After some time, the door opens. Maureen, a striking lady in her sixties with a platinum bob and bubbly Essex accent, ushers me into the sitting room, and offers me a cup of tea. Her husband, James, a big, affable man, gets up from a floral armchair and shakes me genially by the hand. Maureen regards me coolly.
Meet Mr and Mrs Harrison-Griffiths, a husband and wife team who run a detective agency, Aitch-Gee Investigations, from their spare bedroom.
James is a retired detective chief inspector, who once led a murder squad in north-east London. Maureen is her husband’s sidekick. In the spare room is a listening device disguised as a phone charger, and a pen that contains a camera. The anonymous-looking van outside turns out to be a surveillance vehicle, complete with a green jerry can in which to urinate. “Maureen thinks it’s disgusting,” says James, “but I like things the old fashioned way.”
The world of private detectives is a strange one. Thanks to Glenn Mulcaire, Steve Whittamore and a host of others connected to the News of the World hacking scandal, private eyes have never been lower in the public’s estimation. But they are not all hi-tech villains and grubby bin-raiders. As part of a Radio 4 documentary I recently met a few of the other estimated 10,000 investigators operating in Britain.
Admittedly, many people I approached refused to speak. One or two agreed in principle, then pulled out. But, eventually, I found several who were willing to go on the record and they proved to be an eclectic bunch. At one end of the spectrum was an art-crime detective who has travelled the globe recovering masterpieces worth millions. And, at the other end, there was Mr and Mrs Harrison-Griffiths.
“The first time I went out on a job, I almost wet myself,” says Maureen as we sip our tea. “We were chasing a cheating husband around the M25. Jim was driving at 100mph, and I was hanging out the window with a camcorder to get some evidence. I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Continue reading on the Telegraph website