As a highly regarded young detective, Neil Sankey was once seconded to elite Scotland Yard units hunting down IRA bombers, dangerous anarchists and organised crime barons.
Today, however, almost 30 years after quitting Hampshire constabulary to become a private investigator in California, he is wrestling with an inquiry that is as controversial as it is complex; one that makes that his former police work seem mundane by comparison.
Now aged 64, and semi-retired, Mr Sankey is attempting to prove that Barack Obama is guilty of the most audacious act of fraud in U.S political history, having become President when he was not even eligible to run for office.
He is conducting his inquiries on behalf of a protest group known as the ‘Birthers’ – so-called because they claim Obama lied about his birth place to satisfy the requirements of the U.S constitution, which stipulates that the President must be a ‘natural born’ American citizen.
According to his biography, Obama was born 48 years ago in Hawaii, the 50th state of the union. But the Birthers are convinced that he came into the world in Kenya, his father’s homeland, and Mr Sankey claims he has already uncovered a great deal of evidence to support this astonishing assertion.
‘As an investigator it has become obvious to me that something very strange is going on,’ he intoned gravely when we spoke this week.
‘His background throws up all kinds of anomalies. It may sound incredible (but) this guy comes from nowhere. No one really knows who he is.’
To most Americans, of course, the very idea that anyone could cheat their way into the world’s most powerful post by rewriting their personal history sounds preposterous.
They dismiss the Birthers as a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theorists and closet racists who still cannot accept a black leader, even though Obama won the election by some 10 million votes.