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An Old Friend


An American client contacted us asking for our help trying to locate an old friend of his, Elisa. All he knew of Elisa's possible whereabouts was that she might be in London or Belgium, where she had spent time previously. He had not seen her for more than two years.

We began as we always do in such cases, by asking the client to give us as much information as possible. Often it is the little details that can help us solve a case - and these details can sometimes be seen as insignificant or not worth mentioning by a client.

From conversations and emails with the client, we were able to ascertain Elisa's email address (no longer in use), date of birth,  an old mobile number, and the fact that she might be working in the hospitality industry. The client also knew that she came originally from Poland (but could not remember the exact town), and was able to give us her mother's name. We had three photographs of Elisa provided by the client.

When looking for someone, one of the first things to do is to check the electoral roll. Unfortunately, Elisa was not on this, so we had to deploy other tactics.

Social media can be a good source of information, but Elisa had no social media presence apart from an old Facebook account. We did however manage to find her mother's Facebook account, which although was in Polish, gave us some clues as to her mother's whereabouts in Poland. From this we were able to perform some location searches in Poland, but established that Elisa was not residing in Poland.

We then turned to the hospitality industry in London. The client had remembered a location where he believed Elisa might have worked. Using a combination of legwork, telephone calls and internet searches, over the next few weeks we worked our way through possible locations in London. From all the information we gathered, we were able to discount London as a location for Elisa. However, our searches also gave us some valuable information, indicating that Elisa was more than likely in Belgium.

This initially proved  more problematic. No one we had spoken to knew of an exact location in Belgium, which meant we were faced with a needle in a haystack situation.

We knew Elisa used hospitality recruitment sites to secure work, so we turned to these as a source of information. We also did a very lengthy and intensive image search on the internet for Elisa.

We found a possible lead, but this only confirmed that Elisa was probably in Belgium.

At this stage in a case, we usually go back to the client with an update of our findings, and talk again in depth to the client in case any more information can be provided. In this instance, the client told us he had some more photos of Elisa that he had not shown us as he didn't think they were of any particular interest.

We asked to see them, and one in particular was of interest. The photo showed Elisa sitting in a hotel office. We enlarged the image, and were able to see on the wall behind Elisa, a calendar from 2014. The calendar had the photo, name and address of the hotel on it. It was a hotel in Brussels.

We then carried out a residential search for Elisa in Brussels. This yielded 5 possible addresses. From further searches, we were able to rule out two, but this left us with three possibilities. We asked one of our Europe based agents to visit the hotel in Brussels where Elisa's photo had been taken 4 years previously.

From his investigations, we established that Elisa no longer worked there, but one of the staff did provide a possible address for Elisa. It was not one of the three possibilities we had identified, and all we had was the name of a street in a suburb of the city.

We carried out another internet search using Elisa's name and the name of the street. Her surname came up in a search, and led us to an apartment block in the street given by the hotel staff member.

We sent our agent to the property, and he was able to confirm from a name plate on  the external mail boxes that Elisa did in fact live in the apartment block. There was no reply from Elisa's flat, so we asked the agent to show Elisa's photo to some of the neighbours, just to be sure this was indeed her apartment.

Fortunately, they confirmed it was her, and we were able to give our client the full details of Elisa's current location.

Several weeks later, our client was on a plane from New York for a long-awaited reunion.