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Women detectives on the prowl

What do you do?

Sitting behind her office desk with a warm smile on her face, Agnes in her smart salwar and neat ponytail looks like she could be a teacher or an HR manager. But this 50-year-old mother of two has done things most people read in thriller novels.

Agnes, a private detective and general manager of at I Watch Detective Agency, is one of the few women working in the field in the State.

Private eyes are hired to gather a wide range of information – from the affairs of a spouse to the whereabouts of a loan defaulter. People find it easier to approach private investigators rather than the police because of the secrecy with which they carry out their investigation. Detectives keep few records and keep their clients’ details to themselves.

Who are your customers?

Some of Agnes’ clients are parents who are worried about their teenage children’s activities. “A couple approached us because their son was spending more money than they gave him,” she says. On investigation, the agency found that the boy was selling off stolen motorbikes. In a similar case, the child was found to be selling DVDs of songs he downloaded off the internet.

Requests for background checks on people are another major revenue source for private investigators. Corporates approach detectives to verify the credentials of people they are hiring. Parents also hire investigators to check on prospective in-laws. “We have unearthed quite a few fake grooms who marry for money during our background checks,” said a private detective in the city.

How much do you charge?

The vigilance doesn’t come cheap for clients. A private detective in Kochi charges Rs.4,000 per day for a pre-marital check. The agency recommends at least a week’s surveillance for preparing a comprehensive background report.

Many who become private investigators are former policemen, army personnel, or officials who were earlier associated with government investigative agencies.

 What did you study to become a private detective?

Women investigators are few in number in the State. There are few like Agnes who have found success as female private investigators here. A degree in criminology is what brought her to private investigation. But the journey this far has not been easy for her. She recounts how she had to spend nights in her car waiting by the wharf at Fort Kochi on surveillance jobs. Her trusty driver, known to her since she was a child, was her sole companion on these trips.

What is great about this job? How did you end up in an offbeat, unusual and interesting career such as this?

But there are other perks that make up for the exacting schedule. There is not a dull day in this line of work. Agnes has also travelled all over the world during her investigations. “Sabarimala is probably the only place in Kerala I haven’t visited,” she says with a chuckle.

Agnes’ agency, set up by her more than 15 years ago, also has two women on its staff. Though they are part of the office staff, they occasionally don the detective’s hat to assist their male colleagues. Certain surveillance jobs are easier for them than the men. “Going into the field is a lot of fun, especially when madam comes with us” one of them quips. “We also learn a lot about life observing others,” says the other woman on the staff.