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A day in the life of a bodyguard: An insight into the work of protecting Royals and high-profile celebrities

PUBLISHED: 11:32 21 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:01 21 October 2018

4.30pm: One of the PPOs talks to the principle on Elm Hill. Picture: Elite Training

4.30pm: One of the PPOs talks to the principle on Elm Hill. Picture: Elite Training

Elite Training

It’s rare for the public to get a peak into the security arrangements of a Royal or high profile celebrity; however since the airing of BBC’s Bodyguard, part of which was filmed in Norfolk, the public has become more aware of the private security industry.

Tucked away in Norwich is training centre Elite, which gives would-be Personal Protection Officers (PPOs) the instruction they need to keep their future clients safe in the real world.

ELEANOR PRINGLE spent a field training day with the academy’s latest cohort...

9am: Briefing.

9am: Briefing of the route. Picture: Archant9am: Briefing of the route. Picture: Archant

The team are briefed on their ‘Principle’ (the person who needs protecting), as well as threats to them such as members of the press, surveillance, and aggressive individuals.

They are also talked through the itinerary for the day, with maps of routes and alternate locations should they be needed.

“A lot of this job is what happens behind the scenes, which people often don’t realise,” said Elite founder Bob Betts.

Mr Betts founded Elite in the mid 1990s, and has facilities across the UK as well as in Romania and China.

11.20am: Securing Norwich Train Station. Picture: Archant11.20am: Securing Norwich Train Station. Picture: Archant

11.20am: Pick up the principle.

Split into two teams, half of the team of six drives ahead to secure the location, in this case Norwich train station, with half in the main vehicle waiting for the principle.

The team communicates through ear pieces and messaging groups.

11.20am: The PPOs arrive at the Norwich Train Station. Picture: Elite Training11.20am: The PPOs arrive at the Norwich Train Station. Picture: Elite Training

They are told in the briefing not to speak too clearly between one another, using hand signals if this is not possible.

Their goal is to ensure the security of their principle – little do they know they will be followed all day by mock paparazzi.

“The objective is to prevent a sellable picture,” said Mr Betts. “But PPOs have no extra powers than ordinary civilians; we just have to plan more. People say it’s easy to get a PPO licence but it’s even easier to lose it. One misdemeanour like a hand in a camera or a sign of aggression and it’s gone.”

2pm: Driving to Wroxham. Picture: Archant2pm: Driving to Wroxham. Picture: Archant

Noon: Take the principle to their first location.

In this scenario the principle – a model turned reality star - goes to meet with her agent at the Assembly House.

Ryan Mccoll is a former Royal Marine. The 29-year-old said: “You’re not just protecting these people, you’re protecting their lifestyle.

“I couldn’t do a nine to five job, I tried that and didn’t enjoy it. With this job I’ll still be working with like-minded individuals, but every day will be different.”

4pm: The bodyguard team secures the location around the shop - as a paparrazzi snaps pictures from a nearby pub. Picture: Elite Training4pm: The bodyguard team secures the location around the shop - as a paparrazzi snaps pictures from a nearby pub. Picture: Elite Training

He added: “When it comes to having a personal life I can have more control than I did in the army. In the army your personal life is theirs, whereas with this I can choose not to take on a contract. If the job is 14 days straight and I don’t want to do it, I can say no.”

2pm: Drive the principle to Wroxham for lunch.

The team must make sure the location is secure, as well as keeping an eye across the river should a photographer be there with a long-lens camera or device.

5pm: The principle leaves a shop in Elm Hill, surrounded by the bodyguard team. Picture: Elite Training5pm: The principle leaves a shop in Elm Hill, surrounded by the bodyguard team. Picture: Elite Training

“I think the industry will change in the next 10 or so years, and cyber security will become an even larger part of our job, because it’s not just about them it’s about their phones and their privacy,” Mr Betts added.

He continued: “The creation of the (Something) board has massively changed the industry over the past few years, because they’ve regulated it and that’s helped to dispel the thug image of bodyguards.”

4pm to 5.30pm: The principle goes shopping.

5pm: The bodyguards protect the principle from the paparrazzi. Picture: Elite Training5pm: The bodyguards protect the principle from the paparrazzi. Picture: Elite Training

This is when a paparazzi photographer ambushes the group near St Andrews Hall in Norwich.

“I don’t necessarily want to stay in the personal protection industry in this way,” said Healthcliff Duncan, a former paratrooper.

“However, I need a personal protection licence to be able to go into other aspects.”

This could range from residential security to government or celebrity PPOs.

PPOs carrying out another training day with Elite Training. Picture: Elite TrainingPPOs carrying out another training day with Elite Training. Picture: Elite Training

The 43-year-old added: “I’m good at the dynamic risk assessments; I can take one look around and know exactly where the dangers are. The thing that blew my mind coming onto the training course was the forward-thinking assessments of an operation.”

Elite has trained in the region of 1,200 PPOs, and has a turnover varying between £500,000 and £750,000 per year.

Of the Jed Mercurio’s show Bodyguard, which was partially filmed in Dereham at the Mid Norfolk railway, Mr Betts said: “The foot drills they do in the show are realistic, the relationship with the principle is not and his later actions would probably land him in prison.”

A scene from the television drama Bodyguard, starring Richard Madden and  Keeley Hawes. Part of the series was filmed at the Mid Norfolk Railway in Dereham. (C) World Productions - Photographer: Sophie MutevelianA scene from the television drama Bodyguard, starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes. Part of the series was filmed at the Mid Norfolk Railway in Dereham. (C) World Productions - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

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