On this day in history : 19th August 1975 – Headingley Cricket Ground, Leeds, is vandalised by campaigners calling for the release of robber George Davis from prison….
34-year-old East London mini-cab driver, George Davis, had been jailed for 20 years for his part in an armed robbery in Ilford, Essex – a police officer had been shot and injured…. However, it was claimed Davis was a case of mistaken identity – he had not been involved in the pay-roll robbery…. Since his imprisonment in Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight a series of marches, petitions and fund-raising events had been organised…. Even a 7 hour roof top demonstration on St. Paul’s Cathedral had been held by his brother-in-laws, Jim and Colin Dean….
Campaigners had gained entrance to the Headingley ground, had dug holes on the cricket pitch and had poured oil over one end of the wicket…. They had painted slogans on the walls demanding Davis’s release…. The damage was discovered by head groundsman, George Cawthray – and the final match of the series between England and Australia had to be abandoned…. This meant a draw was declared and England did not have the chance of winning back the Ashes….
Police travelled from London to Leeds to investigate – and four people were brought to trial…. Three received suspended sentences whilst the fourth, Peter Chappell, was given an 18 month prison sentence….
Following the incident an internal inquiry was set up to look into the handling of the Davis case…. In conclusion Home Secretary Roy Jenkins expressed serious doubt as to Davis’s identification, which had been based on the evidence of two police officers…. In May 1976 Davis was released from prison….
However, in July 1978 Davis was jailed for 15 years after pleading guilty to taking part in a bank robbery…. He was freed in 1984 – but three years later was to receive a further 18 month sentence for attempting to steal mailbags….