Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Private Investigator | Interview with Vice Magazine

Following the publication of our chief investigator’s interview with Lea Albring from VICE Magazine Germany, the article „Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Private Investigator“ has subsequently also been published on VICE UK. As is typical for VICE, the questions asked are informal, at times quite nonchalant but also amusing and interesting. Unfortunately, there have been a couple of translation mistakes and omissions in comparison to the original version which is why the article is not fully comprehensive throughout.

The Kurtz Detective Agency Germany has provided a copy of the full published interview below:

Private Detective in Germany – an occupational profile

How to make sure your partner never discovers you’re cheating on them, and other tips by PI Patrick Kurtz. If you want to call yourself a private detective in Germany, then go for it. There are 1,200 PI agencies in the country, but no recognised training facilities for private investigators. You can just declare yourself one and get going.

„So as you can imagine there’s quite a few crooks in the scene,“ says Patrick Kurtz. He manages an agency that employs 28 detectives [note: translation mistake by VICE, it’s 28 offices], who operate across Germany, and according to him, they are all professionals. He says this while puffing away at a pipe – a habit he maintains he developed long before he was a gumshoe: „I have been a passionate pipe smoker since I was 14.“

Patrick first had the idea of becoming a private investigator during his gap year. He had just completed his BA degree and was taking some time off before starting an MA, when he saw an ad in the paper for an PI internship that promised a salary of 1,700 Euros [about £1500] a month. „I realised one could make real money if they proved to be capable in this industry.“ The ad turned out to be fake, but Patrick’s enthusiasm had grown to be very real. „As a good detective I can earn 3,000 Euros [about £2600] a month and as someone who runs a detective agency, I really could not complain about my income,“ he says.

Private enquiries tend to cover four main areas: alimony payments, child custody, affairs and tracing people. Sometimes companies also approach Kurtz’s agency to find out if their employees are skiving or not, although they aren’t officially allowed to do that since the German Labour Court decided that it was illegal in 2015 [note: false information due to translation mistake by VICE].

According to Patrick, three quarters of the time the suspicions of the client are confirmed. He says that he has rarely sympathised with the people that he’s investigated.

Usually it’s Patrick’s job to obtain information, but now it’s his turn to dispense it. I met with him to ask 10 questions.

Investigators caricature; Private Detective Germany, Private Investigator Leipzig Germany
How do modern detectives work? Although magnifying glasses are still in use when securing evidence and at least Patrick Kurtz is a pipe smoker, indeed, our most important tools are high-resolution cameras nonetheless.

VICE: „Isn’t what you do technically just stalking?“

Patrick Kurtz: „There are some similarities, in the sense that both a detective and a stalker are watching people in their private sphere. But a stalker wants to make contact, while a detective is there to observe and maintain boundaries. If I witness something very intimate, that’s only because that act takes place outside somebody’s home. If someone is cheating on their wife in a car parked in a layby, then it’s my job to observe it. Stalkers spy because they’re obsessed, private detectives spy because we’re hired to do so.

There was this one time, when my agency was actually hired by someone’s stalker. This client had fabricated an infidelity scenario to convince us to tail their victim. Fortunately, as soon as we started looking into the case, we figured out the client was a stalker, and we were able to come clean to the victim.“

What’s the raunchiest thing you have witnessed?

„I’m hardly working on a porn set – we always keep our distance and there are lines we don’t cross. Looking back, I think one of the most risqué scenes I’ve had to observe from a distance, was part of this one case in Hannover – an employer suspected that one of his salespeople wasn’t using his work hours to knock on potential client doors. We observed him for five days and from the first day, we realised that he would spend some hours driving around aimlessly, then work for a few hours and then would go home early. He would park his car a short distance away from his garage, so people wouldn’t notice he was home.

But on the last day of our investigation, after he left home in the morning, he picked up a young man and the two of them drove to a secluded area. It was pretty clear they were having sex in there for a couple of hours [note: two] – the windows were all steamed up, the car was rocking and you could hear everything. The sex part wasn’t anyone’s business of course – he was fired because he was getting paid, while not doing any work. But you asked about a salacious anecdote, so there you go.“

Have you ever fallen in love with someone you were investigating?

