Fighter who stood by her man and stood up to his father

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The Independent Online
In a curious echo of Judge Caulfield's description of the "fragrant" Mary Archer, Mr Justice Buckley said yesterday of Kevin Maxwell's wife, Pandora: "I cannot be over- influenced by such matters, but no one could have been unmoved by her evidence . . . Her obvious distress was, I am convinced, entirely genuine."

"Obvious distress" - or indeed fragrant - are not words often applied to the former Pandora Warnford Davis, 37, daughter of a manufacturer of car number plates and snooker balls.

Throughout the Maxwell trial she displayed a fortitude, fierce protectiveness and indeed bolshiness not normally associated with "stand-by-your-man" trophy wives.

But these are not new character traits. The formidable mother of six was one of the few people willing to stand up to the late Robert Maxwell. The brass plate next to the Maxwells' front door which reads "Never mind the dog, beware of the owner" is said to refer to her, and not to her husband.

Her commitment to domestic privacy was most famously demonstrated in 1992 when police officers called at the Maxwells' house in Chelsea, west London, to effect a dawn arrest of her husband.

Thinking the callers were reporters, she yelled: "Piss off, we don't get up for an hour." Had she known it was the police, she said afterwards, her language would have been spicier.

She married Kevin, scion of the multi-millionaire Maxwell family in 1984. She was not the "princess" the autocratic Robert Maxwell had in mind for his heir, but by strength of character ignored Maxwell pere's attempts to end their courtship and then defied his attempts to interfere in her family life.

She has no interest in cosmetics, and happily admits to wearing old corduroys, and having her hair cut by the local hairdresser. During the first trial, she described how Kevin had asked her to "look halfway decent" for the media. "Do you mean I've got to put on make-up for the second time this year?" she replied.

In her evidence to the judge she said, "The house was besieged pretty much from the time of Kevin's father's death . . . we had journalists and photographers camped outside our house. . .

"We were pursued on stupid things; like I took the children to the theatre at Christmas and we had people jumping on buses trying to follow us. The children were worried because they didn't like this. They were followed to school.

After the early-morning arrest of their father in June 1992, the children "knew he had been taken away to a police station somewhere. I suppose even then they thought he was going to go to prison, Mrs Maxwell said.

"They didn't know what had happened. Was he going to be coming home? That's what they've always wanted to know, and that's what they've wanted to know for the last five years: 'Is Daddy coming home?' It was my job to keep the children on an even keel so that they could face the future . . .

"The children at school occasionally did make remarks, you know, 'Your dad's in court. Your dad's going to go to prison. My dad says he's going to go to prison for years and years', and they would come home and ask me and I would have to explain to them that it was a possible outcome."