to have been addressed here so far. When ‘vulnerable’ officers abandoned their vehicle did they lock the doors? If so why did no alarm sound when vehicle was broken into ? If the vehicle was left with doors unlocked, why? The sky footage already makes a mockery of the Met’s version of events.

  7. This whole article is bollocks, this was NOT a set up. The police ARE that stupid.

    The cops in the van were driving behind the crowd and kept going when the crowd slowed/stopped and got then they got stuck. They couldn’t keep going forward without either forcing their way through the crowd – which would have been very provocative at that point (or alternatively if the police cordon had already been started it would have allowed the crowd to follow it through and break out). They couldn’t reverse because there were too many demonstrators behind it. So they left it there. Whoever was driving it is probably in a massive amount of trouble.

    For this to be a set up you would have to credit the cops with a an amount of intelligence they JUST DO NOT HAVE. They are fucking idiots and on this occasion the fucking idiots left their van in the way and we wrecked it for them.

    1. “For this to be a set up you would have to credit the cops with a an amount of intelligence they JUST DO NOT HAVE. They are fucking idiots and on this occasion the fucking idiots left their van in the way and we wrecked it for them.”

      That is a foolish and, more importantly, dangerous assumption to make. The reality is that police top-brass are far from stupid. Granted, they are utterly useless if your house was broken into or your car robbed but that’s not their priority, is it? The coalition government look like fools if you believe their aim is to make life better for ordinary people, yet when you realise their true role (ie. to further entrench wealth disparities and make the rich richer) they look far more capable. The same is true with the police. Ultimately, their role is to ensure the prevailing power relations remain intact.

      1. Of course that’s what the police are for – but it doesn’t change my point. The police are fucking idiots and a set up on this scale is beyond their capability. What is actually dangerous is be so hung up about agents provocateur that your paranoia squashes the potential for fightback. To read a conspiracy to entrap the students into this fiasco is to completely underestimate the anger of the students.


    In this picture, the closest van is the one that was smashed up – compare the identification number with that of the sky news video and the number on the side of the van (BQV). Im not entirely sure when the photo was taken (flickr say January 2009, but that doesent look to be right as the picture looks more like summertime than january!)

    So the numberplate is LX54 CPY and the van is a Mercedes Sprinter – You can put this in to the DVLA website vehicle enquiry and it comes up with more detailed information about the van.


    It says that the van was manfactured and registered in 2004 and is taxed until 2011. The evidence suggests that this wasnt an old disused van (although could the DVLA information have been changed?)

    I have heard that the can didnt have petrol in, but did have the keys in the ignition. I dont know for sure though. Just thought I might be able to add a few facts the discussion.

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