„No, and I wouldn’t let that happen. It did happen to a couple of colleagues however. They got involved with people they met through work but they were both clients, not those being investigated. One affair started after an investigation into infidelity – it was proven that the client’s partner was cheating on them, and then the client and my colleague dated for a while. It didn’t last though.

However, the second pair are still together. A woman who worked for a city council claimed she had been threatened by a co-worker a few times, and grew suspicions that the local government had bugged her phone. She hired a colleague to look into that and it turned out her suspicions were false: No one was monitoring her conversations. Still, somehow she and the detective who worked on her case got in a relationship, and they’ve been a couple ever since.“

What’s the most common reason clients approach you?

„We get a lot of female clients who suspect that their husband is cheating on them with another man. Roughly, out of 100 investigations into suspicions of infidelity, we’ll find maybe two men who are hiding their sexuality from their wives. I’ve never discovered a secret lesbian relationship, though.

I think men find it more difficult to come to terms with their sexual orientation because of obvious social pressures. I’ve never come across the cliché case of a man living a double life, having two families. But we did once investigate a guy who turned out to be cheating on his wife with several women at the same time. And he was renting apartments for all of them.“

What do you do all day? Do you just sit in your car, waiting for something to happen – like in the movies?

„Obviously, each case is different but yeah, it can get boring when you’re following someone to see if they’re cheating on their partners. That’s like it is in the movies – you’re just sat in a car, waiting outside someone’s house. It’s surprisingly exhausting to watch a driveway for hours on end.

When I get tired I put on some hard rock to stay awake, like Metallica or Soundgarden. I also just listen to audiobooks to kill the time – like Edgar Allan Poe and, as basic as that makes me sound, Sherlock Holmes. About 70 percent of observation is waiting, 30 percent is action. And if you’re following someone around, you really need to focus and concentrate.“

How do you manage to follow someone without them noticing?

„My investigators and I have a couple of textbook tricks that help us conceal our profession. When neighbours notice us, we’ll always have a story ready – or a „legend“, as we like to call it. So, for example, I’ll often say that my wife has just thrown me out of the house. For that reason, I always have a thermos and blanket in my car and keep my hair messy – those props help sell the story usually.

So far we have only been found out once, because we hadn’t taken into account the difference in location. We were investigating someone living in a rural area, where everyone knew everyone. We had been hired to find out whether a farm worker was actually doing his job. A colleague and I parked our cars at about 700 metres from the property, but a passing farmer noticed us and told the subject of our investigation about it. He then turned up at our car and said we should stop spying on him and leave. It all turned out alright in the end, we got what we needed. The most important thing is to make sure to be ready to change our strategy swiftly, if we think a subject is on to us.“

Do you ever have to break the law in order to do your job?

„The problem is that we often operate in a legal grey area. The laws we deal with are often unclear or there are simply no laws regarding our profession in Germany. What is allowed and what’s not can only become clear after a specific case going through a judicial panel.

For example, GPS trackers are currently illegal in Germany [note: false translation; Patrick Kurtz said that they are considered illegal by many], but paying for information isn’t. But again, it’s a grey area. Is it really okay to pay a waiter to tell you if Person X was eating with Person Y between times A and B? At my agency, we don’t employ those kinds of techniques just to be on the moral and legal side of things, but we do make up stories to get information. For instance, we’ll claim that our investigators are family members or business partners of the people we’re investigating. It’s certainly a lie, but it’s not a criminal offence.“

Some people think private detectives are just failed cops. Is that true?

„I do employ plenty of ex-coppers as investigators. A small group of those people [note: ex-coppers in the business], were dishonourably discharged from the police. A lot are on police pensions and want to supplement their income. Others saw no chance for a promotion, or fell out with their superior officers – things like that. But I believe all the people I manage are more than capable at their jobs.

