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Research - Divorce - The reality of divorce

Does father really have a case?
By Rebecca Smith And Keith Dovkants, Evening Standard
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 prevail.
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 begun.
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, charm.
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 good schools.
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 view.
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 destroyed him."
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.

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