The real life of a private investigator couldn’t be more removed from fictional portrayals, according to Warren Mallard, who runs Lyonswood Investigations in Drummoyne. The former goldsmith and policeman, who has been in the business for more than 20 years and employs 58 operatives, is quick to fend off comparisons with the glamorous world of Magnum PI or the crusty characters of other television dramas.
The perception of a private investigator is someone who wears a deerstalker hat and trench coat, smokes a pipe, lives out of a foam cup, has a blonde bimbo secretary who files her fingernails waiting for the phone to ring and is a disgraced police officer who interviews people by beating them into submission,” Mr. Mallard said.
“The reality is it’s 99 percent boredom and 1 percent adrenalin. There’s a lot of waiting around and hard work before a case can be closed and the worst part of the job is being a surveillance operative where you sit in a vehicle, have to be completely silent, you can’t leave your position for hours and you have to take your food and water with you.” And there is nothing clandestine about the way Mr. Mallard advertises his business. He has a street shingle marked with an eye and drives around with number plates that read “detect”.
For Mr. Mallard, it’s all about demystifying the business, something which has motivated him to contribute to the latest edition of The Private Investigator’s Handbook written in collaboration with colleague Ashley Keith.
The book is to be launched this month and Mr. Mallard will appear as part of a panel of authors at the NSW Writer’s Centre for the “Spring into Murder” seminar.
While much of the bread and butter of his work comes from insurance and fraud cases, Mr. Mallard sees about a dozen clients a week who want to investigate their partners on suspicion of infidelity.
One client hired him to find his pet tarantula which went missing after a home robbery.
“A fellow came in and he had imported into Australia-illegally- a rare, ruby haired tarantula from Chile,” he said. “It was a huge spider and was apparently, according to him, the only one in the country.
“A friend coveted the spider so it was our job to ascertain whether the spider was with his friend. We had a guy posing as a courier go to the friend’s house asking to use the toilet and as he went in he saw some tanks masqueraded as a collector.
“He identified the ruby-haired tarantula and got the guy on hidden camera saying it’s the only one in the country.”
Mr. Mallard solved the case but then had to hand the client over to customs for illegally possessing the spider.