Lisa was delighted when she found a box of expensive-looking lingerie in her husband’s car. Her birthday was approaching so she assumed it was a gift.
The big day came and went, but the lacy knickers never materialised. Instead, Lisa received a voucher. Her sixth sense told her something was wrong with her marriage.
‘We had been together for years and things had got a little bit mundane,’ recalls the mum of two, who is using a pseudonym. ‘We were just getting on with normal family life. We weren’t being intimate.’
When Lisa asked her husband, Dave*, about the underwear, he told her that it belonged to a friend from work who had left it in the car. It was one of a catalogue of lies.
‘Things had changed and something wasn’t right,’ remembers Lisa, who is in her thirties. ‘He never left his phone around. When he was looking at it, he’d tilt the screen away from me. He took calls in the garden.’
She decided the only way to find out the truth was to employ a private investigator.
‘The idea scared me,’ she admits. ‘It felt a bit seedy. But I did my research and found one I liked.’
Lisa employed Reveal Private Investigators who carry out covert surveillance, polygraph testing, matrimonial investigations, GPS vehicle tracking and other operations. Dave was followed for a number of nights, and sure enough, it emerged that he was having dinner with another woman and taking her to an apartment for overnight stays. Lisa was presented with pictures of the couple holding hands.
As soon as she saw the photos and her suspicions were confirmed, Lisa remembers how she simply went into autopilot.
‘They were smooching and cuddling,’ she explains. ‘As soon as I’d got that evidence, I just went into Plan B mode. I just compartmentalised it, to protect the kids. I had to make a decision about whether I would stay or go.
‘I confronted him and he owned up. Although it was tearful and emotional, it was also strangely quite enjoyable. There was an element of me that quite liked that I was showing him up for being a liar.’
Countryfile presenter Helen Skelton reportedly hired a private investigator after she became suspicious about her husband Richie Myler’s behaviour. The couple split in April after eight years together. Meanwhile, Amber Heard hired a private investigator to look into Johnny Depp’s behaviour, according to recent reports.
PI prices range from £30 to £85 per hour, with an average hourly rate typically £50 to £55 per hour, but the cost was worth it for Lisa, who asked for asset tracing on her cheating spouse.
The investigation revealed that the apartment the amorous couple had been pictured at actually belonged to Lisa’s husband. He’d told her his business hadn’t been doing too well, when in fact he’d used profits to secretly buy a property, which he put in his brother’s name. This was vital information to Lisa when the divorce settlement was agreed and the secret love den became a marital asset.
‘The investigation helped me get what I wanted,’ she says. ‘It all came out and I am glad it did, because I think financially I wouldn’t have been able to step away from the marriage otherwise. I would have had to live a life of turning a blind eye, sleeping in separate bedrooms.
‘That evidence gave me the confidence I needed to leave him.
‘I’ve moved out and we’re amicable now,’ Lisa adds. ‘I’m the better person for being gracious about it. I’ve had bad times, and it’s hurt. But I wanted to know the truth and quickly, so I could move on to the next chapter.’
When it comes to infidelity, phone usage is a dead giveaway, private eyes agree. Mal* has just discovered his wife is cheating thanks to a private investigator.
‘It was all the cliched things; she was taking care of her appearance and buying new clothes,’ he explains. ‘She was secretive with her phone; taking it to the toilet when she never did before. She was going out a lot more.’
When Mal asked his wife about her behaviour, she told him it was her prerogative to dress nicely, that she was looking good for herself.
‘She told me that I was paranoid, that it was all in my head,’ he remembers. ‘So I was asking myself: “Is it me? Am I creating this out of nothing?” That was the hardest part. Questioning whether there was something wrong with me.’
After a year of suspicion and second guessing himself, Mal enlisted the help of a detective agency. The couple had been married for 18 years, and he wanted to know the truth once and for all.
‘A few weeks ago, she told me she was going to be out all day, and I was really suspicious,’ he says. ‘So I asked for surveillance.’
It was a one-time opportunity to find out the truth. Mal had to borrow the money from a friend to pay for the investigator as he didn’t want his wife to question the lump sum leaving the joint account. However, the report he received was conclusive.
‘The pictures came back of her with someone else, walking hand in hand, in romantic clinches. It was irrefutable,’ he says. ‘I didn’t get angry. I’ve got kids, so I’m just thinking of them now.
‘Ultimately, it was almost a relief. I’d had a year of things playing through my head, thinking I was mad. At least I know now.’
Mal, who is in his forties, hasn’t confronted his wife yet. He’s thinking of his teenage children who are currently taking their exams. Instead, he’s living at home as if nothing is wrong.
‘Their future is more important right now,’ he explains. ‘It’s not easy though. I’m just pretending, just getting through it. I’ve got to put everything on pause and put my kids in front of myself.
