Re­vealed: the Sur­rey team de­tect­ing a real need for An­swers

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wrong­fully ar­rested in Spain. They had been on hol­i­day with a third friend near Ali­cante but when they were about to board the plane to leave they were iden­ti­fied as sus­pects by a wit­ness to a stab­bing.

“Three of us went out there for a week or so, tracked down wit­nesses and it soon be­came ap­par­ent they had been fin­gered for some­thing they hadn’t done,” Nigel said.

Other than the wit­ness state­ment, there was no ev­i­dence to tie them to the in­ci­dent in a bar near their ho­tel. They had never been to the bar, nor had they hired or even been in­side the kind of car the sus­pects were seen driv­ing off in. At the time of the in­ci­dent, they had been in their ho­tel room watch­ing a film.

The Span­ish po­lice did not be­lieve their story. Even when they pro­duced pho­to­graphs cor­rob­o­rat­ing their ac­count of their en­tire trip, the po­lice said the time stamps could have been doc­tored.

Us­ing the length of shad­ows in the group’s pho­to­graphs, the An­swers team was able to show the time­stamps were ac­cu­rate, and a copy of the TV sched­ule for the time of the in­ci­dent con­firmed the film they said they had been watch­ing had been on.

The Bri­tish pair were fi­nally re­leased, hav­ing by that time made seven bail ap­pli­ca­tions.

Nigel said: “It wasn’t prov­ing it, but it was show­ing what they had said was true.”

The An­swers team has clearly been suc­cess­ful but they are an eclec­tic mix.

Nigel him­self, now aged 54, is no jaded ex-po­lice of­fi­cer in the mould of Cor­moran Strike, the pri­vate eye hero of crime nov­els writ­ten by J K Rowl­ing un­der the pseu­do­nym of Robert Gal­braith. He used to work in mar­ket­ing. “I got made re­dun­dant,” he said, “then I got bored.” Gath­ered around a large map of south­ern Eng­land at the team’s mid-morn­ing meet­ing are three other in­ves­ti­ga­tors, all in their 20s. Harry Watts, 21, from Hor­sham, joined the com­pany weeks af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Portsmouth with a de­gree in crim­i­nol­ogy. He had thought about join­ing the po­lice but was told they wanted some­one younger so went into the pri­vate sec­tor.

“It’s not some­thing peo­ple tell you about,” he said, “It’s not well-pub­li­cised. You just have to have the ini­tia­tive to go out and find it.”

Another new re­cruit, Re­becca Senghore, 26, from Go­dalm­ing, has a mas­ter’s in law and worked as a para­le­gal be­fore de­cid­ing she wanted a change.

Steve Ver­rell, a 24-year-old from Ep­som, has been there longer. He joined af­ter drop­ping out of sixth form col­lege.

Steve said: “Mind­set and be­ing able to talk to peo­ple is far more im­por­tant than any­thing else, just be­ing a de­cent per­son and know­ing the real world.”

Along with the crimes, they do have a fair amount of jeal­ous lovers and sus­pi­cious spouses. One man had hired them to keep an eye on his soon-to-be ex-wife to make sure she didn’t take any­thing from his house.

Harry sug­gested go­ing un­der­cover as a builder – the cou­ple were hav­ing some work done on their house – to make sure she didn’t take any­thing from the man’s home. But Nigel thought a more hon­est ap­proach was bet­ter.

“Why does there have to be big sub­terfuge? Just be your­self. Leave that stuff to Cor­moran Strike.”

Pic­tures: Steve Porter and Gra­hame Larter, left

Steve Ver­rell, above right, joined the An­swers In­ves­ti­ga­tions af­ter drop­ping out of Sixth Form, while Nigel Par­sons, left, for­merly worked in mar­ket­ing

Pic­ture: Christo­pher McKeon

Re­becca Senghore and Steve Ver­rell at work at An­swers In­ves­ti­ga­tions HQ

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