Private Detective London – the real world of private investigations

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Two days to solve an eight year mystery

Every so often the reports of investigative work that come across my desk make me sit up straight! When I read of a London investigator who’d solved a murder case in 24 hours, I was completely boggled. But it turns out that the case, which includes Putney Road in Brixton and an East London private detective isn’t a British story – it all happened in South Africa! However, it did get me thinking because the tragic story of the death of Alec Steenkamp reveals why so many people hire Private Detective London to help them with their corporate investigations, London or worldwide, or with personal or matrimonial problems.

The detective in question is called Christian Botha and he was hired by Alec Steenkamp’s daughter, eight years after the disappearance of her father in Johannesburg in 1996. The police discovered that Steenkamp had vanished after going to collect rent money from Kenneth Downey, who lived in a house on Putney Road in Brixton, Johannesburg, and decided that Steenkamp had taken the cash and run off. So when he arrived in 2004, Botha, like most private detectives, had to start from scratch, establishing the facts. Basic investigation services are the bedrock of any effective agency, and what Botha did is what any well-trained detective would do. He started again, from scratch. On day one he went to the house where the police had questioned Downey and discovered it was empty. A neighbour allowed him into the empty house and he found carpet in the lounge had been cut and replace and that some paving in the rear garden had dipped, suggesting the earth beneath it had settled since it was laid. Another neighbour told him that the house had been inhabited by a Mrs Pullen, now deceased, who was Kenneth Downey’s mother.

Door to door detective work on that first day revealed another neighbour who had been friends with Mrs Pullen. The story she told was astonishing. Some time after Steenkamp disappeared Mrs Pullen’s cleaner had told this neighbour that somebody had died in the house and that she had been told to dispose of bloody clothing while Downey dug a hole in the garden. Botha spoke to the chief of detectives as this point, a warrant was obtained and the following morning the police dug up the garden and found Alec Steenkamp’s body and a hammer that had been used to kill him. It took only 48 hours for effective private detective skills to solve an eight-year-old murder mystery. Almost. There’s a final twist. Kenneth Downey went on the run, and once again, Christian Botha was hired to find him, which he did – in Mozambique – and in 2005 Downey received a life sentence for murder.

Victimless crimes and Private Detective London

So is it like that every day? No, not really. For example, a lot of our work is in the area of what’s called ‘victimless crime’ – although it’s only called that by the people who perpetrate it, believe me! Insurance fraud has become an industry and the people who indulge in it are adding around £50.00 to the insurance bill for every person in the UK who holds any kind of insurance.

The most recent figures (for 2013) include 119,000 dishonest claims worth nearly £1.3 billion across all forms of insurance. As a result, insurers invest around £200 million annually to stamp out fraud and one of the tools they use is the services of a competent, trained and professional private detective. There are strict rules about how this can be done and the Association of British Insurers* makes it really clear how organisations like Private Detective London can assess in London or anywhere in the world.