Not ideal, but not our choice!

Our business, by the very nature of what we do isn’t without its risks. Normally, these risks are calculated and minimised for the both the security of our Agents in the field and the anonymity of our clients but occasionally our clients (being the people in charge of what we do) request that we push aside the risk element to secure a result that they can use against a cheating spouse. I would like to share one such story with you that will stay with us for some time.

The UK (in terms of infidelity) is a reasonably small place and it is not unheard that we find ourselves working in the same village two nights running for two completely unrelated clients. Sitting in my vehicle one evening after planting “Crystal” (a GPS device) on a target vehicle, I switched on my Internet connection to ensure that I was receiving a signal before leaving the area. Strangely, Crystal, who is normally accurate to within around two and a half feet, was giving me a location about 100 yards away in the other direction. Cursing my bad choice of placement on the vehicle (as I assumed the signal was being distorted) I silently left my car and running through the shadows, made my way back across the village green to the vehicle I had been to not 6 minutes ago. Checking the device, I confirmed that the placement was as good as it should be before returning to my vehicle to rule out server error (The devices report their location to a central server which is then fed down to us in the field)

Baffled and sitting alone in my car in the early hours, I started a mental check of everything that could affect the device, before checking the location once more on my PDA. Still over one hundred yards out.

Then I noticed it. Each of our devices (Ruby, Crystal, Kylie, Claudia, Sophie etc) have their own dedicated tracking pages on the web server and staring at me from the screen was the name ‘Sophie’. I was looking at the wrong bug. Tapping the screen of my PDA I located my client files to confirm what Sophie’s position should have been that evening. Surrey. So what was she doing here, some 120 miles to the north of that location in the middle of the night?!

Clicking through to the correct page for Crystal, I confirmed that she was in fact working as she should (accurate to within about 30cms that evening!) and quietly turned my car around to go and take a look at what Sophie was doing here.

I barely had a chance to move off down the road before I spotted the target vehicle I had attached Sophie some nine days before! But what was he doing here? Checking the client file once more, I saw instructions for 24hr updates to the client, and, pulling over onto the verge made a call to our client.

Saving you the expletives, it transpired that the owner of the ‘Sophie car’ should have been at home while our client was at her sisters for the night, but it was obvious that he had other plans…While the cat’s away and all that. Obviously furious, she demanded pictures and if possible, proof that he was in the house. I explained to her that not anticipating this opportunity (this was a completely unrelated bug plant after all and she didn’t even have this time booked!) I didn’t have my digital SLR camera with me, and only had use of my Sony Ericcsson 5 mega pixel mobile phone camera…with auto flash! Even after explaining that as soon as I took a picture, the flash would light up the street like a Christmas tree, she insisted that I get the evidence, consequences aside.

OK then. So, preparing for a quick flash (so to speak!) and then off, I stepped out of my vehicle, phone in hand and walked closer to the Sophie Car. Phone poised, I ran off a couple of shots and bathed the street in lightning flashes! Suddenly, I heard someone behind me.

“What the hell are you doing?” The voice demanded to know. Turning to put a face to the voice, the targets features swam into view under the streetlight. I walked off quickly to my car

“I said what are you doing, that’s my car you are photographing?!” I simply turned to him, and using the stock answer stated “I am here with the knowledge of the relevant authorities, if you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact the local police” We always inform the local police when working in one of their areas, if for nothing more than to prevent them answering calls to investigate strange people parked up in cars around the village!

Fast forwarding about 30 seconds, our target had been joined by about 12 other people in the street, neighbours etc, that had seen the camera flashes, and between them they were examining the car for damage and making obvious gestures towards taking down my number plate and vehicle description.

Now, I simply vanished again in to the night leaving the street with some pub banter that the locals will no doubt dine out on for the next few months, but there was a valuable lesson to be learned that evening. What if the target hadn’t been so passive in his questioning? What if they hadn’t been happy just to let me leave what potentially could be a crime scene? In terms of safety, the answers don’t bear thinking about.

It does however demonstrate the need the need for cover, or covert behaviour if you will. Fine, on this occasion one could argue that the case, complete with a target coming out of the house in sleepwear is well and truly closed (especially as the address turned out to be that of his secretary) and thus the end justifies the means, but still….

I suppose what I am trying to say is that the closure was not ideal, but then again, we have to act as the clients direct and if they want us to break cover to close a case then so be it.

Still, it will be sometime before I frequent that village pub again which is a shame as my wife was particularly fond of their Scampi….

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