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Life/Ask the Insider | Jul 13, 2009 | 5709 views

How Do I Beat the Lie Detector?

All of us have worn long overcoats, donned a deerstalker on our heads, stuck our dad’s pipe in our mouth and pretended to be a detective hot on someone’s trail. After a lot of hiding in dark alleys and ducking in taxis, we caught up with an ex-policeman turned private eye (he wishes anonymity) to ask him, if detective work is really just elementary.
All of us have worn long overcoats, donned a deerstalker on our heads, stuck our dad’s pipe in our mouth and pretended to be a detective hot on someone’s trail. After a lot of hiding in dark alleys and ducking in taxis, we caught up with an ex-policeman turned private eye (he wishes anonymity) to ask him, if detective work is really just elementary.
Image: Vidyananda Kamat
"The most popular and effective gadgets are hi-tech small cameras and recorders. Especially the recorders, because we can listen to them from up to a distance of five kilometres"

What kinds of people hire private detectives?
It’s mostly people who have lost something. A kid or a spouse. Or they have some property matters. Couples who separate and then hire us to find out if there is any extra property. Even newly married couples who are suspicious of their spouses after 5-6 months of marriage.

What is the most bizarre case you have handled?
There was this one time when both parties hired detectives. Except that one party hired a detective to follow the other detective. So while one person did all the hard work, the other one kept track of him and got all the information. Later, though both the parties patched up.

What are the legal implications of hiring a private detective?
Detectives sometimes get information through illegal means. But if the information obtained is in the form of documents then it is permissible in the court of law. It may be obtained by bribing someone but proof is proof.

What is the first thing that a detective looks for in a dead body?
The body’s position. Then we look for injuries. If there are no signs of injuries, then we become suspicious. We look at everything, right from the hair on the head to the nails on the feet.

How much does it cost to have someone followed?
That depends on the area covered and the number of followers we have to use. If for instance we have to track someone through an entire week, we need to keep changing the followers. Some days we have a young man, other times a pretty girl and sometimes even old women. You can average it out at Rs. 1,000 per day per person.

How do you judge a detective’s performance?
Most detectives have a success rate of 50 percent. But that’s because more often than not there is no problem. People are just suspicious and so they hire us.

How do I beat the lie detector test?
Get the doctor conducting it on your side. Or use a lot of drugs before the test. That way the drugs administered to you before the test will have no effect.

When do you develop the sketch of a criminal at large, what is the chance that it may point to a wrong man?
Sketches are just a tool that we use. The actual person and the description differ a lot. The eye-witnesses themselves are so confused on what they saw that sketches don’t help much.

What are some of the gadgets you use that are not available to the common man?
The most popular and effective ones are hi-tech small cameras and recorders. Especially the recorders, because we can listen to them from up to a distance of five kilometres.

How does the profession affect your personal life?
You have job satisfaction because you are helping someone. And if you are a detective, then it is understood that you’ll keep weird hours. So your family life should not be disturbed. It’s when the job starts getting to you that you should be worried.

How much of a resemblance do real life detectives have to the ones in movies or books?
There is no smoke without fire. So there is some element of truth in fiction. But what you have to look at is whether the fire is from someone smoking a cigarette or a building burning. Maybe 10-20 percent of what you see on TV is correct.

This article appeared in the Forbes India magazine issue of 17 July, 2009
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