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28 October 2014
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Secret life of a VIP minder

By Sara Newman
Like James Bond, he's trained to kill. Only this guy is for real. We shake the mighty hand of celebrity minder Paul Hughes as he reveals the secret world of an A-list bodyguard in Manchester.

Paul Hughes, Benchmark PA
Paul Hughes: protecting Manchester's elite

In these days of celebrity status, we're all drawn to the rich and famous. But Paul Hughes' job is to protect his well-heeled paymasters.

The Beckhams, Robbie Williams, Jude Law and Westlife sit proudly on top of his illustrious client list which also includes Russell Watson and the Neville brothers. 

Benchmark security
Benchmark: taking care of business

But before you can even glimpse one of these celebs in public, Paul and his operatives will be there watching you, watching them - constantly assessing the situation should a threat arise.

The paparazzi present the biggest threat to the safety and dignity of the kings and queens of celebville. But Paul is wise to the tricks of the celebrity snapper:

"The press are renowned for setting off fire alarms," he explains. "So everyone has to run out half naked in the night."

As for his corporate clients, industrial espionage is a major concern. Paul was on the set of Nike filming before the World Cup to keep the new kit under wraps from rivals.

Known as ‘Gadget Man’, Paul’s techno toys include tracking systems and night vision scopes, but most importantly he is a man with a plan A, B and C. 

Trained to kill

"If I have to resort to violence I haven’t done my job properly, I haven’t done my full reconnaissance"
Paul Hughes, security operative

Paul also trained in firearms with the US Special Forces. But with firearms illegal in this country, Paul has another lethal weapon, quite literally, at his fingertips.

He's also an exponent of Krav Maga, the official hand-to-hand self defence system used by the Israeli Defence Forces and the FBI. However, the European Thai boxing champion uses his physical prowess as a last resort:

"If I have to resort to violence I haven’t done my job properly, I haven’t done my full reconnaissance and my full operations plans have not been put in the right procedures."

But it's not just hired muscle that's on offer. His company Benchmark PA also looks after very high profile clients who may be at risk of kidnap attempts and assassinations, so they have to be prepared for anything.

Eyes and ears

David Beckham with a Benchmark minder
David Beckham with a Benchmark minder

Paul takes his clients' privacy very seriously. "I see all, hear all, and say nothing." Paul’s discreet professionalism has taken him all over the world.

"I’ve worked everywhere from Central America to the Philippines through to the Vatican where I met Pope John Paul II. To be invited into the Vatican was a phenomenal experience."

He calls Manchester home, but if you do spy Paul around town, you can be sure he has seen you first.

last updated: 08/12/06
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