As Investigators, we often find ourselves in situations when we are forced into making very quick decisions, sometimes acting mainly on instinct. By way of an example, I recount the following:
Many years ago, in the pre-satellite navigation era (that is of significance as you will see later) my Company was employed to maintain surveillance upon a personal injury claimant who was suspected to be malingering and/or exaggerating the effects of his injury. It was the usual alleged back injury, which supposedly prevented the subject from engaging in any form of work or physical activity.
On the second day’s surveillance, we observed our subject to be collected very early from his home and then driven to a depot, which turned out to be the distribution centre of one of the large household name electrical retailers, who tend to specialise in “white goods”.
In due course we noted that our subject was acting as co-driver of a large white unmarked van. We followed the van for 50 or so miles into a town, where it stopped twice. Refrigerators, freezers and washing machines were delivered and the old items removed and loaded up onto the van. During the course of this activity, we secured some excellent video footage of the subject lifting and moving these items, whilst generally bending about. He was also observed taking a tool kit into each property, as if assisting with installing these items of electrical equipment.
The van was then followed out of that town and drove 20 or so miles into sparsely populated countryside, where there was very little in the way of traffic or cover. We had no choice but to hang well back, having occasional glimpses of the van at times possibly a quarter of a mile or so ahead.
We entered a village, having lost prior sight of the van for some minutes, but were following in the general direction in which it had been seen to head. The van was then located parked up in a narrow street, outside of what was gathered to be the main village store. Typically, due to the narrowness of the road and general location, we were unable to discreetly plot up to continue observing the van, so instead drove out of view and checked back after a couple of minutes. Again, typically by this time, the van was missing and a quick search of the vicinity revealed no signs of the vehicle.
Due to where the van had been parked, it was assumed that one or both occupants had entered the village store. My colleague and I had a quick brainstorming session as to what would be the likely purpose of the subject and his colleague attending the village store, apart from purchasing food/drink (Yorkies!). We decided that they may have entered the shop to secure directions. In this era, SatNavs were unheard of; it was way before Google Maps/Earth and we all used the old fashioned paper maps or simply asked for directions. It was normal during the course of our work at that time when entering a strange village, to ask at the village store or public house for directions.
I entered the village store and noted that there only appeared to be one member of staff, a lady aged in her sixties. I then proceeded with a script that I had basically made up on the hoof. I said something like “Did my mates in a van pop in a short while ago and ask for directions?”
The lady readily confirmed that a man from a large van had been into the store a short while earlier for that purpose. I proceeded to give a cock and bull story that I had intended to give them a hand, but had been held up and had lost contact with them. I understood they would be attending an address in that village, but I had lost the bit of paper and could not recall the address. I thought they would likely attend the village store to ask for directions. To my bemusement, the lady not only told me the road which they had asked directions for, but also the actual house number! She then very kindly gave me directions to same.
We followed the directions and sure enough located the van and saw our subject engaged in a similar lifting activity to earlier. We continued with the surveillance and secured further useful footage.
Suffice to say – his claim was drastically reduced. A satisfying conclusion.
Submitted by Full Member (F/0723) Mark Peachman of Sapphire Investigations Bureau Limited.