The private detective, Nikos Pelekasis, with private investigation offices in Athens and Piraeus, talks to us about the profession of an investigator. We spent a day with him and he told us about how the life of a private investigator is both exciting and dangerous.
What the private detective sees from his office window is the life of Piraeus flowing like a rushing river of people, cars and signs.
The simple but bright space on the second floor of a building on the bustling Heroin Polytechnic, appears for a moment in our eyes as the ideal observatory. We imagine the detective intently surveying the passers-by when he finishes the job, like another James Stewart in Hitchcock’s Silent Witness. “This job has no hours. If you have hours, you don’t love it enough,” he will later tell us. “We’ve been in private investigations since 1976, when my brother opened the office in Piraeus. Piraeus is my second great love after the police. It’s where I learned and loved good, evil, the red and green line,” he tells us at first, sitting in his office chair. We notice that, as we talk, he leans in towards us and looks at us intently. As if this were yet another case.
As we look around the space, an office with white and grey walls, black leather chairs and low blinds that resembles both a police station and a doctor’s office, we are informed about the basics. The private detective joined the police, moved on to the security services and then worked for years at the National Intelligence Agency where he specialised in intelligence gathering, analysis, management and exploitation. When he retired, he took over the bureau.
“What stimuli led you to become a detective? Did you read Sherlock Holmes?” we ask, determined to avoid any stereotypes. He replies that he has read a great deal and it is quite different from what we see in the works. He adds that he is pleasantly surprised and continues: “The stimuli, however, I’ve had since I was young. I come from a large family and have always had concerns. I knew that everything has two sides, the one we see and the one we don’t see. I always wanted to discover the unseen side.”
He tells us that he comes from a mountain village where there were violations by children and adults. Mistakes and acts committed by others out of childish carelessness at school, at play or football were for him, his own field of exploration. He thus learned to discern who had good intentions and who had bad intentions.
Keen observation is therefore one of the key virtues of a detective. We ask what the others are and he answers.
The world, however, is fascinated by private investigators through movies and TV shows. The biggest inaccuracy in the representation of the profession is that we know everything. If you don’t have a network of collaborators, you can’t operate. And to get it, you have to gain the trust of many. The job of a detective is very, very difficult and dangerous. Anyone who says they are not afraid is either ignorant or dangerous to their partners, the investigation and themselves. Because in an investigation it is not only about finding a result. It is also important not to burn it.
You mustn’t reveal yourself. A lot of customers come in without a specific problem. They just have a suspicion, they saw a movie, it happened to an acquaintance and they decide to look into it. For example, someone finds out completely by accident that his wife is having an extramarital affair, his friend decides to investigate if something similar is happening to him. It is tragic, in this case, to find out that his wife has had her followed without having given her any rights.
The police cannot serve private affairs. What happens is that, in criminal cases, we continue the investigation when the police have completed their work or provide the evidence we discover. We are licensed by the Ministry of Public Order and we are regularly inspected. On the other hand, this does not apply in all cases. If we discover misconduct by one of our clients that falls under the category of a misdemeanor, we will not report it. We will protect him.
Many times there are people who seek a psychologist instead of a private investigator. People convinced that there is a problem, insist on looking for it when in fact there is no problem. In these cases the problem stems from elsewhere and after I assure them that there is no evidence on my part, I refer them to other disciplines. A woman came to my office with suspicions that her husband was having an extramarital affair. He denied it and called her crazy. It turns out she was wrong.
In addition to private cases, the private investigator undertakes professional investigations for companies. He works with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, banks who want to ensure their confidentiality, their staff, their information, whether an employee is loyal and not giving information to others. Companies participate in competitions and interests are at stake with a euro difference. They also investigate accidents, traffic accidents, theft of cars, boats, motorcycles and that’s where the expert witness and autopsy is done.
Many clients don’t want to meet in the office, so that no one sees them, so that they don’t arouse suspicion. Often, the appointment can be made in a hotel, at home or even in a café. Depending on what the client will ask for and how they ask for it we build their profile . Let’s say, for example, that a man asks me to look for his wife. I can figure out whether he wants to know because he is interested or whether he himself has a parallel relationship and wishes the wife had one too, so that he does not become the culprit of the separation. It happens. A detective’s 24-hour day can be relaxed, it can be in the red. Adrenaline, creative stress is what sustains us. In this business, you don’t have hours, if you do, you don’t love it enough.
The cost of services is not fixed. It depends on the time and the risk of the case. Everyone in Greece lives and adjusts. The mindset, technology and culture has changed. And of course, the economic situation. As far as technology is concerned, the developments should have opened a new era for the industry. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, but it turned everyone into would-be online detectives who greedily poke around on their mobile phones, even calculating the hours the other person is or isn’t connected and accessible. In the hands of the suspicious, Facebook becomes an online spy game. “Technology has advanced so much and we’re following it.
We cover all cases related to the internet, through social media monitoring, recovery of deleted data, etc., of course being even more careful now to stay within the GDPR. I have younger partners who specialise in social media and the internet and they take care of this part. But we work together and I pass on my experience to them. In addition, I use a lot of tools, which are constantly updated and I work with a geneticist and a graphologist.
From the lowered window blinds, a group of students can be seen crossing the street. I wonder if these ages exist in the detective’s clientele. They come young, they’ve come underage. In most cases it’s about their parents. A 20-year-old girl found out she was adopted and came looking for her mother. She discovered that her mother had 7 other children and even found one of her sisters. After this incident, she told me that she loved her adoptive parents even more and I hear from her to this day. Not all stories have happy endings though. The way children are involved in Nick Pelekasis’ affairs is disheartening. It says this: When I started the job, I promised myself that I would leave the problems of work at the office. But there are some cases that have followed me even in my sleep. The cases of kids taking drugs. I can’t look at it coldly, professionally.
Once, a family from Australia asked me to go to a village, take a handful of soil and bring it to them to put it on their father’s grave. To some people it might be funny. I treat every case with the same seriousness. But I’ve had a student call me before the national exams to ask for a device to dictate solutions in his ear. I told him that the only way to pass is to study.
‘As far as social phenomena are concerned, what I often see is the behaviour of divorced men towards their children. Many fathers are alienated and treated in a hostile and antagonistic way; it happens all too often. It’s not the same with mothers. On the other hand, the following happens to couples: because of the economic crisis, there is no room for one of them to go on outings or go out drinking alone. They concentrate more on the family.
I am the first person to be put at risk. I am responsible for my colleagues and their physical integrity. After all, for a partner to get to my office secrets, he has to pass many tests. No, I’m not watching him. When you’ve been doing this job for 30 years, it’s hard to get someone to lie to you. I have my way, and I get it. Of course, the legal man won’t be afraid of the illegal. I’m not afraid for my family either. Every case ends when the investigation ends, because even the “perpetrators” know that I will never charge them with no fault of their own. What is it that reveals more evidence? The carelessness of the “perpetrator” or his ignorance? Frivolity. And the certainty that there’s no way they’ll catch him, because there’s no way they’ll suspect him in the first place. If you talk to people in prison, not for murder but for robbery, they usually don’t say “I was wrong to steal”. They say “I made a mistake and got caught.” And when they get out, they make sure they don’t do it again.
A prostitute was once murdered. Her casual lover was charged and taken into custody. With hard evidence, I proved his innocence and discovered the real killer. At the time, the prosecutor congratulated me. Seeing an innocent man released from prison was the most important moment for me.
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