In The End of the Affair, Graham Greene describes adultery as "part of modern life." He wrote those words almost 65 years ago, but they're still just as true today. TV shows like The Affair and Doctor Foster nod to our obsession with what goes on behind closed hotel doors, while, last summer, adultery site Ashley Madison hit headlines across the world after hackers revealed the details of millions who'd signed up in the hope of starting an affair.
Jack Roberts, a private investigator at Global Investigations, is tasked with exposing affairs. His work has taken him across the world, jumping on planes, following cars and lurking in shady hotels to uncover the sometimes-ugly truth about his clients' relationships. Charging £225 ($340) for five hours of surveillance, Jack has over two decades of experience in tracking down and exposing cheating partners. This is what he told me about his job.
VICE: Hi Jack. What made you decide to be a private investigator?
Jack Roberts: James Bond. My father took me to see The Spy Who Loved Me when I was 11 and it inspired me. So, 23 years ago, I started off tracing people for debts. Then, in 1994, I began dealing with matrimonial cases.
What happens first when someone comes to you and says, "I think my spouse is having an affair"?
First, I check for warning signs. I ask for the backstory. For instance, I'll ask how much time they are spending outside of the house. Some people say their partner goes to work every day but the mileage on their car tells a different story. Or they've stopped having intimate relations, or the partner might take their phone into the bathroom with them.
Are people generally right if they think their partner is cheating?
If you can smell a rat, normally there's something that we need to look further on. A lot of the time, women are right. They sense things better than men do. A lot of men are just paranoid. Women tend to come to us as a last resort, whereas men come when there's something slightly not right. However, we keep an open mind and don't make assumptions too early. Sometimes it turns out the subject is suffering from a drugs or gambling addiction, rather than having an affair.
So what counts as proof of infidelity?
I can't speak for the client. Sometimes we just need to prove intimacy with another person: holding hands, kissing. But some partners go as far as leading double lives. We had one client who lived with his wife from Monday to Friday, but on the weekends he wouldn't come to the house. It wasn't until he died that the client found out he had been having an affair; after the funeral, she saw a wreath left on the grave which was "from Jane* and family", which read: "My love for you will go on and on." The client approached us and said: "What the hell is this?" We did background checks on the guy, looked at where his vehicle had been spotted and spoke to some of his old friends, trying to squeeze information here and there. It took us a month, but we discovered that, from the Friday evening to the Monday morning, he had been living at another lady's address. They had a child together and everything. This had gone on for 16 years.
Wow. So I'm sure you end up breaking a lot of bad news.
Yeah. I've got used to behaving like a counsellor and releasing information in the best way I can. But, in the same manner, we don't paint pictures here—we tell them what they need to hear. Generally they've come to us with the feeling that it's hit rock bottom, and they want intelligence.
How far would you go to follow someone?
I'm never sure where I will end up. Sometimes I'll go out at 8AM and then I won't come home that night. You have to be prepared for all eventualities, because cheating partners often take up the old adage "out of sight, out of mind". Most of the time I carry a passport, I'll carry loose change and I'll carry a Travelcard when I'm not even using travel. A few weeks ago, my colleague and I had a case where the client was travelling to the States and asked us to keep an eye on their husband back in London. The husband travelled from Hampshire to St Pancras and got on the Eurostar… We ended up following him to Paris. He checked into a hotel and met with a lady there. So we checked in too and filmed him. We had to stay overnight, but we got what we wanted.
Has anyone ever been impossible to trace?
Sometimes it takes time. But slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. In one case, my client's 84-year-old husband had told her he was popping out for a loaf of bread and then completely disappeared. His clothes had gone, too. We couldn't find him for two months. He was a clever guy, ex-Army, and he had covered every single aspect of his life—all his post had been forwarded to a C/O address. He never told anyone where he was going. Eventually, we tracked him down at an Army reunion dinner in Southampton. We followed him all the way home to an address ten miles away from his former home, where he was living with a new woman who, like my client, was in her 70s. He had been married to my client for 28 years, but one day he just picked up and left.
Do you only work with married couples?
Not always. A lot of men, particularly American or Russian businessmen, like to have escorts as kept women here in London, and then want to check up on them when they're not with them. We had one American client who had more money than sense—he showered young girls with gifts. He was in his early 40s and started dating an escort in her early 20s. He'd persuaded her to give up her job and promised to pay her rent. Meanwhile, he wanted us to check out her online escort profile and see if she was still working… So my colleague posed as a client.
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And did your client's girlfriend turn up?
The woman who arrived turned out to be a different escort. But then we found out the woman we were looking for was spending three nights a week at a brothel in Paddington. So that was proof.
Extramarital affairs are a hot topic for TV shows at the moment. Over the past 20 years, have you had an increase in matrimonial investigation cases?
It's actually the same as ever. Matrimonial cases are always going to happen because people are always going to cheat and lie. As a professional investigator, I help my clients to see behind those lies so that they can have peace of mind and move forward.
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