Suspicious and jealous spouses sometimes set spies on their other halves. Margaret Oganda tells us the methods these private investigators apply to bust the wayward.
A distraught Mrs Kamau — not her real name — drove down Uhuru Highway, Nairobi, recalling romantic moments she once shared with her husband of 20 years.
Despite the good times, she had a compelling gut feeling. Probably intuition, or even telltale signs that pushed her on this mission, convinced that her spouse was unfaithful.
After trying to downplay her instincts and deny her suspicions, she concluded that she needed to know the truth. Which is what took her to the second floor of College House on Koinange Street, Nairobi, to private investigators.
Her life was filled with almost everything most Kenyans only dream about. A beautiful home in one of Nairobi’s plush residential areas, several expensive cars at her disposal, children at costly private schools, and regular get-togethers with friends in exclusive health clubs and saunas.
Her flower business also brought in good returns; while her husband, among Kenya’s highest paid chief executive officers, gave her access to unlimited cash. But, something was missing.
He had lost interest in her sexually, came home late, and left town too often on business. Although she suspected infidelity, she tried to keep closer tabs on his movements but could not get anything concrete.
When confronted, he would laugh it off, blaming the current restructuring of his company, but she believed that if he was cheating on her, she had the right to know, which made her seek the services of Spectrum Network, a private eye.
After stating her case and agreeing on down payment, the firm started to trail Kamau’s movements.
He was a member of a private members-only club, which he frequented. The team had to mount a round-the-clock surveillance, and develop some acquaintances with the neighbourhood to nail him. They also had several vehicles follow him from a safe distance, and soon they established that he had a mistress, whom he often met in a hotel outside Nairobi. They often left in separate cars.
The team gathered tangible evidence, comprising personal digital pictures, audiotapes, video shots and even fingerprints.
Mr Samjim Mwanyasi, the managing director of Spectrum Network who masterminded the investigation said, “It was a costly undertaking, because arranging to set up cameras in a hotel room can be expensive.”
The covert operations of a private investigator are often shrouded in mystery and secrecy. These are people who often work long irregular hours and the work is often dangerous. Many registered companies in Nairobi carry out myriad duties, ranging from general investigations, cases of fraud and debt collections, to crime scene examinations, finger print comparison, insurance accessing, document examination and accident investigations among others. Others also do background checks, and locate missing persons.
Mwanyasi, who is also the secretary general of the National Association of Kenya Investigators, says that over 300 companies have registered with them. The yellow page in the 2005 Nairobi postal directory lists 49 companies in Nairobi alone, but there are others upcountry.
When it comes to marriage investigations, most firms and investigators broached the subject with caution, many preferring to remain tight-lipped and clandestine.
Some disclosed that they do not deal with these cases regularly. Mwangangi notes, “Marriage investigation is time-consuming, and can also be risky. So it is not common with us because in many cases the cost will be deterring. Samuel K Ndenga of Band Investigators, based in Braidwood House, Tom Mboya Street, also says, “This kind of work normally would be extensive, and privacy needs to be observed. It may involve people who are moving in elite circles, and frequenting expensive joints, and therefore would require more resources.”
One investigator who is part of a firm based in a Nairobi estate, said that they get up to eight cases a month, and interestingly, men are the most frequent callers, requesting that their wives be investigated.
Asking to remain anonymous, he said “Marriage investigation is sensitive, and apart from the actual cases we handle, we get many inquiries about our services every week.”
Another detective based in the city centre said: “Our company rarely carries out marriage investigations, and we try to avoid them. This is because in the past we noted that a number of people ask us to start the investigations, and later decide not to follow through to the end.”
He said that it was common for many to be curious, about the movements of their spouse, but they are often not prepared to face the outcome.
Why a private eye?
Infidelity, adultery, cheating, being unfaithful, having an affair can be painful and devastating. Yet many people say they would rather know the truth to get on with their lives.
Mrs Kamau’s case is one of the most commonplace, a suspicious husband or wife seeking to prove or disprove infidelity.