So far, I’ve only hired the wrong person once. He was a Police Chief Inspector, who took over an investigation for my detective agency. I knew the client personally [note: false translation; Patrick Kurtz did not know the client personally but was on very good terms with her during and after the investigation]. Because of the personal relationship, it didn’t take long for us to realise that something wasn’t right. Eventually, it came out that the investigator I had put on the case had faked his observation logs. He was meant to infiltrate a company to investigate bullying. But it turned out that he had worked for that company only one day for four hours. He then called in sick. On his account and in his report, he claimed he had worked at that company for five days, eight hours each day. I reported him for fraud and sued for damages.“

If I wanted to cheat on my partner, what’s the best way to do it without being found out?

„I’d say to avoid putting anything in writing – don’t text, email or chat online. Only deal with each other face-to-face – and never in public. If your partner suddenly turns off their mobile phone for a while [note: false translation; if your partner hides the mobile], that could be an indication that they could be cheating. And if you don’t want to be found out, make sure that you don’t change your behaviour in any obvious way. Don’t suddenly start going to the gym or the hairdresser more often than normally, for example. Those are clues that’ll give you away [note: false translation; that are frequently described by our clients].“

And if I wanted to make myself disappear, what’s the best way to go about it?

„If you’re an EU citizen, stay in Europe to avoid leaving any traces at borders. Don’t ever take a plane or a train, because that normally means your journey will be registered – plus there are cameras everywhere at train stations and airports.

The most important thing is to be prepared to leave your old life behind. Many people who disappear successfully at first, are later found because they couldn’t let go of some of the comforts of their old life. They’ll keep using old credit cards for instance or will look for a flat using their old name. Few people are willing to go all the way and get a new identity and get fake documents made. That’s why we fail at only 15 percent of the missing person cases we take on – and when that happens it’s usually because the budget we have at our disposal doesn’t allow us to continue our search.“

Kurtz Detective Agency Leipzig, Germany

Beuchaer Straße 10

04318 Leipzig

Tel.: +49 (0)341 6970 4082

Mobile: +49 (0)163 8033 967

E-Mail: kontakt@kurtz-detektei-leipzig.de

Web: https://www.kurtz-detektei-leipzig.de/kurtz-detective-agency-leipzig-germany/

Sherlock Holmes im Film – Teil 1: Mr. Holmes (2015)

Ein Viktorianer im 21. Jahrhundert

Sherlock Holmes erfreut sich offenbar nicht nur bei den Ermittlern unserer Detektei in Kiel ungebrochener Beliebtheit, denn der Meisterdetektiv flimmert aktuell so häufig über Kinoleinwände und Fernseher wie selten zuvor. Sowohl Filme wie die High-Budget-Blockbuster von Regisseur Guy Ritchie mit Robert Downey jr. in der Hauptrolle als auch Fernsehserien wie Sherlock von der BBC oder Elementary aus dem Hause CBS spielen Millionen ein – an den Kinokassen, über Werbemaßnahmen und im Merchandising. Im Laufe unserer neuen Reihe „Sherlock Holmes im Film“werden wir detaillierter auf alle drei Adaptionen zu sprechen kommen.

Holmes ist eine derart ikonische Figur, dass man den Überblick verliert über die unzähligen Geschichten, die im Laufe der Jahrzehnte geschrieben und verfilmt wurden und ihn entweder als Hauptfigur haben oder als Nebenfigur auftreten lassen. Je nach Genre trifft er dabei auf reale Figuren seiner Zeit oder auf „Kollegen“ aus der viktorianischen Literatur. Die Phantasie der Autoren scheint unbegrenzt: Sowohl echte Kriminalfälle, wie die Jack-the-Ripper-Morde, als auch Fälle, die Figuren und Szenarien anderer Autoren wie H. G. Wells (die Invasion der Marsianer in Krieg der Welten) oder Bram Stoker (Dracula) zum Thema haben, bilden den Hintergrund für mehr oder weniger originelle Geschichten. So sehr ist seine Figur mit der Epoche des viktorianischen Englands verbunden, dass oft unterschlagen wird, wie viele der originalen Sherlock-Holmes-Geschichten aus der Feder seines Schöpfers Arthur Conan Doyle erst nach dem Ende dieses Zeitalters entstanden. Als Queen Victoria im Jahr 1901 starb, schien Doyle sogar genug zu haben von seinem Helden, denn er hatte ihn acht Jahre zuvor in der Kurzgeschichte Das letzte Problem (The Final Problem) sterben lassen. Der Großteil der Geschichten indes – nämlich zwei von vier Romanen und drei von fünf Kurzgeschichtensammlungen – sollte erst noch folgen, wie in unserer Reihe „Der Privatdetektiv in der Literatur“ Teil 5 und 6 nachzulesen ist.