‘I don’t know what the outcome will be. Can we build it back? I don’t know. Will she show contrition? Will she get angry? How will she react? There’s so much going on in my head. I’m just playing along. I’m acting in my own life. I’m playing a role until I can get to that point and have that conversation.’
Mal is grateful however, that he knows the truth at last. ‘It’s just a relief to know that I am not going crazy,’ he says.
Mal used Paul Hawkes, a Senior Detective and Forensic Consultant at Research Associates in West London. Paul, who has 44 years’ experience as a private investigator, has dealt with thousands of cases of infidelity.
The detective outlines the main red flags that can indicate an affair; a change in appearance; increased arguments; a sudden mood change or ‘emotional shift’ – where the partner either becomes colder or warmer, and of course – the permanent attachment to the phone.
‘There is usually a change in the emotional atmosphere,’ adds Paul. ‘Sometimes, people start having more sex, or less sex. Sometimes things go frosty, or people are even warmer than they normally would be. But things are not balanced. Arguments happen a lot. Once you’re in the bubble of an inappropriate relationship, your partners’ foibles become more irritating.
‘People start getting caught out in lies. Discrepancies start creeping in. It may be that they say they are in one place, but they appear to be somewhere else. Or you phone them thinking they are somewhere, but the background noises are inconsistent with that story.’
Cheating often begins with a sense of recklessness, Paul says, whereby the cheater, high on lust, takes risks to see the other person. And he talks about ‘mention-itis’ whereby the unfaithful partner cannot help but talk about their new love interest at home.
‘It is significant. Sometimes I will ask clients if they have any suspicions,’ explains Paul. ‘You would be surprised by how often it turns out to be that person. The person who is cheating will try and integrate, or introduce their love interest somehow, or just legitimise them.
‘It is common that the cheating partner will have befriended someone. “There is someone at work having a hard time. They need my help.” It can happen that they can’t help dropping them into conversation.’
David Jones, founder of Reveal Private Investigators, says the majority of infidelity cases rely on covert surveillance, because clients almost always want photographic evidence.
‘Of the cases where a “cheating partner” is suspected, I would say around 70-80% of the cases we take on, we find the suspicions correct,’ he explains.
The job of a PI involves lots of early starts and late nights, as they are usually in position before the sun comes up. ‘It can be incredibly challenging and interesting,’ adds David. ‘In addition to that we are able to provide people with the truth that they may never be able to find without our services, the peace of mind this can provide a client is priceless.’
This was Annie’s* experience. Her life fell apart when she suspected her husband of 36 years to be having an affair. She hired a PI, who confirmed her suspicions, but armed with the truth, she is much happier now.
Annie and her husband lived in the north, while he traveled regularly down to London for work, but he had become cold, distant and defensive.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘One day, four years ago, he came back from work, and he didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be around me. Then the penny just dropped. It hit me like a freight train – he was having an affair. You know the signs; the phone has to be surgically removed from him. He was taking more care of his clothes and what little hair he had. He had no interest in me.
‘A woman always knows,’ adds Annie. ‘But I gave him a chance. I told him: “Clean your act up, stop working away.” But he didn’t take it.’
Her husband didn’t change his behaviour – denied any affair, accused her of being ‘crazy’ – and continued taking long work trips.
Annie, 58, contacted Miss AM Investigations and had her husband followed for weeks. A tracker on his car revealed that he hadn’t been working when he said he was, that he had been visiting unknown addresses and going on long car journeys – and then there were the photos.
‘They hit me like a punch in the face,’ remembers Annie.
‘Pictures of him with a woman getting in and out of his car, going for dinner, going for drinks. Different scenarios.’
Unbelievably, Annie’s ex denied it. He told her again that she was mad and that the woman was ‘just a friend’. He was using lines ‘straight out of the cheating man’s manual’, Annie remembers with a laugh.
However, she’d had enough of his lies and with the evidence on her side, she ended the relationship.
‘It was a horrendous time. It was hell,’ Annie admits. ‘It was the betrayal. I lost two stone. But I just thought “no more. No. I’m not having it.”
‘It wasn’t just that woman. I imagine there were quite a few more as well. Looking back on it, he had probably been doing it for a very long time. But once my eyes had been opened I became a totally different person.’
The photographic evidence gave Annie the strength to dismiss her husband’s lies and the confidence to leave him. She still has the pictures in an envelope, but they’ve lost their power now.
Annie adds: ‘I would recommend it to anybody, who wants to really know. Instead of thinking that you’re mad. I used to second guess myself, but hiring a private investigator meant my eyes could be properly opened. It consolidated everything, seeing it there in front of me.
‘I found those pictures the other day while I was tidying up, I looked at them and I felt nothing. I just thought – I didn’t deserve that.’
Annie is now going through a divorce and is ‘perfectly happy now’, and she has nothing but praise for the investigator, who she credits for changing her life: ‘She did me a massive favour.’
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Claie.Wilson@metro.co.uk