Interview with Jacquie Davis

Interview with Jacquie Davis

From travelling the world protecting celebrities and royals to now guarding the water supply for almost for million Londoners – Jacquie Davis has seen it all.

The 59-year-old, who was the UK’s first ever female bodyguard after starting in 1980, has led a varied career working in close protection, in surveillance and hostage rescue.

jacquie davis at walthamstow wetlands

Now, as the gripping BBC1 drama Bodyguard has come to its conclusion, Jacquie reflects on her job from her tranquil new workplace – Thames Water’s operational reservoir complex Walthamstow Wetlands.

Jacquie, whose life has inspired a new Netflix film called Close, starring Hollywood actress Noomi Rapace, patrols the site every day to ensure nobody enters reservoirs or commits anti-social behaviour, which could impact the site’s operational performance.

She said: “I’ve loved my job, I’ve protected hundreds and hundreds of clients. I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations but you can’t be scared.

“Afterwards it’s like how did I get into that! But during it you have to keep calm, keep aware of all the circumstances.

“I’ve been shot at several times, stabbed twice, I’ve protected foreign royal families, powerful businessmen and women and celebrities. In the past 10 years, the popularity of close protection and surveillance has really increased, which means we’re always busy.”

Being the first female bodyguard, she faced a lot of sexism early on in her career – often tasked to look after women or ordered to hold babies and children.

walthamstow wetlands

She said her favourite jobs have been rescuing kidnapped women and children, which has seen her travel to the Middle East and to Asia to carry out covert operations, with her most memorable being the rescue of a 23-year-old pregnant British woman, who had been kidnapped in Pakistan.

But just before the rescue, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who Jacquie had previously protected, recognised her at a hotel.

first female bodyguard at walthamstow wetlands

She said: “Two hours later I got an anonymous phone call saying ‘get out, they know why you’re there’. But we weren’t leaving without the hostage, so we smashed in, grabbed her and left.

“We had to walk for three days, sleeping in the day and walking at night through the Himalayas to escape to India. The woman, who was pregnant, had been beaten, starved and raped for three months and was wearing a pair of flip flops, was a real hero.”

Following on from the Bodyguard’s finale on Sunday night, Jacquie said: “I’ve been impressed with it, it’s a great drama. There’s a few points in it which are technically wrong, for example, when the ‘client’ stands in front of a lift, but apart from that it’s been good! I’ve had to sack people before for getting too close or into a relationship with a client, like what happens in the show, but it has always been men. I have never sacked a woman for it.”

Discussing her current job, Jacquie says the wetlands is at the forefront of her mind.

She said: “Here it’s just so lovely, you get to engage with the public and talk to them.

“In my previous jobs, you’re seen not heard, or if you’re on surveillance you’re not even seen. Here we can talk to people, keep them safe and educate them about the dangers of the water.

“It’s something different to what I’m used to. It’s quite relaxed and it’s beautiful here. Our total focus is what’s going on around the site to make sure it’s safe, and everyone stays safe.”

walthamstow wetlands 15 mins from central London

Walthamstow Wetlands was opened up to members of the public in October last year after £10.6 million, 10-year project. As part of Thames Water’s 2020-25 business plan, it will make more of its sites more accessible to the public.