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Real Life No.1 Female Detective Agency Interview with Maria Cooper, Senior Investigator, WIA
Founder and Senior Investigator of Warwickshire Investigation Agency, Maria Cooper, speaks about her new role as the lead detective in the U.K’s No.1 Female Detective Agency
By: Warwickshire Press Office
Thank you. Yes, we were really pleased and honored. It meant a great deal to me personally as I was determined to enter the industry making a significant contribution to private investigation, and to raise the bar on the specialist skill of covert surveillance. So to be recognised by the WAPI Council as Best Newcomer 2008 was a real thrill.
I understand that your background was in Policing as a surveillance specialist?
That’s right. I served for 20 years in the Police specialising in both Royalty and VIP protection officer duties and more latterly as a member of the Force dedicated surveillance team.
Both of those roles must have been interesting, were they challenging?
Yes! But the level of training for both roles is second to none. My training for the protection and bodyguard role was done alongside serving members of the SBS (Special Boat Service) and the role itself brought me into contact with many people I would never have otherwise met. It was quite a privilege
Can you tell us any secrets about the Royals, give us the inside scoop?
No, Sorry! my lips are sealed. As I have said, I considered the role to be a privilege, therefore it follows that what I heard and saw is privileged information!
Why did you move on from that role?
I had to, it wasn’t from choice. The Police Service at that time imposed tenure of post on specialist departments, which meant that you had to move on.
So, you went on to the surveillance squad?
Yes. I was very fortunate. In my final year on Protection Duties I was approached to fill a place on the upcoming Level 1 surveillance course due to be held in Milton Keynes. My department didn’t have to foot the bill as the space had come about from someone else dropping out. So before I could really think about it I was on the course. I was told that it would be unfair to grade me as all the other people on he course had gone through an interview process to be there, unlike me. I had never really given surveillance a second thought at that time so this was just an opportunity for me and there was no job riding on my pass or fail performance.
I’m guessing that you passed the course?
Yes I did. I was told that if I were to be graded on my performance I would have got an ‘A’ grade which would open the role of surveillance specialist to me. If you wanted to apply for Drug squad you had to attain at least a grade ‘B’. So, there it was. Out of sheer luck I had been shown the role that I wanted to specialise in next. I subsequently applied, went through the interview progress and found myself back on another course, this time with the pressure of a job hanging on my result. 3 weeks of intense training again and a really good time was had by all. I got my grade and started my new job just 3 months later.
What did your working role entail?
Our job as a team was to successfully follow criminals gaining intelligence on their movements and associates. The information was recorded both photographically and documentary. When crimes were committed we would call in uniform officers to effect arrest, the criminal never knowing that he had been followed for the last week, his every move noted. There were times when we were forced to show our hand and effect the arrests ourselves.
Can you tell us about any of those?
One time we followed a prolific burglar for the day. I followed him on foot whilst the rest of the team sealed the immediate escape routes. I gained access to a garden where I watched him force the side window of a house. I co-ordinated officers at the front of the house to observe him back towards his car whilst I ran to catch up. By the time I reached the roadside, the burglar had got to his car and an arrest had been attempted. He tried to flee, crushing the female officers legs between his car and one of the covert police cars.
Did the burglar get caught?
Yes, The team were very professional in the light of such stress. He was safely followed at a distance to Milton Keynes where he was arrested. He received a custodial sentence for his trouble.
Was the officer with the injuries OK?
Eventually. She returned to the same role and carried on undeterred. Remarkable really.
You must have been very well qualified to transition with all your Police law training?
Obviously from a criminal law point of view I was and from a skills perspective relevant to surveillance I was. But my knowledge of civil law was lacking. So my preparation for establishing Warwickshire Investigation Agency involved passing a course in advanced private investigation through the Institute of Professional Investigators.
Did you have a particular plan for the direction of the business when you launched in 2008?
Yes. My USP (unique selling point) is my specialist background and investigation skills. Also, I am a woman in a predominantly mans world. In my view, both my experience and the fact I am female makes me fairly unique in this industry. The main core of the business therefore would be based on covert surveillance work
What kind of work do you find you do most of, is it all following love cheats?
No! however, most male investigators don’t relish this kind of work but it is a role that I am very comfortable performing. I am a people person and I think it helps to be female somehow, whether the client is male or female themselves seems to make no difference. They tend to trust a female investigator more for some reason. I guess again my background helps to confirm the level of service they can expect from WIA and goes a long way to dispel the myth of all investigators wearing dirty rain macs and hiding behind lamp posts wearing trilby’s!
So what other kind of work do you cater for?
We do a lot of work with Local Authorities and Housing Associations relative to gathering information via surveillance for anti social behavior prosecutions and crack house closures. We also work with H.R. departments of medium and large sized companies and industries to help provide evidence of fraudulent sickness and injury claims and serious breaches of contract. Such work demands a high level of surveillance expertise to achieve the best quality results, which is after all what we are paid to do. I insist that all surveillance carried out by us is conducted to the same rigorous standards as I used in the police service. That way, no rules get broken and the end product is of a very high standard which will be robust in any court, civil or criminal.
I know that it makes me sound a bit OCD and anal and I laugh with my team about it often but honestly I don’t know any other way to work!
It sounds as though you have established Warwickshire Investigation Agency on the map quite successfully in a relatively short space of time
Yes, as I say I am pleased with our progress so far, the important thing for me is the standard of service being upheld. I ask all of our clients for voluntary feedback at the end of every case and we listen to the comments! It is from these suggestions that some of our additional services have come. It is all about meeting the customer demand and hopefully surpassing their expectations.
So, what is the plan for the future?
For the immediate future? Much of the same. We have a wide variety of specialist services on offer now and that is keeping us busy. I am still very hands on at ground level with the surveillance and investigations and will involve myself in the thick of things every way I can. I love it. It challenges and stretches me and thankfully for my sanity, I have found another niche in life where I can be of benefit.
Specialist services offered by WIA can be found at: www.warwickshireinvestigation.co.uk
DPA registered, consumer Credit licence, fullly insured.
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Warwickshire Investigation Agency is a corporate and Private investigation specialist which serves the entire UK. Specialising in corporate investigations, process sever, expert covert surveillance, GPS tracking and matrimonial investigations, WIA supplies both female and male experts investigators with specialist backgrounds in investigation to every case. Proud wInners of the World Association of Professional Investigators Award for 'Best Newcomer' 2008, WIA have established themselves highly as experts in the private investigatoion industry