A Forensic Look at Infidelity
"If we had a pound for everybody who asks us to break into their partner's Facebook account, we'd be millionaires" says Jo.
We're sitting in the unassuming offices of a Private Investigator's agency on the top floor of a 1930s semi detached house on the outskirts of Nottingham. This is where Jo and her female colleagues run the Harriet Bond Detective Agency from.
"Truth lives on in the midst of deception" is one of a series of quotations coming up on the website when you log on. Jo is a slender, attractive woman in her thirties with long brown hair and no make up.
Her looks give her the advantage of being able to blend in with the crowd if she has to be anonymous while following someone, or more glamorous if she was to set what's known in the business as a "honey trap". This is when an attractive woman is planted in a bar or restaurant with the aim of catching a man in the act of chatting up or seducing an attractive female, thereby confirming his wife's suspicions.
"Business is booming" says Jo and points to a growing trend in the 21st century - the growth of technology in facilitating extra marital flings.
"A lot of people are having affairs," she says. "Nowadays with Facebook, Twitter and mobile phones, virtual affairs are becoming a massive contributing factor to relationships. I think Facebook has been cited in almost one in five divorces. People are blocking it from their partners, they're able to control the settings so their partners can't see what they're saying to people."
The Harriet Bond Agency is one of a growing number of all female investigation bureaus springing up around the country. Jo says that an equal amount of men to women hire her and her team to check out their partner's fidelity or lack of it.
Somehow people seem to feel at ease with women. Maybe it's to do with the traditional image of the private detective being one of an unhealthy, slightly sleazy looking male in a raincoat, or maybe women are just hardwired to sniff out a straying spouse.
Jo says they are sympathetic to their clients, understand their distress and the emotional turmoil they are experiencing, so once they do prove infidelity, they don't just break the news and then close the case. They also provide what she describes as an after care service where they check up on the client and offer advice as to how to proceed. Usually the advice is to hold fire and leave things to settle down before making important decisions such as whether to start divorce proceedings.
As part of our programme A Forensic Look at Infidelity on Radio 4, we join Jo and a colleague (they always work in pairs) as they follow an unsuspecting husband who's just dropped his wife off at the station knowing she'll be gone for two nights as he heads off for a secret tryst with an attractive brunette.
They start by fitting a vehicle tracking device to the wife's car so they can see exactly where he is at any given moment. In the end it's a very straightforward case. The guy drives straight to the town centre, picks up his lady friend and drives her out to the suburbs to her home.
The case is confirmed and resolved within a couple of hours and Jo has what she needs to give to the wife, who is already seeking divorce, and simply needs the evidence to present in court.
"At least I know I'm not going to make someone cry tonight" a somewhat relieved Jo says as she reviews the footage secretly filmed using a pinhole camera hidden in the strap of a leather handbag. Jo carries the responsibility of being the bearer of bad news very seriously, but believes passionately in what she's doing.
"A lot of people ask me if I'm happy with what I do for moralistic reasons. I am because I believe people should know if their partners are cheating on them. I think everyone's got the right to know what's happening to them because it's their life. You only get one chance. They deserve to know the truth".
Maggie Ayre is the producer of A Forensic Look at Infidelity