Rose Dean-Davis: Campaigner whose protests led to the freeing of her husband George Davis from jail

Rose Dean-Davis led the triumphant 1970s campaign which freed her husband, George Davis, from a 20-year sentence for armed robbery.

In what was acclaimed as the righting of a major miscarriage of justice, the campaign, which attracted widespread support, included high-profile incidents such as the sabotage of a cricket Test and ram-raiding the gates of Buckingham Palace and Fleet Street newspaper offices. To this day, the faded slogan asserting that "George Davis Is Innocent" can still be seen in some parts of London.

Within a few years of his release, however, Rose was mortified as her husband was caught red-handed taking part in an armed robbery. After serving a sentence for that, he was later locked up for a third time for another similar offence.

There was no doubt about hispart in the two subsequent hold-ups, since he pleaded guilty to both.Rose, sickened by both his deception and by his womanising, divorced him after his second conviction. To this day, George Davis maintains that he is innocent of involvement in the first offence (despite his release in 1976he has never officially been declared innocent of the crime), and is planning an appeal. But no groundswell ofpublic support for him is evident,probably because he is an admitted armed robber.

George married Rose when thepair were 17, after Rose had fallen pregnant by him at the age of 16. Both of them came from the East End, where her stern father, an army cook, insisted that his children remain silent at meal times. She worked in a laundry and cleaned in a pub while Davis worked at the docks and drove a lorry and a cab.

From the early days, Rose was under no illusions that her husband was an upright, law-abiding citizen.He was often in trouble with thelaw and was convicted of offencessuch as drink-driving and possessing stolen goods.

But although he was charged, and acquitted, of conspiring to steal from a railway yard, Rose continued to believe that he was not capable of really serious criminality. She clung to this belief even after he was convicted of involvement in a violent armed robbery at the London Electricity Board offices in Ilford, during which two policemen were injured – one of them having been shot in the leg.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges, producing several alibi witnesses and challenging identification evidence. He was given a lengthy prison sentence of 20 years, which on appeal was reduced to 17 years. Rose, meanwhile, had launched the Free George Davis campaign together with a friend, Peter Chappell, and an East End network which included Violet Kray, mother of the notorious Kray twins.

The graffiti appeared on manyLondon walls, while Chappell smashed his vehicle into Fleet Street office-fronts. He was eventually jailed for 18 months when he and others dug up the pitch at Headingley cricket ground in Leeds and poured oil over part of the wicket on the eve of a crucial Test match. The cricketing world was especially outraged at this stunt, since the Test with Australia had to be abandoned and declared as a draw, thus denying England the chance of winning back the Ashes.

There were many other protests, concerts and disruptive incidents. Rose was to the fore: it was plain enough that she was absolutelyconvinced that her husband was innocent. An American newspaper described her as "a national figure, regularly on television news programs, her dark eyes blazing, screaming at police during protest rallies and court appearances."

The rock group The Who sported "George Davis is Innocent" T-shirts, while the punk band Sham 69 belted out an impassioned protest song,which contained the lyrics: "Everything they want to pin on you / Everything you say and do / Looking through their photofits / See your face and your face fits".

Although there was much criticism of the Davis campaign, its strength and persistence and in particular Rose's evident moral outrage caused many to wonder whether a miscarriage of justice had taken place. Surely, it was said, the supporters of a guilty man would not maintain his innocence so vigorously.

The campaign culminated in astunning success when Roy Jenkins, that most liberal of Home Secretaries, intervened in a most unusual way and in 1976 released Davis through the exercise of the Royal Prerogativeof Mercy. It was explained that there was doubt about the identificationevidence of police witnesses. Davis was not declared innocent and didnot receive a free pardon. But he was none the less freed, becoming an instant celebrity.

Rose was hailed as a championof the innocent, but the release ofher husband did not bring her happiness. He embarked on what was described as an "18-month bender", flaunting a very public mistress and lots of other women. While muchof the East End seemed anxious tobuy him a drink, Rose worked as a waitress.

Her faith in her husband was shattered when, in 1977, he was caught red-handed during a raid on the Holloway Road branch of the Bank of Cyprus. He was arrested in the getaway van, with weapons arrayed on the seat beside him. Even though he pleaded guilty and was jailed for 15 years, Davis at first tried to convince Rose that he had been "fitted up". She replied, "Yeah, and I'm the Queen of Sheba." She divorced him and changed her name to Dean-Davis.

"I was ashamed," she later wrote. "I felt guilty, like a traitor really. I felt gutted for all those people who had helped us. I never thought he would have gone and robbed a bank in a million years. I was never a gangster's wife, so I stopped defending him."

The Davis campaign obviously did no favours to those who were genuine victims of injustice, such as theBirmingham Six and the Guildford Four, since claims of innocence were from then on regarded with extra scepticism and suspicion.

George Davis went on to serve a third prison sentence for attempted robbery, and after his release, married the daughter of a police chief inspector. In 2006 he broke his silence of many years to tell The Independent that he was launching a legal bid to have his original conviction overturned. Ofhis other two convictions he admitted: "Yes I did them. I pleaded guilty butI have been a good boy since then and have just kept out of trouble." Hewas then working as a driver for a courier company.

He declared: "I want to clear my name for the people who believed in me at the time and for all those who were in the campaign. But also for myself, so that people know that I was telling the truth."

Rose, meanwhile, worked in a brewery, in cleaning jobs, as a catering assistant, and in a children's hospice. Diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2004, she managed to complete a book of memoirs before her death: she called it The Wars of Rosie.

Rosemary Anne Dean, campaigner: born Chichester 19 May 1941; married 1958 George Davis (marriage dissolved, one son, one son deceased, one daughter deceased); died 31 January 2009.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition