What does it take to be an International Private Eye – ‘Close Up’ today with Phil & Yin Johnson who are JJAssociates



Carol Bridgestock

I’m so excited today to be talking to a real life International Private Eye Duo! Is there life really like Jame Bond? I know they travel light… Mmm… Why not drag up a chair, get a cuppa and come with me to find out?


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Hello Phil and Yin, thank you very much for talking to me today. Oh, boy are we all in for a treat! So, let’s waste no time I want to know does it take to be real life International Private Investigators! Where are you both from originally and how on earth did you get into your line of business?

 We’re both Yorkshire born and bred. Actually we were born in St Luke’s hospital, but years apart! Yin laughs. 

 Oh, that’s so weird. Bob and I were born in Halifax General Hospital and years apart too… ;-)

 Phil was brought up by his mother and grandmother and went on to do part time work in a Bradford enquiry agent’s office at the age of 14 years, as the junior. He was mothered by the women in the office. We are actually still in touch with the ladies of the typing pool and meet up as frequently as possible. He started full time employment there when his schooling ended and the owner of the company insisted that he went to night school to learn short hand and typing as a condition of him working there. So there he was with a class of girls, a popular young man, until he came top of the class in the first test. 

Phil has had a varied career path that has included being an enquiry agent, security officer, sales and marketing for a blue chip company, and  a police officer before becoming self employed at  JJAssociates International.  He is well known in the circles as the British PI in the Hawaiian shirt and is often called ‘The Man Who Knows’.  Phil police career saw him serving  in West Yorkshire Police Force which is the fourth largest police force in England. He was based in Queens Road and Toller Lane, Bradford but left shortly after the Bradford City fire.  

Hey, ‘The Man who Knows’ … That sounds like a good title for a book … wait till I write that down…  

Yin is first generation born from Hong Kong Chinese origin. In fact her parents are still on honeymoon. They flew to the UK on a BOAC flight 2 days after marrying and have been in the UK ever since. They still live in Bradford which is where they call home. They brought their family up the traditional Chinese way and on the first day at school, Yin was only able to speak Cantonese and had to learn English whilst there as a minority, the only Chinese pupil of the school in the mid 1960′s. Sports played a huge part in Yin’s school life and she was a team member of every sport available and became a swimming instructor. She has had a few years involved with a wine bar/bistro in a Yorkshire village which is best known it’s for literary connections -  Haworth the home of the Bronte sisters.  

Tell me a little about yourself. 

Phil has collected various qualifications through the years including RSA typing, computing, sales and marketing, various workshops & educational projects including body language with the FBI. He continues to learn through investigation conferences and life!

Yin obtained GCE O levels and A levels, has a swimming instructors certificate, business management, including sales &marketing, computing and again continues to be educated through the conferences they attend which includes body language with the FBI agent, hand writing analysis and blood and murder crimes scenes with Dr. Henry Lee.

 Now I’m sure everyone is interested in your work at JJAssociates. What do you do and how did you get started? Ooops first rule of interviewing is one question at once! Okay Bob!  

 In 1986 right out of the blue – we’d just been married for a year, Phil received a telephone call from a PI (Private Investigator), who ran a successful agency. Unbeknown to us at the time this was the phone call that was going to change our lives forever. The old acquaintance was about to retire and wanted to know if Phil was interested in taking over the business, which would close down if not.It took just short of one year and endless meetings to convince Yin that this was the way to move forward and that being an Investigator would be a good decision.

You’ve been running the business for  along time and are internationally well known for your work. How have you managed that? 

Well, it’s over 25 years ago now. Yin learnt to type and organised the office and all the cases. The general day to day office work and allocation was run from an office in our home town. One of our solicitor clients assisted with training Yin with the rules and regulations and requirements.

Phil became one of the roving investigators travelling the length and breadth of the UK as required, living out of a suitcase and clocking up over 50,000 miles annually. 

The first year’s turnover was quadrupled and cases became more varied.

Yin broke into what was a ‘man’s world’ at that time and the former Police officers patch!  We have had over 40 individuals working on our behalf on numerous cases at one time.

We work in various fields, tracing and locating for solicitors and companies and we also specialise in insurance surveillance cases which break cases for them with the compensations claimants. Carrying a large video camera and SLR camera was made easy as Yin was the stereotypical ‘oriental abroad’.

Attention to detail has been an advantage. We did have a number of excellent surveillance operatives from military backgrounds and retired officers who also ‘cracked’ cases for us.

That is all over 12 years ago now and business has since changed dramatically for JJ Associates, technology is our new best friend.

Travelling the annual mileage was taking its toll on both of us and the privacy laws changed. Disclosure of video evidence ruling was transformed and we needed a different challenge…

A ski trip to USA was arranged and we started using the Yahoo groups online, so we place a message on the New England region of the USA explaining we would be there for a couple weeks and would like to meet some American Investigators. We got a few replies and met up with them and that was the start of our extensive travel over there. We are still in touch with Bob who came to meet us in Killington, Vermont all them years ago. We joined the state association immediately and are still members today. 

Cases for the UK and Europe became part of our every day work load and we now work and advise on cases worldwide and believe it or not we now introduce American investigators to each other.

We began attending as many American state association conferences as possible, networking hard to meet new contacts coast to coast. We stood out as a unique couple, easily recognisable in our Hawaiian shirts! 

The west coast of America was calling so we attended the annual California Liscensed Investigators conference in Reno, Nevada and have not looked back since. During that conference Yin’s sky jump from the Auckland Sky Tower was featured in the PI magazine and the readers had ‘met’ Yin before we arrived. Since that time We have been and are CALI’s International members and have been guest speaker at a number of their city and interim mid- term conferences.

For some time we wrote for PI Magazine in the International section as their International Editors. This involved Q&A section and forwarding interesting international cases from other PI’s world-wide

A lot of hard work and determination! You’ve recently been on Voice America. Congratulations! What a scoop. Any contacts you can share with your old friends? :-) Here is the link http://www.voiceamerica.com/guest/9726/phil-and-yin-johnson

The Voice of America interview was very interesting and fun to be involved with.

I bet! :-) Bob and I get asked on so many occasions how we work together – in many marriages it would be a short, narrow path to divorce. What makes working together work for you two?

 We work on different things and that seems to be the key – otherwise it’s WW3! 

Like Bob and I you seem to be interested in people that why we love doing book signings and talks, do you think that’s helped in your line of work?


 Your international business is going really well. Why do you think you are both accepted so well around the world?

 I guess just being ourselves and easy going helps.

 It all sounds very exciting. Is being a PI really like being James Bond?

 No, it means lots of computer time. :-)   

 You must both love travelling. Do either of you suffer from jet lag?

 Travelling is wonderful and exciting for us and we are lucky not to suffer much with jet lag. We just sleep lots and drink lots of water but a good trick is to set your watch to the destination time on departure and live that time zone immediately you take off. 

 What have you been doing lately?

 Our case load has been very varied and interesting this past year. We’ve attended lots of conferences and Phil went solo to San Antonio, Texas.

 I can’t eat many spices… It’s a real heel. If you’re travelling to exotic places do you need to be careful what you eat? 

Phil doesn’t like anything too spicy but the hotter the better for Yin! We always have a mystery dish in a new location. Sometimes we don’t understand the language so it is a total surprise. This way we have discovered many favourite dishes we would otherwise not have tried. On our travels we always visit the local markets. Yin is a foodie and Phil usually finds her by the spices and herbs or in the fruit and veg aisle. 

Staying in hotels all the time is not all it’s made out to be is it? I know that from when we tour. How do you cope living out of suitcases? 

Hotels are okay. But we are apartment people and have found some wonderful places to stay all over the world.

Phil doesn’t pack he’s still in training! But when we sold our house to prepare to leave England we had a rule we still live by, bring anything in and it has to be a replacement, not an addition – a necessity not a want. We had to get our possessions in a hand baggage size case when we left the UK. We had no other luggage just the two hand luggage bags and a laptop each. Our American friends we shocked when they picked us up from the airport and people worldwide cannot believe we travel light as we do.

 Oh, I admire you! We went on a two week book signing tour at the beginning of the year and ended up calling at our local garage as the car wouldn’t lock. It all turns out (for readers that have not read our tour blogs), that the boot was that full that the sensors wouldn’t lock the car electronically. I daren’t tell Bob you can live out of a hand luggage bag Yin he’ll want to take you two next time!

 Who would your ideal dinner guests be? 

Yin – A big group of people to cook for! 

How do you relax? 

We both like going to the movies, spending time with friends and Phil rides his bike. Yin likes cooking and being by the sea she also keeps fit and loves reading crime stories.

What’s your favourite tipple?

 Phil is a beer monster & he likes brandy.

Yin likes wine and Gin. 

What’s next for JJAssociates? I think you and JJAssociates might just turn up in a Dylan book one day don’t you? They might be identifiable with their Hawaiian shirts ;-)  

More travel, we are planning a visit to Asia in the near future. And being in a DI Dylan book, now that would be awesome! 

Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it – just so people can get in touch with you? 


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  • It’s good to see Phil and Yin getting the recognition they deserve. Forward-thinking, first rate professionals.

    • We had a Great time being interviewed by Carol and Bob and we would like to Thank our very good friends at Thai Spy Thailand for taking the time to read and send Congratulations, they help us in Thailand all the time, now thats what we call International and Worldwide friends

      • Absolutely Phil and, ‘Together we’re better!’ ;-)

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