Ali Marsh, 54, is never surprised to hear of the latest celebrity infidelity scandal.
Most of her work – running a private investigations agency – comes from suspicious spouses. And while the reality of being a PI might not be all you see on TV, it’s certainly proved satisfying and rewarding for Ali.
Here, she tells us what her job’s really like and shares some tips on how to tell if your partner’s betraying your trust…
"One of my earliest cases was a man who thought his wife had started acting coldly towards him. Every Wednesday night she would go out and come home a lot happier, so he suspected she was cheating on him.
I started some surveillance, watching her coming and going for a few Wednesdays. I noticed that her next door neighbour was also going out at the same time on a Wednesday. I followed him and soon discovered they were having an affair.
The client was distraught of course, but like all my clients whose spouses have been unfaithful, knowing he was right to be suspicious enabled him to confront what was happening and to move on with his life.
Every single one of my clients who’s come to me suspecting infidelity has been proved absolutely right. I think deep down they know their spouses are having an affair but they’ve often been told they’re mistaken, paranoid even. It’s good for them to be able to say, “No I’m not imagining it and here’s the proof”.
I first became interested in investigative work when I was mugged at knifepoint by an addict who was after money to buy drugs. At first I tried arguing with him, but he lunged at me so I threw my bag at him and he ran off into a dark alley. I was shaken but also interested in what makes people turn to crime.
Alongside my work with elderly people with dementia, I started an Open University course in criminal psychology.
Then when my dad died a few years ago, I missed him so much that I found it hard being around older people, so I decided it was time to change tack. I signed up for courses in criminology, forensics and criminal psychology and four years later at the age of 50, I opened my own home-based private investigations agency, Miss AM Investigations.
Cracking my first case
My first case was a man who’d moved out of the family home, but suspected another man was living in the house. His wife was denying it. I did some surveillance, saw a man coming out of the house several mornings and was able to give my client the proof he needed.
I also learned a good lesson from that first case. I had dashcam footage to show the client but didn’t realise it had audio on it too. So while he was viewing the distressing evidence of his wife’s infidelity there was me in the background swearing at the traffic and singing along to Dolly Parton!
Surveillance is nothing like it’s portrayed on the telly. It’s very dull. You’re on your own with no one to chat with to pass the time. Although I sometimes listen to a podcast or some music, you can’t do anything else in case you miss what you came for.
There’s no scrolling on your phone or popping out for a walk. You also need a very strong bladder. I once had to dodge behind a bush with my camera to avoid someone I was trying to catch in the act. That’s the closest I’ve come to being caught out.
I always take a dog lead and photos of a dog when I’m working, so if anyone asks why I’m hanging around I can say I’m looking for a dog. It’s a seasoned PI’s trick!
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The first thing I do with a new case is online work. Everyone leaves an online footprint, even if they don’t think they do. I’m licensed to access certain data as an investigator. I often put a tracker on a car to see if a pattern emerges – you couldn’t surveille someone every day of the week because it would be too expensive for the client.
I usually track for a week and if, for example, they go to a residential address two weeks running on the same day, I can ask the client if they know someone who lives there. If they don’t, I start surveillance and then I can supply the video or photographic evidence they need.
I charge £70 an hour and the longest I’ve ever taken to solve a marital infidelity case is three weeks. It’s often much shorter. Around 50% of my work concerns marital infidelity and I have as many men as women asking for help.
I usually stay in touch afterwards because the clients often feel devastated by the confirmation that their spouse has cheated on them. Men often seem to take it harder because their egos have taken a knock.
I also help to find missing people and have a 98% success rate, which makes me feel very proud. I once found a little boy’s missing father, which was a lovely outcome, and I also helped a father from the US to find his daughter.
A ghost writer received the royalties from a book he’d written with someone after I tracked her down. It took quite a while but I found the daughter of the woman in question and the writer was finally paid the money he was due.
Recently I helped a woman who suspected her husband was straying. It turned out he was having multiple affairs, but I discovered he’d started up a company in secret. That helped her financially when she divorced him.
My family is supportive of my work, but they don’t ask too many questions. And sometimes I have to be suspicious myself. I ask every client to email me with exactly what they require and if they expect me to do anything that is blurring the lines then I refuse to help.
One case I’m glad I turned down was a man who wanted me to trace his ex-fiancée to get back the ring. He said it was a family heirloom, but my gut instinct told me something wasn’t right so I said I couldn’t help him. Later the police contacted me. They’d found my details on the man’s laptop. He’d been planning to kill his ex and had even hired a hitman. He’s in prison now and I’m glad I trusted my intuition.
I want to help remove some of the stigma about the job I do. There’s nothing seedy or illegal about private investigation. I see it as a force for good and it’s the most satisfying work I’ve ever done."
Spot the signs of infidelity
● Being with someone new is like a fresh beginning. Look out for changes in appearance such as a different hairstyle or wardrobe.
● Notice any change in routine. Are they suddenly going out more often?
● If they’ve avoided the gym for 20 years and they’re suddenly lifting weights, it’s a red flag warning it could be an affair.
● If they’re receiving phone calls and leaving the room to take them or they start taking their phone to the bathroom or other places in the house they didn’t previously, that could be an infidelity warning sign.
- Visit missaminvestigations.co.uk
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