The relationship between bodyguard and the person protected treads a fine line at the best of times.
Long hours together, coupled with the stress of facing life-or-death situations; it is perhaps no surprise that such relationships – based on mutual trust – can so easily overstep professional boundaries.
It will be of little comfort to Alan Johnson, but history is littered with such cases where ‘principals’ (as they are known) or their spouses become a little too close to their protection officers, according to Dai Davies, 59, former operational commander in charge of protection for the Royal Family.
Fine line: Mr Johnson’s long hours as Shadow Chancellor may have left his wife Laura and the bodyguard the opportunity to start an affair – and it is not the first time it has happened
During his three years at the helm, there were occasions when officers were swiftly removed at the first whiff of overfamiliarity with their charges – although in his time none was ever alleged to have had an affair.
‘Overfamiliarity has long been recognised as a risk and frankly this latest scandal doesn’t surprise me one iota,’ says Mr Davies, who retired from the post in 1998 and now works in the private sector.
‘I have no doubt that Alan Johnson works incredibly long hours with this officer left looking after his wife. The opportunity was there and they took it.
‘Inevitably you build up a relationship because you are together for such a long time and they are human beings. It takes two to tango but this is highly embarrassing for the Metropolitan Police. It is not acceptable for a protection officer to be doing the tango while allegedly on duty.
‘It is one thing for a principal to become too close to the protection officer, but it is potentially far more explosive when it involves the principal’s wife. It destroys all trust, which is the key issue in the relationship between the officer and the person he protects.
‘There are numerous examples of male and female protection officers going too far and unfortunately developing a personal relationship with the people they are employed to protect or other family members. Sometimes the boundaries become blurred.
Protection chief: Dai Davies says that it is not uncommon for the bodyguard and the person they are protecting to cross the line
‘Often both parties are very attractive people and the policemen may be reasonably handsome. When you are dealing with females in difficult and very traumatic cases, they look to you as the strong figure.
‘It’s amazing how people react in stress and in areas where you are their rock. Even I, looking like a Welsh gnome, have had many offers from women over the years.
‘I have never been tempted, but some are. So you have to be strong and turn them down, but that strength of character seems to be lacking these days in the Met. A moral laxity appears to have permeated from top to bottom and what we need now is a review.
‘When Alan Johnson was Home Secretary he was the head of the police force and he has been humiliated by a constable. It doesn’t get any worse than that. It’s like a footman having an affair with one of the senior royals. It’s that kind of level.’
Former Chief Superintendent Davies kept a close eye on the officers selected to become bodyguards.
Although during his tenure the royals were either a little too old or too young for the bodyguard/principal relationship to spill into something more romantic, this was something previous senior officers have had to contend with.
In 1980 Detective Sergeant Peter Cross, a married officer from Mitcham, South West London, was relieved of his royal protection duties a year after he was appointed amid suggestions that he had become ‘too close’ to Princess Anne.
Removed from the glamour of royal protection to a desk job in Croydon, in 1984 he sold his story to a red-top tabloid detailing how he and the princess had intimate meetings and would snuggle up on the sofa while watching TV at Gatcombe.
The Princess Royal has never commented on his claims.
Similarly royal protection officer Barry Mannakee, the late Princess Diana’s bodyguard, was in 1986 moved from his duties at Kensington Palace to the Diplomatic Corps amid rumours that they were ‘too close.’
In 1987 Mannakee, a married officer with two children, was killed in a motorbike accident.
Close relationship: Barry Mannakee and Princess Diana formed a close bond until he was removed from his duties. The Princess believed that he was killed over their ‘affair’
In a 90-minute film – shot by her former voice coach Peter Settelen – Diana was reported to have confessed to an affair with Mannakee and sensationally claimed he had been killed as a result.
Talk of an affair was dismissed by Diana’s friends, who insisted she saw Mannakee as a ‘father figure’ and confidant during one of the most troubled periods of her life.
Abroad, Princess Stephanie of Monaco married her former bodyguard Daniel Ducruet in 1995 after she bore two of his children. They parted company a year later.
