Thieves stole our cars, dogs & jewellery so we hired private detectives – they put cops to shame and were amazing value | The Sun

WHEN precious personal possessions are stolen, it seems Brits are increasingly turning to private detectives to solve the crime.

They feel there is little choice but to hire a sleuth because the police aren’t solving their cases.

Last year only four per cent of thefts resulted in an alleged offender being charged and it was half that if a car had been nicked.

The traditional bread and butter work for private sleuths is locating missing persons or trapping love rats, but increasingly they are being asked to do the work of hard-pressed cops.

Former Detective Chief Inspector David McKelvey, who runs the private detective agency TM Eye, tells The Sun: “We get all sorts of people asking to get their belongings back, it is old-fashioned police work.

“We get a lot of people calling about mobile phones, cars and bicycles.”



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But it is not just rich people who are willing to pay the price to get their goods back.

Part-time carer Patty Covelly hired a detective to find her grandma’s jewellery, fish and chip shop worker Jenny Johns needed her runaround car back and mature student Fiona Conor was desperate to be reunited with a family pet.

A lot of the time it does not require Sherlock Holmes to figure out the culprit because there is CCTV footage or the stolen item is being offered for sale on the internet.

Often clients turn to private eyes because the police are too slow to act.

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The private detective agency has worked on thefts, scams and moreCredit: Nick Obank – The Sun

Robert Harris, from Private Investigation Detectives, says: “I am finding more and more customers coming to us because the police won’t help or they are being too slow.

“A lot of thefts, cars, houses, or scams, the police don’t have the resources to deal with it quickly. They have to prioritise cases.

“We can act more quickly and will help if we can.”

But he warned that they don’t have powers of arrest.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said: “We would urge members of the public to report any instance of crime to the police as soon as possible and not to take the law into their own hands.”

Here we speak to three people who decided to rent a detective.

Jewellery found at auction

For Patty Covelly the pearls, gold ring, antique diamond ring and necklaces bequeathed to her by her grandmother were priceless keepsakes.

The 26-year-old part-time carer from Truro, Cornwall, was devastated when she found they – along with valuable watches – had gone missing following a barbecue at her block of flats last year.

Guests had been going in and out on the warm summer day and she had left her window open.

When Patty called the police to report the jewellery had been stolen she was told that her case would be difficult to resolve.

She says: “I rang the police and they asked if there was a break-in. I explained I didn’t know – I had to be honest.

“They said I could come and file a report but that it would be made difficult if there were no broken locks.

“They explained as there was no obvious break-in I may be in a long queue for someone to come around. I was devastated.”

Patty never had her gran’s jewels valued or insured, but finding them was about more than money.

She explains: “They were family heirlooms. For me it was sentimental value, also I didn’t want my family upset that they'd been stolen.”

A friend suggested Patty tried using a private detective, who offered to charge a reduced rate of £500 if the carer conducted some of the inquiries.

Patty says: “They explained that jewellery usually ends up in a number of different locations.

“It can be sold to pawn shops, sold on, sent to auctioneers, taken to London, sold on Facebook Marketplace.

“I was lucky I had a photo of me wearing the pearl necklace and the ring.”

The private eye offered a reward for information and after three weeks the pearls and gold ring were recovered.

An agent who sources for auctioneers had spotted them. Patty concludes: “I have since got insurance and moved house.”

Pooch rescued 100 miles away

Mum-of-two Fiona Conor, 54, says the theft of the family’s beloved dog Popsie, a fluffy white Shih Tzu, left the family and their other dog so devastated they ‘went private’ to get their beloved pooch back.

“Popsie was stolen from outside our house. The entire village helped search for five days.

“We didn't know who had taken her or how. It left the police without leads. They didn't have the time to search,” says Fiona, a mature age uni student from Selby, North Yorks.

“I knew our pet was out there and contacted a private detective who offered us a discount if we did some of the searching.

“Other detectives wanted £1,500 just to see me. It wasn't affordable.

“Our detective created a sign that had a huge picture of our pooch, described as a white fluffy dog and a contact number. Other signs have too much info and small pictures.”

The experienced dog hunter knew Shih Tzus could run a mile in 13 minutes but wouldn’t cross water, so created a circular search area around Selby taking into account the breed's traits.

Fiona continues: “Once we had that, she discovered the dumping grounds for stolen pets in our region and researched sites where dogs might be bred or sold illegally.

“Our detective explained that in Britain no dog cannot be found. It is just a case of making it ‘too hot to handle’ and knowing how to look.

“Knowing the breed's traits, areas it's popular for selling on, and making as many people aware it's been stolen is the key.”

Fiona handed out flyers, and visited kennels, pounds and even pet shops.

She says: “Our detective used photo recognition software to do an internet search to try and match Popsie’s photo online in case some had a ‘new dog’ and were showing it off on social media.

“When she added a reward and built up pressure we got the call we’d been waiting for

“A tip-off led to us driving one hundred miles away after a lady explained she’d bought a dog and thought it might be ours.”

“We later learned that someone who had been working in Selby had grabbed Popsie off the street and sold her on.”

Hiring the private eye cost £400. Fiona concludes: “It was worth every penny.”

Car saved from scrapyard

Mum-of-four Jenny Johns relied on her second £1,500 Nissan to get children, including one who is disabled, to school.

The 44-year-old from Devon had saved up to buy the runaround but didn’t have enough cash left to take out theft insurance.

That meant she needed it back urgently when it was stolen in March.

Jenny, who works in a fish and chip shop and does some part-time admin, says: “I knew from experience that all the police could do was give me a crime reference number.

“In many ways, it isn’t their fault and I just wanted my car back

“It wasn’t new but I loved the car. My daughter is disabled so I needed it even more.”

One of her friends had got a pet back using a detective, so she thought they might be able to find her motor.

She says: “A cousin loaned me £400 to use a private car tracker expert to try and find it.

“It took her two weeks but she found the car – it had been driven to Plymouth and left and a local tow company had been called to take it away.

“She rang hundreds of tow companies, impounds, lots and checked dozens of her contacts.”

Jenny reduced the fee by doing some of the leg work, including visiting local mechanics and letting people know that she was searching for the Nissan.

She concludes: “Using the private detective was for me the best solution ever.

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“I know people will say I should have bought another old car but it would have been more money and time

“I needed this car and wasn’t going to take no for an answer in finding it.”

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