A mother's revenge for the murder of her son (2023)

When Margaret Davis's son was murdered,she was convinced his Filipina bride was to blame. But her courageous lone fight for justice almost cost her own life

One warm July afternoon, Margaret Davis was taking a nap on the sofa at her home in the small town of Bingham, Nottinghamshire, when the phone woke her.

Half in a daze, she answered and a voice simply said: "Steve's had an accident. He's dead, Margaret," and the line went dead. Steven was her 32-year-old son who lived in the Philippines.

Margaret Davis was stunned. "Inside, I was screaming," the 55-year-old former social worker remembers, "but no sound came out of my mouth.

"My baby. My son. No, it can't be. I'd spoken to him only yesterday. How could this be?"

She buried her face in a cushion and sat motionless for over an hour. "I felt as if I was waiting, powerless to move, for a train to run me over."

But Margaret Davis's tragedy had only just begun. There was far worse to come. For when she raised herself from the sofa to take a second call, giving her some of the details of what had happened, she discovered that Steven had been murdered - shot dead by three gunmen in the middle of the night at his home in the city of Makita in the Philippines.

Those two telephone calls weren't from the Foreign Office or the police - she never heard the news officially from anyone. They weren't even from Steven's wife, Evelyn, with whom he had baby son and young daughter.

They were from her son's best friend, Martin, who'd been asleep in the next room to Steven when he'd been murdered.

But Margaret Davis didn't fall apart that night. Instead, within minutes of receiving the second call, she announced to her second husband, Alan, who'd become Steven's stepfather after the premature death of her first husband, Joe, that they were going to the Philippines - to bring their son home.

It was to be the beginning of a journey that would see her put herself in mortal danger, challenge the law in Britain and the Philippines, deal with corrupt officials, hire her own investigators, be accused of the abduction of her grandchildren - and culminate in three trials for murder.

Even more chillingly, she was to discover that the mastermind behind the murder was the most unlikely suspect of all.

Of course, Margaret Davis knew nothing of this as she prepared to leave her Midlands home for a journey halfway across the world. All she knew was she "was a mother with a broken soul that can never be mended", and a woman who wanted to know the truth.

It was a search for justice that was to be fraught with danger.

As Margaret explains in a new book about her experiences, published next week, no sooner had she landed in the Philippines than she was told the men who killed her son would think nothing of killing her and her husband, too.

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"Whoever stood to gain from Steven's death may feel you are in the way," a local told them matter-of-factly.

Money was at stake and, as the days went by, Margaret Davis rapidly learned that money lay at the very heart of her son's death.

Steven Davis ran a successful computer company in the Philippines, and his mother had invested some of her money in the company when it started, making her a major shareholder.

"He and I were very close," she says, "partly because of the loss of his first dad, but also because he was a naturally loving, friendly boy."

Steven had married a Filipina girl, Evelyn Talagolgon, when she was just 17 - although she'd told him she was 21, and used her elder sister Danita's birth certificate to prove it - after they'd met in a local bar.

He was in his mid-20s at the time and they had a daughter, Jessica, three, and a son, Joshua, then just 13 months.

But as Margaret learned more about their marriage, so the suspicions that her daughter-in-law knew much more about the killing than she was prepared to admit steadily grew.

It was two days after that fateful telephone call that Margaret Davis actually met her strikingly beautiful brown-eyed daughter-in-law for the first time.

But rather than commiserating with the woman who had just lost her son, Steven's widow immediately asked her for money.

As the days passed, Margaret heard from friends of the couple that Evelyn often entertained many male friends at the couple's home in Angeles while her husband was away during the week working in Makati.

Incensed, and just hours before her son's funeral, Margaret Davis confided her suspicions about Evelyn to the police.

She told them Evelyn had been stealing money from her son, that the gunmen had used a key to get into his house, that no one could contact Evelyn in the hours after his death, that she'd never called after his murder - and that Evelyn said the gunmen had been in the house for 20 minutes when there was no way she could have known that fact.

However, the police dismissed her suggestions, insisting that the murder had been a robbery that had gone wrong. Undeterred, Margaret set out to prove that her daughter-in-law had hired her son's killers and that they'd been paid with Steven's own money.

"I had never felt more sure in my life," she says. "All my mother's instincts told me I was right. It all fitted. My job now was to prove it to the police, and I was determined to do this for Steven - if it was the last thing I did."

This formidable woman became determined to destroy the woman she'd started to call Evil-Lyn. "I became a mother with a vengeful mission," Mrs Davis admits.

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But it was to prove a brutal, drawnout battle over more than two and a half years, during which she became depressed, contemplated suicide and was even accused of neglecting her surviving children, Lucy and Catherine.

"Who do you think you are, Erin Brockovich?" said Catherine at one point, referring to the campaigner for justice made famous in the film starring Julia Roberts. "You can't single-handedly run this investigation."

But that's exactly what Margaret Davis found herself doing. The British Government certainly didn't help. Indeed, Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Philippines even suggested she went home and left it to the authorities.

Her fight for justice wasn't without its dangers. "A Western man marrying a Filipina is also marrying her family," a local policeman told her privately, "and he may find the sweet kitten becomes an angry tiger if things do not go her way. You must be careful."

Despite the risks, it wasn't long before Steven's mother discovered that Evelyn had a boyfriend called Arnold Adoray. The news convinced Margaret Davis she was right in her suspicions.

