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'What James Bond?': Life as a private detective in Malaysia

A private detective speaks of his experiences and what drove him to become an investigator in the first place.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
4 minute read
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Nearly 20 years ago, Andy Suresh (not his real name) discovered that his wife was having an affair with a colleague from work. 

Heartbroken, he came up with a plan to follow and confront them. He borrowed a friend's car to tail his wife from morning to night, assisted by another friend who took pictures with a long-range camera to be used as proof. 

After two weeks, he called his family members and asked them to gather at a budget hotel in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, where his wife and her lover went to be together. 

There, he revealed his wife's affair, complete with evidence. He and his wife later agreed on a divorce. 

Several months later, he found to his surprise that his name was being circulated within the Indian community in Kuala Lumpur, with many asking if he would do the same private-eye work for them. 

Today, Andy has gone from being a lorry driver at a furniture shop to a personal detective known throughout the Klang Valley.  

It was a long journey, filled with challenges. But speaking about some of his many experiences, Andy's sense of humour shone through. 

"I lied to many people about my work, including my own children," he said.

"They thought I was working at an office because of all the times that I needed to be 'outstation'."

One day, though, he found himself looking at his own picture in the newspaper, at the scene of a rape and murder case. 

"I myself was taken aback," he said. "My face was only in profile, but still, my friends could recognise me. They asked, what were you doing there?

"So I had to be honest and tell them everything," he added.

In 2003 alone, Andy landed more than 50 jobs tracking down unfaithful spouses, travelling as far as Indonesia.

"Right now, the main factor in spouses cheating on each other is technology," he said. 

"Usually, the people who come to find me have been married for 10 to 20 years. But because of technology, they start using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. 

"There are also those who become so enamoured with dating apps that they forget all about their families." 

Agency matters

In the beginning, Andy said, agencies offering services such as his were few and far in between. 

His own agency was established in 2007, and received a licence from the home ministry three years later. 

"My office right now is in Puchong, together with the old friends whom I knew when I first started out," he said. 

They have three detectives, trained in self-defence and investigative techniques by former police contacts. 

Andy also provides basic legal classes by certified legal practitioners. 

There is a car at the office for the use of the investigators, and every person has a mobile phone with a personal number. 

Apart from tracking down errant spouses, Andy's agency also specialises in finding missing teenagers and conducting individual background checks.

James Bond?

On the job, Andy is calm and professional. Employed to follow a woman suspected of having an affair with her former brother-in-law, he drives from Section 7 in Shah Alam to a condominium in Setia Alam. 

As he drives, he calls his client – the woman's husband – and asks him to wait for him at a designated spot. 

Once the woman enters the condominium, Andy waits about 20 minutes until a police patrol car appears, followed by a blue Toyota Vios. 

Everyone exits their vehicles and enters the building where they take the lift to the 11th floor. 

Outside the door of the unit, Andy holds a whispered conversation with two police officers, who then knock on the door and ask its occupants to emerge.

Several seconds later, the corridor explodes with shouts and shrieks as Andy's client confronts his wife. 
 
Two hours later, it's all over, and Andy returns to his car to make his way home. 

But he scoffs at any comparison of his job with glamorous silver-screen roles such as James Bond. 

"What James Bond?" he says, laughing. "When we work, we meet with our clients at mamak shops, not five-star hotels."

And they, although detectives, are often cheated themselves. 

"We finish our work but then the clients don't pay us. They block us on WhatsApp and that's it. We get nothing."  

Such experiences have taught Andy to hold fast to one principle above all: work to help others, not to reap a profit. 

"I was once in a dark place myself because my wife cheated on me," he said. 

"My children were traumatised and said they didn't want a mother again, not for the rest of their lives. 

"I get all kinds of cases and complaints. A mother loses her child because she ran away from home; a child loses her father because of cheating. These are miserable lives.

"So I tell myself, it doesn't matter if we're cheated of payment, as long as our work to help these people is finished. I hope they find peace and happiness after their case is settled."  

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