The detectives

Julie Bindel

International fraud, insurance scams, digital forensics … it’s all in a day’s work for Britain’s private investigators

Private investigator

Eyes on the prize: Jorge Salgado-Reyes awaits his target

They eavesdrop on your conversations, rifle through dustbins and pretend to deliver pizzas while taking covert photographs with a disguised camera. They hide, watch and wait, and hang around for hours in the freezing cold, crouched down in the back of a parked car dying to use the bathroom.

This is the real life of Britain’s private investigators. There are between 4,000 and 5,000 of them now active. The stereotype is of the disgraced police officer, thrown off the force, all grubby raincoat and cigarette dangling from his lower lip; or the lithe, brooding, silent panther, with eyes in the back of his head, capturing the bad guys. Neither is quite right, nor quite wrong.

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