They’re the mystery men who protect some of the world’s most famous stars, but in a Wales on Sunday exclusive, two real-life private bodyguards have opened up about the danger and adrenaline of travelling the world to protect their clients.
Sean Colsey, 48, and John Thompson, 40, work for Welsh security firm Primus, based in Llanishen, Cardiff, and have looked after rockstars, Premier League football players, and powerful businessmen and women from around the world.
Their only job is to ensure the safety of the people they look after. Both served in the military before going into private protection, and now they train others who want to follow in their footsteps from their base in Cardiff.
They’re physically imposing characters, although they laugh off suggestions to this effect. They show the classic signs of two men who have obviously faced up to plenty of dangerous situations together, they seem to be able to communicate without talking, and they talk about some incredibly shocking experiences as if they were talking about another day in the office.
Sean and John don’t look like men who get scared very easily, they’ve seen it all during their time with rockstars, celebrities, and powerful businesspeople.
“When you’re working, you’re providing a service to a client, and that means you put your needs above your own or anybody else’s,” says John.
“There’s situations we’ve been in where, when you’re there, even in dangerous situations, you just do it, it’s very regimented and very drilled. Your training just kicks in and you don’t really think about what could have happened until after you finish work for the day.
“But afterwards it’s different, I’ve been in situations in places like South America where it does get quite tasty, you know.”
You might be wondering just how dangerous a job as a bodyguard can be, deflecting the odd punch here, rugby tackling an over-enthusiastic fan there.
But that’s child’s play for Sean and John, and as they reveal later in a makeshift training session, there are much more considerate ways to contain an over-enthusiastic fan than rugby tackling them to the ground.
VIDEO: John and Sean train reporter Richard Beech in personal protection
Sean tells me about a time he was looking after a well-known client, and he became the centre of an operation to save their life.
“We were looking after a client, and then we had intelligence come through and somebody had made a death threat against the client. This person had said ‘I’m going to shoot [the client]’.
“They said ‘I want to gain notoriety from it and I want to get in the press’. So John and I were working on that job together, and I was tasked with looking after our client.
“So there’s a credible threat, and there’s a potential that somebody’s going to pull out a firearm and I could be in the way.”
In this situation, it would actually be John’s job to get in the way, but at the time it didn’t faze him. He worked with his colleagues at Primus, and with the local police, to try and lure the would-be assassin into a trap.
“It was a conversation where John literally just said ‘this is what I’ve got, this is the information I have received’, and my response is ‘well I’ll just make sure it doesn’t happen then’.
“And so you put yourself in harm’s way, but you have to act as if you don’t have that information, and get on with our job normally.”
John was providing intel to Sean during this job, and working with the police to catch the threat-maker.
“If you can lure them out into the open, then they can be spotted,” says John.
John tells of another time in South America, when he had a particularly hairy moment.
“One example I can give you, without revealing who we were with, was when we were getting a police escort to a venue in South America, and the police ended up taking us the wrong way down a motorway at rush hour.
“All that we had in front of us was two police bikes, and at the time you’re thinking ‘right, I’ve got to keep these guys in the back of the coach from freaking out’, but when I got back to the hotel that night, I sat down and thought ‘that was just ridiculous’.”
What Sean and John do isn’t for the faint-hearted, but that doesn’t stop scores of people coming forward and training to be personal protection bodyguards with Primus, and if you’re thinking about doing the same thing, watch the video we shot with the pair for some industry advice.