Private Investigators have always been used since time immemorial. But now, with almost half of all divorce cases involving investigators, it seems the rest of us are also spying on our partners.
It was a quite Saturday afternoon in leafy suburbia somewhere in Surrey. Kids were playing on their bikes, the sun was shining.
Being unobtrusive here is simple. Just pretend to speak on a mobile fone. Jorge Salgado-Reyes knows this and it makes his job easy. “There are so many people that park their cars to use their fones that it effectively makes you invisible.”
Jorge, a former Retail Loss Prevention Investigator, is on a surveillance. Not seventy yards away, inside a terraced house is his target. She’s a woman approaching her forties, a housewife with a suspicious husband and a lot to lose. She’s a cheater and, if Jorge has anything to do with it, she’s going to get caught.
The target is just one of tens of thousands of “matrimonial” subjects who come to the attention of private investigators each year in a burgeoning infidelity industry. A survey by accountants Grant Thornton found that 49 per cent of all divorce cases now involve the services of private investigators. And, if you believe the private eyes, that figure is simply growing and growing.
Jorge has a Toyota four wheel drive, a house in Surrey and one of the busiest private investigator websites on Google. The green-eyed monster is voracious. Infidelity is a good paymaster.
“I’d been working in Retail Loss Prevention for seventeen years investigating employee theft and fraud,” he says. “Then I thought, why not set up as a private investigator? I set up the business, Salgado Investigations; pretty soon, I was making enough money to quit my full time job. That was six years ago. Now my business merged with another and we are called Allied Detectives now. Salgado investigations became my office in Chile”
“I never expect anything to happen, that way if something does it’s a bonus. The wife – let’s call her Jane – has been lying to her husband – John – about where she goes on the weekends. Now she has told John that she will be going out with a friend this weekend.”
Jorge is parked slightly out of sight of the house, he doesn’t seem worried that he can’t see the house, “I put a GPS tracker on her car last night,” he says, looking down at the screen of his laptop, “even if we lose her, we’ll soon pick her up again on this.”
Nearby are two of Jorge’s colleagues, ex-RAF MP Neil Sheppard (Midlands office), and Rodolfo Francois a motorbike operative who runs Salgado Investigations office in Chile. They are sitting in the back of a nondescript surveillance van. Neil is armed with a long lens worthy of a paparazzi and Rodolfo with a new addition to the surveillance armoury, a pair of Spy Sunglasses.
We settle in for a long afternoon. I asked Jorge how many PI’s there might be in the UK? “No one really knows for sure, because we (PI’s) are not licensed.” he replied. “Hopefully we will be licensed by 2014, just maybe it will get rid of some of the cowboys that exist out there, who can do you more harm than good,” he says. “Much of what we do is in a legal minefield and if it isn’t done within the law you could find yourself in trouble. There is no point gathering evidence if you can’t use it in court.”
A visit to a well known action site will give you some idea of what lies in the private investigator’s armoury. For a reasonable fee you can buy a pair of sunglasses that records video and audio on its internal DVR. Or you could buy the Spy Pen, a pen that records both in video and audio. Or you could install a GPS tracker that tells you instantly where your targets car is via the Internet. “Trackers are very popular with detective agencies,” Jorge informs me, “because they allow a surveillance to happen with smaller teams and within smaller budgets. It used to be that surveillance should be conducted with a minimum team of four operatives.” Jorge went on, “nowadays people can’t afford that kind of expenditure. I know agencies that do it with one agent and a tracker.”
If audio evidence isn’t enough to drive you crazy, why not install a camera in the bedroom disguised as a radio alarm clock or perhaps as a wall clock. The most depressing piece of kit, however, is surely the Check Mate infidelity test kit for men, which allows you to swab for evidence of semen on your partner’s underwear.
Back in west London, Jorge and the boys have had as much success as they had expected this early in the afternoon; none. Two teenagers have come and gone from the property and neither was Jane.
“Much of the job is like this,” says Jorge, an amiable 44 year old. “It’s patience and waiting. I feel sorry for Neil and Rodolfo; they are in the back of the van with no ventilation and no toilet.”
Darkness has fallen in Surrey, and Jorge and his boys are wondering if anything is going to happen today. Suddenly, Jorge gets a call on his Motorola radio, “stand by, stand by” two seconds later “target in car”. Jorge calmly starts the car and gets ready to follow, “I will take the lead”, he explains, “Until Rodolfo can pick her up on the bike.”
We watch as her car passes the side street we are on and we start to track her. Two minutes later “Rodolfo reports, that he is 2 cars behind. Jorge instructs him to take up the lead and he drops back with Neil in the van even further back.
“Rodolfo is using the Spy Sunglasses to record the follow. Neil and I will use our camcorders with night vision to record from static positions once we get to where ever we are going”, Jorge continues to explain.
Half an hour later, we pull in to the car park of a large and isolated hotel. We watch as the target walks into the hotel and almost immediately returns accompanied by a man. Jorge is busy recording them holding hands, seemly oblivious to the close scrutiny of the Allied Detectives.
The 4×4 purrs into life and Jorge moves out of the shadows into the anodyne glow of an empty Surrey country lane. There will probably be several more hours of following the target as she cheats on her husband.