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how to be a bodyguard

Who needs the rich and famous? Close Protection Officers, otherwise known as bodyguards, do. They're the tall, stiff-looking types seen on the news and who shadow the Royals, the Prime Minister and other stars as they step in and out of their limos. Men that can spot trouble a mile away.

Mo Duncan and Jason Field can too, except that when they are not providing body cover for those under threat from terrorism and the Fleet Street rat pack, they run bodyguard training courses for Platinum Protection, a private security firm.

Armed with a flip chart, the jocular Duncan stresses the importance of protocol, hygiene and good manners. He also reveals some useful tips of the trade. "Always carry a lighter, some money and a pen," he advises, "and if you wear a watch make sure it's a Rolex - not only is it tank- proof, but you can always bribe someone with it."

The demand for bodyguards has cooled in the wake of the Northern Ireland ceasefire, but there remain rich pickings to be had in the Middle East, Africa, Russia and Bosnia.

In Britain, according to Duncan, we will have to wait until 1997 for a wave of Chinese gangsters to arrive from Hong Kong before the demand for protection increases again.

As clients vary in nationality, religion, and political outlook, the bodyguard must first carry out a written "threat assessment" test with them. "Know your enemy and get into their skin," Duncan insists. The knowledge of the client, meanwhile, may even extend to medical and dietary needs and an intimate understanding of his home and family life is essential.

While the CPOs are seen as the elite of the personal protection racket, the Personal Escort Section (PES) is vital when on walkabout or when driving the client from place to place. Clinton has 20 of them, Mandela 30, and the Sultan of Brunei has an army. Four is enough to form "a physical box around the client", and out on the streets we get a taste of providing a PES as Duncan and Field, posing as VIPs, lead us through shoppers.

Suddenly security dangers appear from the most unlikely angles. The lycra-clad jogger, the wino and the unattended shopping trolley could all signal danger, but more amazingly, none of the passers-by dare break the protection ring.

"The best time for the enemy to kill your client is when he is in transit," Duncan explains, back in the briefing room. The next exercise involves "embussing" and "debussing" the client from the principal car or limo. Again the chart tells us where we should be positioned and an "outside the venue" scenario is recreated with a black Ford Granada in a nearby underground car park.

It's one in the back and one in the front as the car pulls up outside the fictional film premiere. We let the VIP out and usher them towards the brick wall, the rear-seated PES following behind.

How to avert a terrorist attack on your client is the bodyguard's other main concern. We learn about types of explosives and firearms in popular use today; bodyguards invariably wear braces in order to conceal a handgun in their trousers. A video shows us the kind of hand-made bombs listed in The Anarchist's Cookbook and the more intricate devices used in IRA car bomb attacks.

As seen in past assassination attempts on Ronald Reagan and the Pope, the most terrifying aspect of being a CPO is protecting your client from close-range gunfire. "We're the last resort if all other security fails," Duncan stresses.

After more than an hour of practising disarming techniques with the other trainees, it becomes apparent that you don't need to be six-feet tall and musclebound to deal with an assailant. Another myth laid to rest.

Platinum Protection's bodyguard course is organised by SPICE. Details on 0181-781 1847