Crime fighter with a heart

2013-03-12 00:00

“MY favourite sort of client is one who is straightforward — there’s nothing worse for me than to have to interrogate the client to get to the truth,” private investigator Brad Nathanson tells me in his Hillcrest offices.

“I like it when the client is transparent. This really helps me with my investigation. I need absolute transparency from the client, but unfortunately I don’t always get that.”

And if anything, Nathanson is the epitome of straightforward and transparent. He is also, in an age where so many of our icons turn out to have feet of clay, a hero and a legend who is passionate about eradicating violent criminals.

His list of successes would fill half this newspaper. Just one of countless cases was finding the criminals who gang-raped Jessica Foord.

Crime-fighting has been in Nathanson’s blood since his teens, and after Police College in 1980, he moved to the Anti-Terrorist Reaction unit. From 1983 to 1988, he then spent highly formative years as a detective, absorbing skills and expertise from some of the finest members of the force.

Come 1988, he decided to set up his own private detective agency; partly, so he could combat crime with even greater zeal and passion.

The name “Brad Nathanson” has now become a byword for crime-fighting in the Upper Highway area, and sitting across the desk from this tattooed, heavily muscled man, it’s hard to believe he’s now 50.

His clients come from across the socioeconomic stratum, and Nathanson and his team of six will undertake anything from finding missing people to legitimate debt collection to commercial, criminal and domestic investigations.

One of his best-remembered VIP tasks was accompanying Oprah Winfrey on her last trip to South Africa. As a competitive body builder at the time, he was tasked with being her personal trainer.

But Nathanson is a gentle man despite his forbidding exterior, and perhaps the cases he enjoys taking on most of all are ones where women, children or animals have been abused.

His newly established Pet Detective division is aimed at reuniting lost pets with their lawful owners, and creating awareness for missing animals.

So far it has been massively successful, and C esar’s Way — Cesar Millan’s magazine — is doing an article on it. The Pet Detective division, incidentally, is run by Esme Pretorius, Nathanson’s girlfriend and PA, and can be found on Facebook.

“My day generally starts with answering e-mails. I get 40 to 50 inquiries a day, so I have a lot of e-mails to reply to and the bulk of them are nonsensical,” says Nathanson.

“I also get a lot of mad people phoning me — people who are really mad. I had a woman phone me and tell me that God told her to ask me to give her R11 500.”

Next he attends to his Facebook page, and with some 12 700 followers, he has to answer a slew of inbox messages.

“Then at 9 am, I meet with my staff, I have six, and the guys are allocated different tasks for the day. And we never know when the day is going to end.”

Nathanson and his team also work closely with the police and private security companies, and for him life-threatening situations are merely part of a day’s work.

“About 95% of the police are grateful for the assistance we render, but five percent are just obstructive,” he says.

“As for the future, I can’t see myself kicking down doors at 60, but I’m so passionate about what I do that I can’t imagine myself doing anything different,” smiles Nathanson. “I might eventually have to take my hands off the reins and hand over daily operations to younger guys. I have a God-given gift for this business, but I get very little downtime and very little me time,” he adds with utter candour.

“One thing that people need to understand is that I don’t solve every single case. Every time I solve a prominent case, I get a lot of positive media coverage, and people whose cases I haven’t solved feel that they are entitled to a refund. I’d say we solve 80% to 85% of our cases, which I think is a high proportion for any organisation.”

Nathanson adds that he loves taking on cases where individuals or the state have simply given up, especially when he’s successful.

And when he has the opportunity, he enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson, fishing and breeding reptiles. But with crime-fighting around the clock, leisure time is a luxury indeed.

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