But, according to some investigators, a person may need to search out evidence of adultery within marriage to establish grounds for a divorce. Mwanyasi explains, “Many times, if you want the divorce to be effected, you must have grounds, and get tangible evidence to take to a court of law.”
Another private-eye agreed, “More and more Kenyans are turning to us to collect evidence for legal reasons. Initially, they used to call the police but they have lost faith in them, and want our services.”
Others seek the service of investigators for sheer knowledge, because they may have fleeting suspicions, like in one case, a man who was about to get married, wanted to be sure that his fiancÈ did not have another boyfriend. In another case an Asian woman was suspicious that her husband had an African girlfriend.
Counselling or investigations
Many investigators share the opinion that many people only need counselling, which sometimes assists them to resolve their problems before they resort to investigations.
A Scotland Yard trained investigator based in Nairobi, has also acquired qualifications as a professional counsellor and he strongly advocates counselling for all parties interested before they resort to investigators.
“We do not want to break up homes. When people come to us and tell us their problems, we try to help them to find a way out first,” said the private eye who has been in the business for 30 years.
Ndenga says that he first talks to the person at length. “Sometimes I have had cases where a woman is feeling let down. And I encourage them to seek another way before resorting to investigations.”
Mwanyesi had the same sentiments. “Our interest is not to ruin marriages, and some people may find out that their suspicions are baseless, and that they were paranoid.”
The first step is to receive formal instructions from the client, in the form of a contract. Being a private affair, they may desist from mentioning names.
After a down payment of at least 50 per cent, the client says what they need, and how detailed they want the investigation. They may want photographs, taped conversations, video clips, receipts, emails, and fingerprints.
After that is clear, the client has to submit a brief on the person to be investigated, and a background. This allows investigation from the known to the unknown following a well-constructed surveillance.
Most of the work of marriage PI’s involves intelligence or gathering of information, using many means to verify facts.
They use interviews, research and review of documents. The tools of trade range from those as simple as a notebook and pen, to the various types of state-of–the-art long-range and hidden video cameras. Hidden, body worn cameras are a must and are standard equipment, and high-tech surveillance equipment. They operate with mini-cameras, which may include digital zoom, and one as small as a matchbox or a pen-sized camera.
When the team of investigators has established a plan of action, surveillance begins on a most discreet level and the method decided upon depends on the nature of the situation. A team is set up to trail the individual, comprising two to four or more people depending on the subject’s movements.
Often a minimum of two cars is used. They often may need to set up a person as a decoy, who is someone whose presence around the person will not raise suspicions. If the person frequents a certain hotel or bar, they may have to set up someone who actually works there, or even get someone to work there.
In one case, a firm had a woman who suspected that her husband was having an affair with their house-help.
“We asked her to hire a woman investigator to work for her part-time as a maid, and she would monitor the movements of the suspect. Within a week, she had gathered concrete proof that her suspicions were real,” said one investigator.
“We have to be observant, as we gather evidence which is visual and audio. This is because, “we cannot make mistakes which will lead to false accusations.”
Time span and cost
Although each case is different, investigations mostly are done roughly within three weeks, up to two months or more. Most firms said that investigations are priced according to the individual case and scope. But generally, a simple case may go for Sh30,000 but the more elaborate ones go up to Sh200,000 or more.
Investigations not the answer
Sex, money, communication breakdown, and in-laws are leading causes of friction in marriage, and could even lead to divorce.
“I would discourage marriage investigation at all costs,” says Margaret N. Mbuthi, a marriage and family counselor who has worked with the Kenya Institute of Professional Counseling, as a trainer and family counsellor.
Now working with the Sterling Performance Africa and Counselling Centre, she says: “I believe that couples should first look for other ways to resolve their differences.”
Mbuthi warns that marriage investigation can be dangerous, because it is a form of spying, and a person may get more than they can handle.
“The findings of such an exercise may be devastating. What if you suspect your spouse has one mistress, only to find there are two or even more?” she asked.
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