SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE: Life in the day of a female bodyguard

Jacquie Davis Life in Day ST.png

27 January, 2019

Earlier this month The Sunday Times reported that one of the Duchess of Sussex’s female bodyguards was stepping down after less than a year on the job. Jacquie Davis, 60, understands the challenges that the unnamed woman faced: Davis left the police in the 1980s to become one of the UK’s first female bodyguards.

Widowed after the death of her second husband, she lives in Hertfordshire and runs Optimal Risk Management, providing bodyguard teams worldwide.

I’m normally up around 5.30am and the first thing I do is feed Delta Force Donny, my cat. Then I light a cigarette and make coffee.

I turn on the global news so I know what’s going on while answering emails that have come overnight from clients or their security and assistants in different time zones. Sometimes they’re businessmen, royals or celebrities, but it’s all kept strictly anonymous and we use codenames for safety.

By 7.30am, I’m showered and dressed. I work in tracksuit bottoms if I’m at home, otherwise clients set the dress code.We’re often suited and booted, and it can be helpful if we’re hidden, so sometimes I’m in something grey-looking. I usually work in teams of between four and 12.

One of the advantages of being a woman in the job is that, if you’re not huge muscle, it’s assumed you’re an assistant or a friend.

I watched Bodyguard on the BBC along with everyone else. It was great drama to begin with, then it became totally unrealistic.

Every day is different. If I’ve got a client visiting London, I’ll spend the day recceing the locations on their itinerary, which often include a whole floor of a swanky hotel, where they have security staying either side of them.

I have to check that we can leave by a different route to the one we came in by, and we often use the hotel’s kitchen, like they do in movies, if famous people don’t want to be seen.

I believe Meghan’s bodyguard is stepping down because she is leaving the police force. The job takes you away from home for long periods, so puts a strain on home life and relationships, and being on alert constantly can be draining.

Everything we do is about making the client’s life smooth. You have to be prepared to put your own body between the client and the threat, while your backup team deals with the situation. On journeys, I sit up front with the driver to watch the roads.

I’ve already worked out where the choke points are: areas like bridges where you might get blocked of f in an attack. Kidnap threat increases in choke points. I check intelligence on my phone, to see if anything like the London or Paris terror attacks is happening or whether any personal threats towards my client have come in.

At lunchtime on these jobs we eat where they go — somewhere like Mosimann’s or Novikov in London and usually Michelin-starred — because we don’t leave their side.

We take a table nearby, where we can watch what’s going on, and always stay one course ahead of the client in case they want to leave quickly. There’s not much time to enjoy the fancy food.

A strict rule is that you cannot ever drink on the job, whether it lasts one day or three months; you have to be on the ball.

Evenings involve much of the same and I’m in my hotel room again by midnight, organising everything for the next day. I’m an insomniac, a consequence of never living a nine-to-five life.

I don’t really have days off, but I swim 30 lengths three mornings a week to keep fit, and I love the ordinary when I’m at home.

There is nothing like a Greggs sausage roll after months of posh restaurants. I spend the evenings in my dressing gown watching EastEnders with Donny, which is about as far from global news as you can get.

Close, a film inspired by Jacquie Davis’s life, is on Netflix now

WORDS OF WISDOM:

BEST ADVICE I WAS GIVEN

Always be kind to people

ADVICE I’D GIVE

Be aware of who and what is around you

WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN

Your actions can affect other people’s lives: think carefully before you act

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