Mr. Holmes: humorvolles Aufräumen mit Sherlock-Klischees

Den Umstand, dass ein großer Teil der Lebenszeit des fiktiven Detektivs erst nach dem Viktorianischen Zeitalter stattgefunden haben dürfte, greift auch der jüngste Ansatz von Regisseur Bill Condon auf, und daher nähern wir uns dem Thema heute einmal umgekehrt chronologisch: In Mr. Holmes, einem Kinofilm aus dem Jahr 2015, basierend auf Mitch Cullins A Slight Trick of the Mind, ist Sherlock Holmes der Überlebende einer längst vergangenen Epoche. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, sein Bruder Mycroft – alle sind längst verstorben; Holmes selbst hat sich vor über 30 Jahren aufs Land zurückgezogen und züchtet Bienen (ein Motiv mehrerer Romane aus Holmes-Pastiches, u. a. auch in denen von Henry Fitzgerald Heard).

Ein schöner Kniff ist die bewusste Haltung des Films zur Klischeefigur Sherlock Holmes: Im Film ist Holmes zwar eine sehr populäre reale Figur, die allgemeinen Vorstellungen über den Meisterdetektiv stammen jedoch gänzlich aus der Feder des ebenfalls realen John Watson – und nicht etwa von Doyle – als Verfasser der bekannten Abenteuer von Sherlock Holmes. Die Deerstalker-Mütze und das Cape? Habe er, so Holmes, in Wahrheit nie getragen! Die Pfeife? Er präferiere Zigarren! Selbst die Adresse sei geflunkert: Holmes machte sich zu seiner Londoner Zeit einen Spaß daraus zu beobachten, wie Schaulustige („amerikanische Touristen“, wie Holmes lakonisch feststellt) die Baker Street 221b heimsuchen – und zwar aus dem Fenster seiner wahren Wohnung, schräg gegenüber. Der Detektiv kommentiert die Erzählungen um seine angeblichen Taten folgendermaßen: „Ich habe Watson gesagt, falls ich je eine Geschichte schreibe, dann nur zur Korrektur der Millionen falschen Vorstellungen, die seine poetische Freiheit geschaffen hat.“ Ein Highlight auch, wie er später, in den 1940er Jahren, im Kino schmunzelnd eine fiktionalisierte Filmversion eines echten Falles sieht, mit einem „klassischen“ Holmes inklusive Deerstalker, Cape und Pfeife – eine augenzwinkernde Hommage an die erfolgreiche Filmserie mit Basil Rathbone, auf die unsere Kieler Detektive in der Reihe „Sherlock Holmes im Film“ selbstverständlich ebenfalls zu sprechen kommen werden.

