I have been an investigator virtually all my life – the first indication was when I was six years old, and the school teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. You guessed it – I wrote down “PLEASEMAN!” I didn’t even know how to spell the word “Policeman.”
I had a friend at the same school who also wanted to be a “pleaseman” when he grew up; like me, he was also a farm boy, and only three months older than I was.
When we were 15 years old, we both applied to join the Queensland Police Cadets; there were too many applicants and neither of us was accepted. We were told to come back when we were 19, and we would be accepted as constables. Terry did go back, and got signed up as a constable; he remained in the Police Force for 39 years, before retiring, and later coming to work with me. He is now aged 79, still going strong, and still active in the role of my Senior Criminal Investigator.
In 2019, I had a major case that took Terry to Israel for a couple of weeks. He met up with WAD member Jacob Ofir, and Terry says that trip, and working with Jacob, was the highlight of his lifetime career.
When I was 19, I joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), firstly as a Cook, for about a year, after which I re-mustered to the Service Police and Intelligence Service. I trained hard and did as many specialist courses as possible. At the end of my six-year enlistment, and after being seconded to Australia’s largest internal security service for one year, I was offered a full-time position in a permanent specialist role, which I declined.
In September 1969, together with another former Queensland Police Officer, we established a very successful Private Investigation Service in Brisbane.
To this day, I remain active and high-profile. I get calls from clients from around the world to work on many difficult cases, the majority of which are child retrieval cases, where one parent from an inter-cultural marriage break-up unlawfully abducts the child/children of the marriage and then goes to ground in their own country. I have often been hired by the grieving parent who has been left behind, and asked to locate and arrange the “smuggled” return of their children. So far, I have located and successfully returned 39 children from various countries around the world, back to their country of origin; not all of these clients were from Australia.
If you have read “The Retriever,” one of the books I have written about my career, you will know about some of the cases I have been involved with; for various reasons, I agree to take on about 60% of the child cases presented to me, and have been successful with about 85% of the cases I accept.
Highs and Lows of a Private Investigator
There are numerous times when a P.I. gets a “high” from what he is doing for his profession; when you achieve what a client is looking for, you can surely get on a high and celebrate – which is often!
There are not that many lows. I have had only a handful of them, and am thankful for that. The lowest experience I have ever had was when I went on a recovery mission to Yemen, in the early 1990s; it involved a young mother from Tacoma, Washington, in the USA, whose children had been smuggled across the Red Sea to Aden.
I was set to fly from Australia to Abu Dhabi, and then on to Aden; travel visas could not be obtained until you were on board the flight. The Head Steward offered to get a visa for me when we arrived in Aden, but as he was the first person off the flight, I ended up with no visa, and was thrown into jail for nearly a week, before being deported back to Abu Dhabi. The jail was not a nice place – just a concrete floor, furnished with one rickety old chair. I had no food for three days, and on the sixth day, was sent back to Abu Dhabi.
It took me less than 24 hours to get my name altered and obtain a “new” passport in my assumed name. I flew back to Yemen and stayed for a further three weeks, locating the mother’s two young children. A couple of days before we were due to collect the children and escape across the Red Sea to Djibouti, the mother became very ill. We arranged for her to go back to Abu Dhabi for an extremely urgent operation; we agreed she would call me when she was well enough to go back to Yemen to retrieve her children.
However, in the meantime, she had met a former British military special forces man, who offered his assistance; she accepted, and they then attempted the risky journey across the Red Sea. They left from Djibouti, and sadly were never seen again.
There is a codicil to this story: this year, her son called me from the USA, to let me know he is well. He is now in his mid-30s, working in the armed services and both he and his sister are living in America.
He also asked me if I had any memorabilia from the time when I tried to rescue him from Yemen, and I was happy to tell him that, for the past 28 or more years, I had still lying on my desk a copy of a Holy Bible page, on which his mother has crossed out some of the biblical names and replaced them with my name.
Very Stressful and High-Pressure Work
Although I am referred to by a lot of clients as “Mr Valium,” I do have stress levels that I need to keep under control; the way in which I do this is by way of enjoying my special hobby, total repairing and restoring vintage and classic cars.
I have done this for over 35 years; just working on one at a time during my downtime hours, is very relaxing and rewarding, and some of the vehicles I have brought back to pristine condition, are listed below. You can also find pictures in this PDF.
Military surplus Jeeps were obtainable in all sorts of condition, suitable for restoration worldwide.
This one is a 1942 Willys MB (formerly called the US Army Truck ¼ ton 4X4 Command reconnaissance, also known as Jeep (G503)
From this to begin with To the 1927 Austin Seven, Doctor’s Special
This little classic was rebuilt form bare chassis to pristine vehicle
1955 Fiat 500 Topolino (Little Mouse) – It was very rusty, having been parked in a barn for almost 30 years before I came across it, and brought it back to this pristine condition.
This beautiful 1959/1960 Mercedes Benz was located in a client’s garage, where it had been sitting for about 20 years after her husband died. Originally white in colour, it needed a lot of restoration work to bring it up to its present condition.
This 1932 MG F2 was imported into Australia by Jennings, to race on Phillip Island, South Australia, in 1932. It was the first six-cylinder MG built for racing. When I found it, about 25 years ago, it was in Melbourne, packed into three large crates, waiting for someone to restore it. The car also had a boat-tailed shaped racing body with it. This car is the only one of its kind in Australia, and I believe there are only about 14 of them on the MG register world-wide. I have had a lot of fun and entertainment with this one!
1956 Lancia Fulvia Coupe 1.2 HF Replica. This was bought in partnership with two other Lancia enthusiasts, and I have experienced some fun, racing it.
1948 General Motors Holden Utility – I found and bought two of this kind.
I restored both, and painted the second one a lovely dark blue. I was pursued by the Marketing Manager from Makita Power Tools in Australia, who wanted to buy it for promoting their range of power tools. I happened to be in Berlin when the Marketing Manager called me at about 2.00 a.m. one morning; we did the deal over the ’phone and he paid almost double its value. For a year afterwards, it was taken all over Australia, and parked at the fronts of Australia’s largest chain of hardware stores. Over a period of one year, everyone who bought a Makita tool was given a free entry into the chance of winning the vehicle, and the lucky entrant was someone from Victoria in Australia, who won not only the car, but also A$30,000.00 worth of Makita Power Tools. What a great prize!
This pristine Lancia Flaminia 2-door coupe won the Outright Winner Award for being the overall best car of its kind at the Lancia Club in Queensland. Yvonne and I are just getting used to it, and enjoying the Club outings.
Yvonne and Keith Schafferius – the very proud owners
The picture below shows the condition the car was in when I bought it, about 7 or 8 years ago. Every part – no matter how large or small – was removed, and made to look like new again.
De Havilland Chipmunk
This happened in 1962, when I was learning to fly. There was only one tree near the airfield, and one day, when I was practising circling the airfield doing touchdowns and take-offs, I did not notice it, and clipped the top of the tree with the wing. Up came the ground, and destroyed the plane! That’s me, in black, standing out in front; why is the engine lying on the wing, and not on the nose, where it belongs?!