Inside life of private eye who catches out cheaters and crooks that steal pets

Catching cheating spouses and crooks who have stolen people’s beloved pets… this is all in a day’s work for private investigator Ali Harris.

The 54-year-old is one of an estimated 5,000 private investigators in the UK and charges £70 an hour to track down anyone from missing people to those who have done a runner after failing to repay debts.

Ali, who has run her one-woman detective service Miss AM Investigations for almost three years, uses surveillance equipment, stalking social media and hiding in “plain sight” to track down her targets.

She tells the Daily Star one of the biggest things she’s learned is how “devious” people can be.

“I caught one cheating spouse out after planting a vehicle tracker under his car, which showed he was taking another woman out and going to her home,” says Ali.

“But after running background checks into his financial affairs, I discovered he had a whole company on the side that his partner didn’t know about which he was making a lot of money from.

“I’ve also had very hard cases where I’ve investigated cheaters and I’ve found out they are cheating with my client’s best friend, which is a very low blow.

“It has shocked me how devious people can be.”

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And Ali reveals despite the series of coronavirus lockdowns, adulterers haven’t been deterred from their cheating ways.

She has even had a 25% increase in calls to the agency since the pandemic first began.

“People were still managing to cheat even though we weren’t allowed to leave the house – everyone needed to do their hour’s exercise a day and that’s the type of exercise they took!” says Ali.

“There were even cases of people speaking to the people they were cheating with on Zoom during the working day. They knew their spouses wouldn’t come and disturb them as they thought they were in a meeting.

“Cheaters will always find a way to do it.

“Dog napping has also become ­really prevalent in lockdown since the demand for puppies has become so high, so I’ve started investigating that recently too and I’ve tracked down a few missing pets.”

Ali, from Oxfordshire, unwinds in her spare time by watching crime dramas and reading novels from that genre. She started off as a nanny before working with adults with learning disabilities and then caring for elderly people with dementia.

But after her dad died she found it too hard to continue working with older people, so she decided to retrain as a private detective.

She says: “I’d been mugged at knifepoint a few years before and this made me interested in crime, psychology and what makes people tick.

“I went on to study courses in those subjects, as well as ­forensic science. Anyone could start an agency, but I wanted to have the qualifications and be accredited.”

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When Ali initially gets a case, her first port of call is social media.

She says: “A lot of it is going through sites such as Facebook, as everybody leaves a forensic footprint on these websites whether they realise it or not. If somebody suspected their partner was having an affair, I’d look through their social media and friends’ social media and that way you will always find something out, whether it is a picture or a comment.

“I go from there really, tracking them down and secretly taking pictures of them on my mobile phone or using trackers and listening devices to get my evidence.

“There is a misconception that I’m like a spy or my life is like a film – but it’s often a lot more tedious than people think. You need a lot of patience for the job.” Another one of Ali’s top tricks for catching out adulterers is carrying a dog lead with her.

She first came up with the idea after a client asked her to investigate her husband’s other woman who lived in the countryside.

“It was a quiet, rural place so it would have been obvious if I’d stayed outside the house in the car or kept driving past it,” says Ali.

“I went to the door with a dog lead, and told the woman who answered
I’d lost my pet, then sneakily took some photos.

“I thought of that myself – and nobody is going to query it. It does help me hide in plain sight.”

An estimated 30% of UK private investigators are women and Ali says being female does help her in her role.

“I think women have qualities that men don’t have,” she explains.

“We are able to deal with the emotional side and helping people who are heartbroken.”

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Ali never goes up to any of the people she’s looking for or trying to catch out, adding that she gives the findings to her clients and they “do with that what they will”.

She says: “In the situations such as the cheating spouses, people that come to me for help are often being gaslit by their partner to make them feel like they’re going mad.

“Even though they start doubting themselves, they will usually just want hard evidence of the cheating so they can decide what to do.

“So far, I’ve never had a callout where a person was innocent, there’s always something there.”

Ultimately for Ali, the best part of her job is helping people who haven’t got anywhere else to turn.

She says: “After a case is closed, I stay in touch with my clients to see how they are doing – I never just drop the bombshell and walk away.

“I want to make sure they’re not on their own.

“I find helping people who haven’t had anywhere else to turn very rewarding”.

● To find out more about Ali, visit missaminvestigations.co.uk.

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