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Minders to stars hit Capital

JIM STANTON

Evening News 25/09/99

 

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FIREPOWER: Bodyguards are trained marksmen

THEY have faced death, they are trained to kill and they have guarded some of the most famous faces in the world - and now they are coming to Edinburgh.

The host of stars and heads of state now visiting the Capital have prompted some of the world's most experienced bodyguards to set up base here.

And Elite International says it will have plenty of work as movie stars, models and politicians continue to flock to the the city.

bod8.jpg (23555 bytes)The role of the celebrity bodyguard was made famous by Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in the Hollywood blockbuster The Bodyguard.

In the film he is shot and wounded after promising to be prepared to give his life for his client.

Protection

The Scottish Parliament and a host of glittering showbiz events this year have drawn some of the biggest names, including Michael Douglas, the Rolling Stones and numerous heads of state.

Now many of them will have their own personal protection from a discreet but highly trained group of bodyguards.

The stars Elite have guarded include Mel Gibson, Liam Neelson and Jessica Lange.

They have also protected Manchester United star David Beckham as well as Arab princes, oil sheikhs and members of the Royal Family.

The "close protection operatives" are some of the most highly trained bodyguards in the world - they all have military, police or special forces backgrounds and have often faced death in the course of their work.

And to remain discreet the company operates only through a post office box, the telephone and the Internet.

Scott - he prefers not to give his second name - the 28-year-old director of Elite - which has affiliated organisations in 17 countries including Australia and Russia - said "Our work involves specialist close protection and that involves training of the highest calibre".

"Some of the guys have been in situations where they have been shot at and been forced to shoot back."

He added: "With the arrival of the Scottish Parliament and the growing reputation of the film industry in Scotland there are going to be so many more people of importance coming to Edinburgh.

Supermodel

"Most of our work will involve film stars, footballers, and visiting dignitaries, so we are not expecting gun fights on the streets of Edinburgh."

Scott said he already had a series of jobs lined up in the Capital, including the arrival of a top supermodel later this month.

The life of a top bodyguard ,might  have the gloss of glamour but it is also a highly dangerous one, which can involve long stretches of life-threatening work in hostile environments.

A member of one of Elite's associate organisations in South Africa was shot dead recently and one of their own CPO's was recently involved in an operation in Yugoslavia connected to the war crimes trials.

 

"If you can get through the job without any problems, it's a bonus," said Scott. "If we are contracted to a job in say Russia, we will make contact with a host team in Russia who will help prepare the groundwork for us.

"Nothing is left to chance at this level, nothing can be. If we are going to provide protection in a certain area of the world we will scrutinise every pap of the area available, know every bend and twist in the road, and even where every single telephone box is. That's the way we operate.

"Host teams play a vital role in our protection. Without them, the average life expectancy of  a CPO is five days."

With Edinburgh coming increasingly under the international microscope, Elite will in turn act as a host team for associate organisations guarding for their own clients in the Capital.

But while the security offered is as tight as it can be, Scott concedes if a "hostile force" wants you dead - it's just a matter of time.

Apart from the danger, one of the "drawbacks" of the job, according to Scott, is life insurance. "You just can't get anyone to take a risk on you," he said.

Elite and other bodyguard associations across the globe are affiliated to the World Federation of Bodyguards - a premier network of highly trained security specialists. "We are a close knit community," said Scott. "Working in association with other groups is often necessary and work is often sub-contracted to other groups."

The bodyguard network do much of their intelligence work via the Internet, which is used to check on local conditions in individual countries.

Scott added: "We can monitor Internet sites to keep abreast of what's going on in individual countries and along with the host team acting as a security advance party can accurately assess the conditions our client will be involved in."

Disciplined

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said provided security and protection organisations stayed within the law they had no problem with them setting up.

"There are VIPs who obviously feel the need for personal protection," the spokesman said.

"That is best done by experienced people who are disciplined, restrained and know what limits they are operating within.

"If the company has seen the opportunity to provide a service that meets a need, it's fine with us as long as it remains within the law."