Last year it was reported that South African president Jacob Zuma was battling a scandal involving his second wife, who it was claimed had become too close to her bodyguard.
Zuma’s office dismissed the claims that his wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, was allegedly pregnant by a member of his security team as part of a smear campaign.
And there are many celebrities – including Britney Spears – who are rumoured to have been linked to their security staff, mirroring the 1993 Hollywood movie The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.
‘And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII’… Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in the 1992 film ‘The Bodyguard’
Certainly, even without the potentially incendiary sexual attraction between bodyguard and principal, Dai Davies is only too aware that the job can go to some protection officers’ heads.
In Britain, only the top 10 per cent of street officers are recommended for protection duties by their superiors and they have to undergo a rigorous 12-week training course, on top of other courses including advanced driving and firearms, before being selected.
They undergo intelligence and fitness tests, are assessed for diplomatic skills and the ability to assess and anticipate risks. They must also have first-aid skills close to those of a paramedic.
‘It is a highly competitive, highly sought after role,’ he says. ‘You go round the world and have to deal with ambassadors, heads of consulate, foreign police forces.
‘They are going in at a fairly high level, so they have to be able to speak and articulate properly.
Generally, they are reasonably well educated and their ability to communicate is a key skill. You need to be warm and understanding, but you also have to lay the law down to your principal, and that requires strength of character.
‘The divorce rate is very high in such departments because of the time you spend away from your family and the risk of becoming too close to not only the principal but their ladies-in-waiting, maids or servants.
Intimate meetings: Princess Stephanie of Monaco married her bodyguard in 1995 and they had two children, while Peter Cross had an alleged affair with Princess Anne in 1980 before he was relieved of his duties
‘That strength of character needs to be based on confidence in both your skills and what you are telling the principal, because that principal is putting their life in your hands.
‘If assessment isn’t done properly, these people are in serious risk. This isn’t Mickey Mouse, this is real. They could die and the first person to die with you is your protection officer.
‘Most of the job isn’t physical, it’s mental ability to think ahead and to think the impossible and then think it again.
‘The job sounds hugely glamorous, but most of the time it can be boring. There are long stretches of time when you are away from your family. You can be stuck outside a room.
‘That is something protection officers have to overcome and to compensate for that you
get a very good allowance, thousands of pounds on top of basic pay.
‘They get clothing allowance, travel allowance, they get to go to these fabulous locations, they fly business class, they get to stay in the best hotels.
‘Sometimes the danger is that they forget who they are working for. They are working for the Commissioner, but I have known officers to almost think they are at the same level as the person they are protecting. They start to adopt the mannerisms of the principal. They dress like the principal, speak like them and they sort of become minor clones.
‘I remember one royal protection officer saying to me in a very posh accent, “I suppose you are the titular head”, which means in name only.
Rumours: Singer Britney Spears is one of many celebrities who have alleged links to their security staff
‘That was a big mistake because he soon found out I wasn’t a titular head at all.’
Following the Alan Johnson incident, and PC Paul Rice’s admission of an affair with the politician’s wife, Dai Davies now believes there should be a thorough review and new rules introduced limiting the time an officer works in protection to between five and seven years.
Any longer and he believes the relationship can become compromised. All royals, politicians and celebrities have their ‘favourites’ when it comes to bodyguards but the balance of that relationship can be thrown through familiarity.
‘In my mind it would remind all parties they are there to do a job, including the principal,’ says Mr Davies, ‘while allowing the officer to go back to normal duties and be refreshed.
‘I also think the Metropolitan Police now needs a little bit of ethical cleansing. There are some officers these days, some senior, who seem to think it
OK to misbehave but at the end of the day it is a disciplinary offence.
‘I don’t know all the details of this case, but I doubt very much that this officer will be sacked although he probably won’t protect anyone else again.
‘This is bringing the service into disrepute. If you are in an official protection role, that gives you the same status as a medical professional to a point.
‘In my mind it does raise this ethical moral issue and whether certain moral standards should be applied in the 21st century. I happen to think they should, because it keeps people on the straight and narrow.’
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