By the time I arrive at the hotel bar, Sarah is already there waiting for me. Sarah isn’t her real name, of course. She told me on the phone that her business relies on her total anonymity so my camera will be staying in my bag today.
She’s sitting in the corner of the bar where she has a perfect view of everybody in the room. She’s dressed both smartly and understated in a way that isn’t likely to draw too much attention and I imagine that’s intentional; flying under the radar is a big part of the work she does.
She greets me warmly, then nods at the people around the room, whispering: “I love places like this, great for people-watching.” If I hadn’t know it before, I’d know it now – this is a lady who really enjoys her job.
Sarah runs South Yorkshire’s only all-female private investigation agency, Artemis Investigations.
Artemis, as in the Goddess of Hunting; Sarah clearly has a sense of humour.
Her firm handles everything from surveillance, fraud investigation and honeytrapping, to missing persons, background checks and child maintenance services –hardly your typical day at the office.
My first question seems obvious - honeytrapping?
Sarah smiles: “People ask us to set up a honeytrap when they want to test their partner’s fidelity; maybe they suspect them of cheating, or perhaps they’re getting married and want to be certain of somebody’s character before they walk down the aisle.
“We send an attractive male or female into somebody’s path and present them with an opportunity.
“With online honeytrapping, if somebody takes the bait and sets up a meeting, we let our client know so they can show up instead and confront their partner.”
And honeytrapping is serious business. It’s essential Sarah considers age and taste carefully before selecting the perfect ‘agent’ for each job.
“It may surprise you to know that we get more male clients checking up on their wives and girlfriends than females,” she says.
“We have a company that we use when we need male ‘honeys’.”
So in Sarah’s experience, are people’s instincts on their other halves usually right?
“Usually, but not always,” she says.
“I’ve had people prove themselves faithful and I’ve had people brazenly walk past me hand-in-hand with their mistress. When that happens we have a host of equipment at our disposal to catch them in the act; everything from iPhones to spy pens with cameras in them and key fobs with microphones.”
And the agencies all-female team is no accident. Sarah believes that female investigators have more empathy and warmth which allows them to make better connections with their clients.
She explains: “I had a client once whose husband told her he was suffering with depression. He would disappear off for days sometimes and I found out that, not only was he having an affair with her friend, they had a rental property a few streets away that they would stay in whenever he wasn’t at home with his family.
“His wife was devastated; they had a lovely home, three gorgeous children and it was a heartbreaking situation.
“I believe female investigators like myself are better placed to deal with a client who’s going through something so painful.”
And that’s exactly how Sarah got into the business in the first place. She spent two decades working in financial services before her career shift into private investigation, after helping a friend nail her cheating spouse.
She says: “I’ve always enjoyed reading people. I have good gut instincts and I’ve learned to trust them.
“It began with me helping out a few friends and family members, digging around and playing detective. It was a buzz and I enjoyed being able to help people, so I contacted a woman who runs an agency in London and spent some time training with her, learning how to surveil and how to follow cars.”
So has she ever been rumbled? “Never,” she smiles. “I’ve learned how to fade into the background and, besides, I think you’d have to be feeling pretty guilty to think somebody was following you. I mean, think about it, would you know if you were being followed?”
And Artemis does more than deal with cheating spouses. Sarah has helped a grandmother find her grandson, eavesdropped on business lunches and performed background checks on new hires and prospective dates.
“It’s fun, getting a sneak peek into other people’s lives and, most importantly, it’s a real service,” she emphasised.
“If my friend had something like this around when she was dealing with her cheating husband, I think she would have had closure much sooner.”
ENDING THE LYING
Sarah is steadfastedly single, but insists her job hasn’t soured her on relationships.
“I honestly believe that where people fall down is that they stop talking to one another, whether it’s day-to-day life or problems in the bedroom, it’s essential to communicate, otherwise it creates barriers and that’s when people start looking elsewhere.”
She’s just keen to help her clients find some closure.
“Getting caught isn’t always the end of the relationship, just the end of the lies. Some of my clients manage to repair their relationships and move on.
“Either way, it draws a line under the sneaking about.”
* Artemis Investigations is available on 07857 245499.