IN a dimly lit bar on a Thursday night, Alexandra Quick looks across the room at a man she has been watching for half an hour as he gazes longingly at the woman opposite him.
Alexandra is casually smart, dressed in jeans and a blouse, as she nurses a soft drink — taking her time to make it last for the duration she is required to be there.
She picks up her phone and fakes looking at social media as she discreetly zooms in and takes a photo of the pair: Evidence.
Nobody around her has batted an eyelid at the brunette who appears to be waiting for a friend, checking her watch every now and again to keep up the pretence.
But Alexandra’s friend will not be turning up.
She collects her things and leaves the busy bar knowing her job there is done.
She feels slightly deflated as her suspicions are confirmed — this man is definitely cheating. But not on her.
He is cheating on a sad and confused woman who has paid her to find out why he has been acting out of character.
Alexandra — her professional name — has been a private detective for a year.
In that time she has caught a shocking 150 cheaters in the act and is savvy to their devious and dishonest ways.
And it’s no surprise Alexandra’s services are in hot demand, with new data from Illicit Encounters, a dating site for married people, showing sign-ups have surged as more people look to have an affair.
At her home in Devon, Alexandra, a 49-year-old divorced mum of six and gran of four, says: “If a partner is being unfaithful, they will display several characteristics — both men and women.
“They will be particularly possessive of their phone, maybe having a pin code on it when they never had before.
“Men will develop a new habit of emptying their trouser pockets before putting them in the wash — making sure to get rid of any lurking evidence, such as receipts, that could be found.
“The devious partner will over-explain things, going into details about where they have been and who they have seen as they overcompensate to cover their tracks. Most report that their partner smelled different too.”
Alexandra got into the private investigations business after spending years in accounting.
She decided she needed a change when Paul Lewis, director of London-based PEL Consultancy Services, asked her if she wanted to try it.
Possessing the vital attributes of patience, determination, a cool head and able to think quickly on her feet, Alexandra realised she would be perfect for the job.
While she dreamed her role would be like that seen on American TV drama CSI, with killer heels and a steely demeanour, Alexandra soon realised the reality was different.
She says: “People think it’s very glamorous but it’s actually the least glamorous job you could think of.
“I spend most of my time sat in a car in comfy clothes following somebody’s movements. It’s not very dramatic.”
Half their cases are investigating cheating and other matrimonial issues, which have dramatic outcomes for those involved.
She says: “When a partner suspects cheating you’ve got to remember we are dealing with the best intelligence you can get.
“We have the person’s other half who is privy to all their usual movements and routines to allow us to know where they are.
“I have often followed a suspect in the car to see where they are going and who they are meeting.
“But if we are looking into whether a person is going where they are saying they are going, we will often put a tracker under a car.
“You have to be careful to work within the law. We can only put a tracker on a car that somebody has given us permission to do so by the owner — like a family car — otherwise the client must do this themselves.
“In all the time working at PEL I have never been caught. Nobody would ever consider I’m a private detective, people are far too busy in their own lives.
“At the moment I am the only woman working for the organisation, so I am very useful. Most PIs are ex-policemen or ex-military, so I come in handy when you don’t want anybody to stand out.
“Another tactic we will use is to place a listening device in a car — that would involve the client putting it there, so it is nothing to do with us — again, working within the law.”
Alexandra also reveals the company tracks love-rats using mobile phones but these must be provided by the cheat’s partner.
She says: “You can’t just put spyware on somebody’s phone. What you can do is put spyware on a phone that you own, that you have gifted to a partner because their old one has ‘broken’.
‘EVERYTHING ON A PLATE’
“Sometimes, with trackers, listening devices and spyware, my job will then be a matter of sitting back and letting devices do the work for themselves.
“Sometimes people will hand you everything on a plate — I love anybody who has a social media account without any privacy settings.”
PEL is based in the capital but has employees all over the country.
Its services include surveillance, vehicle tracking and background checks, as well as collecting, analysing and preserving evidence.
Alexandra says: “One case that made me particularly sad was a lovely single mum who thought she’d found the man of her dreams, but things had started getting odd, one time with him ringing on a number she didn’t recognise — because it turned out he had two phones — so she wanted to see what he was up to.
“On the device in the car we could hear him having one conversation with her and then having another with another woman on another phone.
“He was going back and forwards between the two women. The other woman knew what he was up to.
“We were once put on a job by a man’s wife after he’d got a younger woman pregnant.
‘DETECTIVES ARE NOT CHEAP’
“The wife was trying to prove the young woman had another man and that she was lying about the pregnancy with her husband.
“But it turned out to be right, the young woman did nothing more than go to work, the supermarket and what have you.
“This wife spent a fortune for us to follow this woman to try to find the evidence. But there was nothing there.”
If you suspect your other half of cheating, expect to pay a pretty penny for the help of an investigator.
Alexandra says: “Detectives are not cheap — it is a private service and is costly. It can cost from as little as £200 if you know what you’re after, to running into thousands if you’re wanting to track somebody for months.
“We always practise due diligence when taking on a case. You’ve got to make sure there is no sinister motive to our following somebody.
“And we never reveal somebody’s whereabouts in real time, always after the event. This gives the followed a form of protection.
“I do get some satisfaction when we follow through for a client, when we get the success and the evidence, but it is also tinged with sadness.
“With some clients, you build up a rapport and really feel for them. It is heartbreaking when you see it in action, like the man in the bar.
“I love my job. It is different and fascinating, and no two days are the same, but it also leaves you feeling cynical . . .
“But I have a wonderful, loving family around me and that’s what keeps me sane. It lets me know there are also a lot of amazing people out there. Not everyone is a cheater.”
- To find out more about PEL Consultancy Services, call 0203 432 0207.