Research - Divorce - The reality of divorce
20 May 2004
In the new life that Ron Davis's ex-partner has created for
herself, everything is scrupulously neat. The lounge of her
redbrick semi on the south coast is perfectly ordered with
hardly a cushion out of place. She, too, presents an image
of immaculate grooming, in close-fitting black trousers and
a red top that show off her slim figure.
She speaks in a calm, eminently reasonable voice and as her
story unfolds there is a sense of wonder that this highly-attractive
and intelligent woman could ever find herself at the heart
of such a messy, damaging affair as the one that led to Mr
Davis's flour bomb attack on the Prime Minister.
Mr Davis, 48, of course, blames her for the desperation that
led to his actions. According to friends, he has been driven
to the edge of madness by her refusal to let him see his children.
She says they do not want to see him. They hate him, she says,
in a way that makes it clear she shares the emotion. Thus,
among people who once loved each other, hatred and polarisation
Mr Davis's campaign group, Fathers 4 Justice, says such situations
are aggravated by the courts because they favour mothers and
ignore the rights of fathers.
BUT can any legal system really deal with what happens in
the human heart when the closest of relationships breaks down?
When we look at what happened to Mr Davis and his children's
mother, it seems the profound disintegration of their passion
and love was unlikely to be easily reconciled by court orders.
It began, like so many relationships, in an office. Mr Davis
was running an electrical wholesale firm in south London.
It was 1981 and the boom era of the Thatcher government had
He was a tall, well-built and handsome 25-year-old keen to
get on. Mr Davis's family comes from Borneo and those who
know him say he has always had a magnetic, slightly exotic,
His secretary was a remarkably pretty girl, with long dark
hair and a reserved, rather quiet manner. She knew he was
married, but their close working relationship soon turned
into something neither of them could stop.
It was not just a heady fling, they agreed, it was for keeps.
Mr Davis left his wife and moved, with his secretary, to Hertfordshire.
She cannot be named for legal reasons, so let us call her
Janet. At first, this couple, appeared to have it all. Mr
Davis achieved his ambition of owning his own business and
they bought a large house in Worthing, near the sea and some
Their daughter, now in her teens, was born first and three
years later came their son. This should have been the happiest
time, but the decline of what had been a loving relationship
began with the birth of the first child. According to Janet,
the baby was difficult to care for and cried a lot. She found
herself preoccupied with her and Mr Davis accused her of letting
things go around the house. Glancing around her neat, almost
prim, home now, this seems unlikely.
When her daughter enters the room, one is struck by the similarity
between her and her mother. The girl laughs at her father's
arrest and talks of him disparagingly, selfassured and controlled.
No, she says, she does not want to see him.
Janet says it's because Mr Davis is a bully. She talks of
rows and nights when he would stay downstairs and play loud
music, forcing her to come down and confront him.
He would fly into rages for no reason, she says, and hurl
things around their home. Once, when she dressed for an evening
out, he forced her to clean the oven. He abused her physically
and mentally, she claimed, and in the end, she was forced
to take shelter, with her children, in a women's refuge.
The image she creates of her children's father is an unattractive
one. But how real is it? And how real is the one she presents,
of a woman who has created order from a chaos that was not
of her making? Someone who lives nearby offered a rather different
Ann Buckland, 34, said: "She says the children were petrified
of him. But I spoke to the boy in the summer and he was desperate
to see his dad.
"She says Ron has been around here harassing her, but
I have never seen him. She told me he was prepared to do whatever
she wanted to see his children - that he was trying to be
reasonable - but she wouldn't have it. The boy was going to
mediation sessions with his dad and he really enjoyed it.
He was not frightened of his dad."
MS Buckland said her friendship with Janet was now at an end.
She claimed Janet had been harassing her by throwing rocks
into her garden, smashing eggs on her car and, on one occasion,
slashing the tyres.
A neighbour of Mr Davis described him as "a broken man".
He said: "He's almost suicidal. He's a really nice guy
and she has said some horrible things about him. She is a
horrible woman." The fact that Mr Davis chose to attack
the Prime Minister in the Commons may have its origins in
a exchange between the two men in a radio phone-in.
Mr Blair was hosting an LBC programmein January as part of
the Government's "Big Conversation" initiative.
Mr Davis called in and explained that he had not seen his
children for five years.
He was, he said, "one case in many thousands" of
fathers who were desperate to see their children.
Mr Blair said he recognised the importance of the issue but
pointed out that "nine out of 10 cases get sorted without
all the bother".
The Prime Minister said he would take a closer look at the
way courts were approaching such cases and write to him. But
according to Davis's friends, when the letter came, Mr Davis
felt "fobbed off ".
Mr Davis's landlord, Ray Strotten, said: "Nothing appears
to have been done to allow him to see his children. There
were various orders to give him access and visitation rights
but she would always break them. Not seeing his children has
From the perspective of Mr Davis, his friends and supporters,
Janet emerges as a "horrible woman". In the fastidiously-kept
lounge of her neat semi, with her adoring daughter nearby,
she - no doubt - sees things quite differently.