The Liddle Effect: why three out of four women spy on their men

It notoriously did for the marriage of journalist Rod Liddle (who's in trouble again, see below). Careless texts cost Becks dearly, too. Small wonder that more and more women are turning sleuth to test the fidelity of their men. Andrew Johnson reports
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Men beware: your partner may be watching you. Armed with sophisticated bugging devices, women are becoming the latest recruits to the hi-tech world of espionage.

Men beware: your partner may be watching you. Armed with sophisticated bugging devices, women are becoming the latest recruits to the hi-tech world of espionage.

Not that they are travelling the world as undercover agents: their targets are closer to home. A survey published this week will reveal that nearly three out of four women are prepared to spy on their husband or boyfriend if they suspect them of infidelity.

Nearly three-quarters, 72 per cent, of the 10,000 cohabiting or married women surveyed said they would snoop on their partner's mobile phone text messages, and just over a third, 34 per cent, would secretly follow their partner.

They have seen David Beckham and broadcaster Rod Liddle get into trouble over text messages. But checking phones is not enough for many. Women are also flocking to courses to learn how to spy on their errant partners using a range of devices.

Gary Williams, director of a company which runs spy courses, and who commissioned the survey, said he was amazed at the number of women signing up. "Our course was aimed as a special day out for men, or for corporate sessions," he said. "But then we noticed that a lot of women were coming along. When we asked them why, they said they wanted to spy on their partners."

On the course, which is run by ex-special forces and police, women can learn to use covert cameras and UHF radios, bugs and lock-picking gadgets. They can also learn how to throw an axe and use a rifle, perhaps in case their suspicions are confirmed. About 100 people a week are taking the course in three centres across the country.

It is all part of the booming domestic spy industry - a result of technology such as text and email which makes it easier, yet more dangerous, to have affairs. Dave Allan, who owns the Spy Store in Leeds, the country's leading supplier of eavesdropping gadgetry, said he has at least one woman a day coming in wanting to spy on her husband.

"The increase in domestic spying has soared, especially with women," he said. "Our business used to be 60 per cent to business and 40 per cent domestic; now that figure is the other way round."

His best-selling device is an adapted Nokia 1100 mobile phone which can be secreted under a car seat or left in a bedroom. When it is phoned from anywhere in Europe it makes no noise but is activated as a listening device.

Another top seller is the Trojan, a working mobile phone to give to a partner as a present, but with a secret second number which allows the user to eavesdrop.

Technology may have helped the philanderer, but if he is careless the information revolution can be his undoing. The latest allegations that footballer David Beckham had an affair stem from text messages he purportedly sent to a Spanish model which were then seen by his nanny when he lent her his phone.

The broadcaster Rod Liddle, who had a public split from his journalist wife Rachel Royce last year, was also undone by ill-considered text messages.

And in September a disciplinary hearing of the General Medical Council was told how a doctor's surgery in West Sussex was bugged by a jealous lover with the help of the doctor's colleague.

If you suspect your partner of infidelity the best thing to do is talk, not spy, said Denise Knowles, a relationship counsellor at Relate. "If you get to the point where you have suspicions, it's important to say so," she said. "It is not a good idea to spy."

The survey, commissioned by Days to Amaze, a company which specialises in organising unique days out, also found that only 15 per cent of women would definitely leave their partners if they did find they were unfaithful.

Phillip Hodson of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy is not surprised by this. "We've got to the stage where we have a more 18th-century way of looking at infidelity as forgivable once or twice," he said. "That's a good thing. If you are suspicious you are really saying 'I'm miserable with you' and you have to talk to your partner about why that is."

THE SUSPICIOUS FIANCEE: 'He was cagey with his phone'

Jacqueline Falconer was engaged when she began to suspect her partner of having an affair.

"I became suspicious because he was very cagey with his phone," said Ms Falconer, 38, who lives in Manchester. "He had his phone with him constantly. Sometimes when it rang he would go and stand outside the door."

Ms Falconer soon discovered that her fiancé was seeing another woman.

"His phone was broken so he borrowed a phone from our neighbour and put his SIM card in it. I later had a look at that phone and the text messages were left on it."

Her fiancé at first claimed that the message, which said "Sorry about before, really miss u" was from a woman who was pursuing him.

Ms Falconer, who now wants to be a voluntary carer, decided to believe him, but later he went missing for two days.

"So I phoned the number and a woman answered and said, 'How are you?' I said, 'I'm engaged to so and so.' And she said, 'No, I'm his girlfriend.'

"I was devastated and so angry. I kicked him out. I'm on my own now, but really happy. I'd definitely advise any woman with suspicions to check their partner's phone. If he's got nothing to hide, he won't mind."