London: The British police covertly stole the identities of around 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover Scotland Yard officers, a shocking expose has claimed.
The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children's parents, the Guardian reported.
The details of the investigation have established how over three decades generations of police officers trawled through national birth and death records in search of suitable matches, the report said.
Undercover officers created aliases based on the details of the dead children and were issued with accompanying identity records such as driving licences and national insurance numbers.
Some of the police officers spent up to 10 years pretending to be people who had died, it said.
A document indicated that around 80 police officers used such identities between 1968 and 1994. The total number could be higher, the report said.
The Metropolitan police have said the practice was not "currently" authorised, but announced an investigation into "past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS (Special Demonstration Squad) officers".
Keith Vaz, the chairman of parliament's home affairs select committee, said he was shocked at the "gruesome" practice.
"It will only cause enormous distress to families who will discover what has happened concerning the identities of their dead children," he said. "This is absolutely shocking."
The technique of using dead children as aliases has remained classified intelligence for several decades, although it was fictionalised in Frederick Forsyth's novel 'The Day of the Jackal'.
As a result, police have internally nicknamed the process of searching for suitable identities as the "jackal run". One former undercover agent compared an operation on which he was deployed to the methods used by the Stasi, the official state security service of Germany.
A Metropolitan police statement said: "A formal complaint has been received which is being investigated by the DPS (Directorate for Professional Standards) and we appreciate the concerns that have been raised".
The DPS inquiry is taking place in conjunction with Operation Herne's investigation into the wider issue of past arrangements for undercover identities used by SDS officers.
"We can confirm that the practice referred to in the complaint is not something that would currently be authorized in the (Met police)," the statement added.