"Her lust for Adoray killed Steven," she says. "There is no other explanation."

Still unable to persuade the police to take her seriously, she hired private investigators and took out a second mortgage to pay for them.

"Here I was, Margaret Davis from Bingham, behaving like Inspector Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect," she says. "I felt powerful, courageous and very, very scared."

But she certainly didn't leave everything to her team of investigators. It was while clearing out her son's possessions from the family home that she discovered a receipt from a pawn shop for Evelyn's wedding ring, dated two weeks before her son's death.

When she saw Evelyn at her son's funeral, Margaret Davis demanded her daughter-in-law swear that she had nothing to do with her son's death, and the young woman screamed that she hadn't - sinking to the floor in tears.

"I desperately wanted to believe she was innocent," her mother-in-law says.

But of course, in her heart she didn't. And she was desperately concerned about her two grandchildren who were still in their mother's care. So Margaret decided to try to take them back with her to Nottinghamshire, at least for a holiday.

While she was negotiating with the British Consul to get the children passports and exit visas, which wasn't officially possible without their mother's permission, the Philippines police suddenly arrested Arnold Adoray and a security guard named Alex Dagami.

Both men were charged with the murder of her son.

Margaret Davis could hardly contain her excitement. "All we have to do now," she told her husband, "is to get Evelyn's agreement for us to borrow the children for a while."

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"And enough evidence to have her arrested as well," he replied.

But before anyone could assemble that evidence, the British Embassy rushed both Mr and Mrs Davis and granddaughter Jessica (the other child, Joshua, was with Evelyn's family in a remote province) out of the Philippines, so concerned were they that their lives were in danger because of possible reprisals from associates of the two men charged.

So, in September 2002, just six weeks after that fateful telephone call, Margaret Davis left the Philippines. Back in Nottinghamshire, she tried to rebuild her life, but her son's death - and her certainty of her daughter-in-law's role in his murder - became an ever greater obsession.

While her days were taken up with her granddaughter, she remembers: "At night I sought refuge with my computer, firing off emails to my MP, my British lawyer, my Filipino lawyer, the British Embassy in Manila and anyone else I could think of who might be able to put pressure on the police to pursue their investigation against Evelyn."

She also wanted to reclaim her grandson, Joshua. It was a campaign that infuriated her daughter-in-law.

"She says Joshua will see Steven before he sees his grandmother," a friend from the Philippines told her in an email.

Fortunately, it turned out to be only a threat, and after six weeks of negotiations and some bribery Joshua joined his sister with the Davis family in Nottinghamshire.

He was suffering from malnutrition and infections, caught while staying with his relatives, where he'd been tied to a tree by his ankle to make sure he didn't escape.

But then Evelyn took her revenge. She charged her mother-in-law with abducting her children, which meant Margaret could be arrested if she returned to the Philippines.

"It's a Catch 22 situation," her husband told her. "They need you to be there to give evidence to put Evelyn away, but until she's put away you're not safe to be there."

By now 'falling apart', to use her own words, Margaret took out further loans to sustain her campaign to get justice for her son.

She was refused help from the state beyond Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance. Social services insisted she didn't qualify for any other financial support.

"I felt abandoned and helpless," she admits, "and started withdrawing into myself. I was probably clinically depressed. I just wanted to sleep, to blot out the world."

Then after months of waiting, a third gunman, Roberto Palobay, who was married to Evelyn's elder sister and who'd been there on the night of Steven's death, was arrested.

In return for turning state's evidence - to ensure he wasn't sent to jail - he confessed that Evelyn had been there on the night of the murder when the three men killed her husband.

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"I ached for my poor betrayed son," Margaret Davis says. "But the knowledge of her evil-doing gave me renewed strength to fight on."

In February 2004, more than 18 months after her son's killing, the two men charged with his murder, Adoray and Dagami, were tried, found guilty and sentenced to 30 years each, without remission.

Then, just a few days later, Margaret's determination bore fruit. Evelyn was arrested, in a remote province of the Philippines where she'd been in hiding, and brought back to face trial for murder.

The verdict was to be announced on November 25, 2004, and Margaret Davis was determined to be there - in spite of the possibility she might be arrested for abducting her grandchildren.

"I had to go," she says. "The circle had to be completed, whatever the outcome."

So, in a stifling, rickety courtroom, Margaret Davis finally got justice for her son. Evelyn was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison, without the possibility of parole or remission.

The prosecution told the judge that Margaret was not in favour of the death penalty. She wasn't - but not on moral grounds.

"I thought it was too good for her," she says. "I wanted her to suffer every day of her life for what she did.

"I wanted her to wake up every day knowing that she would never see her children. This is what it is like for me, and it is the worst feeling a mother can experience."

But Margaret Davis did not let it end there. She confronted her daughter-in-law in the waiting room outside the court, asking her: "Was it worth it, Evelyn?"

"As I left, I said: 'I will tell your children they had a beautiful mummy who did something very bad. She took their daddy's life and she had to pay the price. Goodbye, Evelyn, I will not see you again.'"

It was Margaret Davis's ultimate triumph. "It was the end of a very long journey to justice," she says. "I had done my duty as a mother and now, finally, I could bury my son."

For The Love Of My Son by Margaret Davis is published by Hodder on September 21 at £6.99. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0870 161 0870.

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