‘I’m an investigator who’s exposed 5,000 cheaters, this is how I caught them'

Private investigator Leon Hart has over 30 years' experience working in surveillance. Posed by model. (Getty Images)
Private investigator Leon Hart has over 30 years' experience working in surveillance. Posed by model. (Getty Images)

From having no text message history to supposedly working late, one of the UK’s leading private detectives has revealed a list of ways to tell if your partner is having an affair.

Leon Hart set up his agency Intime Investigations 15 years ago, but has 30 years' experience in surveillance, fraud investigation and security, working with everyone from celebrities and politicians, to footballers and members of the general public. Now, around 25-30 clients a month contact him with concerns about their partner’s 'suspicious activities' and his fees start at £500 for a half day of surveillance.

In one of the most shocking cases he’s dealt with, his detective work uncovered that a man had been cheating on his wife of 50 years for most of their marriage. They had three children and seven grandchildren together.

"After a brief investigation using surveillance, we identified that he was living at another address with a different woman," says Hart. "After his wife confronted him with the images and footage we had obtained on her behalf, he confessed to having this affair for more or less the same time they had been married."

It emerged he even had two children with the 'other woman' (and three grandchildren). "They both lived in the same village with neither being any wiser to his infidelity," explains Hart. "She divorced him shortly after and the other female also terminated their relationship after his wife informed her of his other family."

So what are the main signs to look out for, according to Hart? Someone's phone habits are of course one of the key ways people arouse suspicion, whether that’s "never letting their phone out of their sight, having no phone or text message history or going into other rooms/leaving the house to answer the phone".

Their computer can also provide vital clues such as "signing up for a new email address and not letting you know, hiding passwords from you and frequently erasing the computer’s history," says Hart.

Other common signs include changes in their habits or schedule, he adds. This could be "supposedly working more overtime, hanging out with new friends, going to a shop near your house but taking longer than needed, having higher car mileage than usual with no explanation or finding out your partner has secretly taken days off work".

Watch out if they start "smelling of aftershave/perfume or alcohol" more often too, warns Hart. His clients also report noticing "changes in their partner’s sex drive and sexual behaviour" and they may start "asking about your schedule more often" in a bid to make sure they don’t get caught.

Interestingly, while 10-15 years ago, Hart says most of his clients were women who suspected their husbands of cheating, now the balance is evening up, with just 10% more female than male clients.

"Around 60% of enquiries I receive now are from women who suspect their partners of cheating," he says. "Men are slightly more reluctant and would prefer to try a DIY job which normally doesn’t go as planned."

Taking the investigation into your own hands can alert your partner that you’re on their case and lead them to be more careful about their antics in the future, he warns.

What other differences has he noticed between the sexes when it comes to affairs?

"Men are more opportunist than women," he reveals. "We’ve found men are generally more likely to act on impulse whereby women will seek to become more emotionally attached and put more effort into planning the infidelity and covering their tracks."

He also believes women are less likely to be fooled than men. "I have found that a woman's intuition or sixth sense is sharper than a man's and they will generally pick up on something that isn’t quite right many months before a man does," claims Hart.

Hart's research shows people are most likely to have affairs with colleagues, close friends and exes. Posed by models. (Getty Images)
Hart's research shows people are most likely to have affairs with colleagues, close friends and exes. Posed by models. (Getty Images)

When it comes to secret lovers, not surprisingly close friends, colleagues and exes are key culprits, Hart has discovered. So, if you have a hunch, start with your partner’s social circle, he advises.

"My recommendation would be to look at your partner’s close friends, this would normally be a reflection of their behaviour when they are not with you."

The ability to track down exes via social media has made affairs easier too. "Social media has provided us with a tool that enables us to contact people from the past who we trust and vice versa," he explains. "We already have common ground and this can sometimes lead to infidelity."

In one of his most complex investigations yet, Hart followed a client’s wealthy husband to several different airports, eventually uncovering three different families that his wife knew nothing about.

"The husband would disappear for a few days every week, using business travel as his excuse for the days apart," says Hart. "The husband owned a small light aircraft and also had a pilot’s licence. Through Open-source intelligence (OSINT) [gathering publicly available information] we were able to identify what locations he had been visiting.

"When he informed his wife that he was going on further business trips, we intercepted him at the airports, surveying him on each of his trips to establish where he was going. The investigation lasted several months and it turned out he had three different families scattered around the nearby islands, alternating between the families equally for many years."

Hart reports that some people go to great lengths not to get caught and one of the most cunning scams he uncovered was "a husband who would park at his local golf course and then put his phone in a carrier bag which was then placed discreetly in a nearby bush."

"This allowed him to meet the other woman at a nearby hotel without his wife suspecting a thing as he still kept his mobile location services on (via find my iPhone) which showed him at the golf course all day – he knew she checked his location regularly as she had questioned him about some locations previously."

Business trips were one of the key excuses given, in research by the married-dating website Illicit Encounters. Posed by models. (Getty Images)
Business trips were one of the key excuses given in research by the married-dating website Illicit Encounters. Posed by models. (Getty Images)

A survey by the married-dating website IllicitEncounters.com shows golf outings (74%) and business trips (87%) are two of the most popular excuses given by adulterers to avoid being found out, followed by working overtime (70%).

A shocking 38% of those polled had gone as far as faking a family death to hide their infidelity and 42% have even experimented with disguises to avoid being caught out.

Jessica Leoni, a spokesperson for the site, which enables people to meet for secret flings, says, "Along with using an absolutely discreet service like Illicit Encounters, we know affair-seekers will do anything they can to keep their extra-marital activities under wraps – and it’s no surprise business trips and golf are two of the most common excuses."

For a private investigator like Hart, seeing marriages fall apart is all in a day’s work, but his services also empower clients to make positive decisions about their future and take decisive action.

Once a client has provided him with a photo, a description of the target, plus a work and home address, he is able to start the investigation. To maximise the chance of his team gaining useful intelligence, he would "always suggest clients keep their cards close to their chests, do not ask your partner too many questions or confront them and definitely do not mention a private investigator (yes, this unfortunately does happen.)"

So, having a few suspicions of your own? "Your intuition is probably right," he admits.

And if you’re the guilty party? "Affairs are problematic because they represent a short-term solution to a longer-term problem," explain the relationship experts at Relate. "Finding excitement with someone can feel good in the here and now, but it doesn’t address why this excitement disappeared from your current relationship in the first place."

"If you and your partner have issues in your relationship, the unexciting truth is that it will take work and commitment on both your parts to address them," says the team at Relate. "While this might sound scary or even just exhausting, it’s the best way to give your relationship the chance to grow and change."