Die Vermenschlichung eines übermenschlichen Geistes

Die Rahmenhandlung von Mr. Holmes spielt im Jahr 1947. Somit wird Holmes Zeuge des gerade angebrochenen Atomzeitalters – eine Tatsache, auf die der Film in mehreren Szenen deutlich anspielt. Den gebrechlichen Holmes sucht sein allerletzter Fall heim: Von Senilität geplagt, versucht er sich an die Vorfälle zurückzuerinnern, die ihn 35 Jahre vorher dazu bewogen hatten, das Detektiv-Geschäft und sein Leben in London aufzugeben, um sich aufs Land zurückzuziehen. So weit, so gut, doch das wirklich Originelle liegt im Fehlen dessen, was doch stets die Sherlock-Holmes-Geschichten definiert hat: das handlungsbestimmende Rätsel um einen Kriminalfall. Wer ist der Mörder, was war sein Motiv? All das spielt hier keine Rolle. Tatsächlich gibt es für den größten aller Detektive kein Rätsel zu lösen, außer dem wirklich letzten: Wer ist Sherlock Holmes, wenn er das verliert, was ihn ausmacht? In einer bewegenden Szene zieht er ein Resümee, dass er zwar sein Leben lang allein gewesen sei, doch als Ausgleich immer seinen Intellekt hatte – genau den droht er jetzt, in hohem Alter, endgültig zu verlieren. Was aber macht das mit einem Mann, dessen gesamtes Ego durch seinen Scharfsinn definiert wird? Holmes ist plötzlich eine verletzliche Person, ein von Sorgen geplagter Mensch statt einer Denkmaschine, die alles Unwesentliche ausblenden kann. Vielleicht zum ersten Mal wird sein Herz angesprochen (unter anderem auch durch den wissensbegierigen Sohn seiner Haushälterin) – und das bringt ihn aus dem Gleichgewicht.

Das Mysterium des Films ist daher kein Mord oder ein anderer Kriminalfall, sondern Holmes selbst. Viele Facetten kennen die Leser und Zuschauer von Sherlock Holmes, aber diese hier ist neu: Als Meister der Logik und Deduktion hatte man den Privatdetektiv bisher als zwar brillanten, dafür aber doch sehr unnahbaren, ja fast schon kalten Charakter kennen gelernt, oder (wie es Benedict Cumberbatch in der Verkörperung des titelgebenden Charakters in der großartigen Serie Sherlock ausdrückt) gar als „hochgradig funktionierenden Soziopathen“. Nähe, gar Intimität zu unserem Meisterdetektiv kam in den allermeisten Geschichten nicht auf – das macht Mr. Holmes so originell. Ian McKellen, selbst eine Ikone und gewohnt, solche zu spielen, agiert gewohnt großartig als strauchelnder alter Zausel, der mit den Geistern der Vergangenheit hadert. Verschachtelt auf drei Zeitebenen erzählt, weiß der Film der Figur des Sherlock Holmes neue und liebenswerte Facetten hinzuzufügen.

Detektei Kiel, Detektiv Kiel, Privatdetektiv Kiel, Privatdetektei Schleswig-Holstein
Ian McKellen als 93jähriger Rentner-Sherlock im Kinofilm „Mr. Holmes“, © Miramax 

Neuer Realismus, ungekannte Menschlichkeit

Ist der Film eine Empfehlung wert? Nun, wer sich auf Action à la Guy Ritchie einstellt oder auf spannende Kriminalfälle, wird wahrscheinlich enttäuscht werden. Wer jedoch Lust hat auf einen Film mit ruhigerer Erzählweise, der sich Zeit nimmt, in die Charaktere einzutauchen, sollte Mr. Holmes nicht verpassen – vor allem nicht, wenn er Sherlock-Holmes-Fan ist. Da der Alltag unserer Privatdetektive aus Kiel nicht nur von spannenden Fällen mit dem größten „Thrill“ bestimmt wird, sondern von ganz realen Menschen mit normalen Schicksalen, ist es erfrischend, in Mr. Holmes einen Film zu finden, der sich keines Klischee-Mordfalles bedient, sondern tief in die Psychologie seiner Figuren eintaucht und selbst den größten aller fiktiven Detektive zur Abwechslung einmal sehr menschlich erscheinen lässt.

Verfasser: Gerrit Koehler  


Kurtz Detektei Kiel und Schleswig-Holstein

Hopfenstraße 1d

D-24114 Kiel

Tel.: +49 (0)431 3057 0053

Mail: kontakt@kurtz-detektei-kiel.de

Web: http://www.kurtz-detektei-kiel.de