Sweden’s first Lady Detective Agency opened up its doors in Stockholm in late August, with the goal of being an affordable and sensitive alternative to traditional detective agencies.
“First and foremost, we are here to help people who find themselves in situations they can’t solve themselves. Most have carried this burden for some time and see no other solution than to hire us,” Jane Andersson, head of the Swedish branch of the Lady Detective Agency, tells The Local.
The agency first saw the light of day in the UK four years ago. Founder Rebecca Jane identified a niche in the market for a “caring” detective service after having to pour her heart out to expensive, yet insensitive, private eyes when she suspected her now ex-husband of having an affair.
Having started up a very successful operation – probably at least slightly due to the name of the agency – Rebecca Jane’s business received a lot of media attention.
After seeing Rebecca Jane on Swedish chat show Skavlan, where she announced her intentions to take the operation overseas, Jane Andersson, a merchandiser for a Swedish hardware chain, was intrigued.
“I made contact with the agency and after speaking to Rebecca Jane, I went over to the UK to see how they worked,” Andersson says.
“I just really loved the whole concept. I managed to persuade her that Sweden should get the first international agency instead of the US.”
After being personally trained by Rebecca Jane, Andersson gave up her job and set about creating the Swedish agency.
“Of course it was scary to leave work and start my own operation. But this is without a doubt my dream job and an opportunity to really help people,” she says.
In their first two months of operation, the Swedish lady detectives have already found themselves working some 20 cases.
“They range between infidelity cases, finding missing people, and helping companies investigate potential employees,” says Andersson.
In Sweden, the division between female and male clients is 50-50, about the same gender divide as the British market.
In Sweden, as in the UK, infidelity cases have been given the most publicity in the papers. And the detectives don’t doubt that there is a need for these sorts of services:
“The British market shows us that in 80 percent of the infidelity cases, there really is something going on – it is often a strong and accurate instinct that these spouses have,” says Andersson.
In order to find out, the detectives carry out traditional surveillance, and will follow and document the movements of the person they are investigating.
However, the work of the lady detectives is neither as easy nor as glamorous as it is depicted on the silver screen, Andersson explains.
“If we skulked around in trench-coats and big sunglasses the public would most likely become much more suspicious. We are just normal girls and blend into the background completely,” she says.
The trick is to adapt to one’s surroundings.
“We won’t dress up – but if we are following someone for a whole day, we may change little things in our appearance. I might change my outfit and hair style a few times but we’re not talking wigs and fake moustaches at all,” she says.
One of the more controversial services offered by the agency is “honey trapping”, either online or in person, where detectives try to glean whether a spouse would cheat or not.
However, Andersson is quick to explain that it is not so much a trap as a test.
“We create a very natural situation and it is very improbable that anyone can avoid ever meeting anyone who will hit on them at some time or another in their life,” Andersson says.
Internet honey trapping involves creating a profile on dating sites, based on what the client thinks their partner would most be most attracted to, and then maintaining a presence on the sites.
“Often it is they who make contact with us. We stay quite restrictive in our contact with them but we build up a connection over a number of weeks through emails, text messages, or in chat rooms,” explains Andersson.
“Often they share a lot of private information and generally it becomes obvious during these weeks of contact if they are just looking for someone to talk to or if they want another relationship.”
In person, honey trapping is more or less the same, apart from the first meeting being in person. The whole thing is then concluded by setting up an actual date at a restaurant, coffee shop, or other public place.
A detective will be at the designated place to document that the person showed up, but the date will not take place, and he or she will believe they were stood up.
“After that, we hand over all of the contact we have had with the spouse to the client. The client will know that the partner has met someone, kept in contact with them over a few weeks, and made plans to see them again,” explains Andersson.
She thinks it’s much better to get professional help if one suspects a spouse of infidelity, rather than trying to find out for oneself.
“It is easy to make too much of something insignificant when it involves people you love. A person who is completely objective can say: ‘Look, these are the facts, – your husband isn’t on this site, he turned down the girl who approached him, you can be calm,” says Andersson.
Since opening in the UK, the agency has grown to 20 employees in 4 years and the Swedish operation also hopes to grow and take on new staff.
“There has been a great deal of interest in working for us; we must’ve had almost 60 applications so far – both men and women – of all ages,” says Andersson.
To work for the agency, would-be detectives will have to take part in an 8-week online training course, held by Rebecca Jane from the UK, and then physical education led by both Andersson and Rebecca Jane.
“The best thing to do is to shadow a detective carrying out surveillance work, as it provides an understanding of what the work actually entails and shows potential snags and pitfalls along the way,” says Andersson.
Having experienced the murky world of infidelity, Andersson is still shocked to see the naivety with which some people share their lives online:
“I am still surprised at how graphic people can be and how indiscreet, because you can really never know who it is that you are chatting with over the internet.”
Since opening in Sweden, the Lady Detectives have received a fair amount of media attention, and not all of it has been positive, with some alleging the serivce amounts to an unwarranted privacy intrusion.
However, Andersson tells The Local that she is not fazed:
“I think that if you don’t have anything to hide yourself – why be upset about this service existing? There are obviously people who need this service – we have seen that in the weeks we have been open.”