Someone asked me the other day – ‘What tactics do you use to catch criminals out?’
I think they were expecting me to answer with something technical and fancy - like a nano drone disguised to look like a fly, which sits on the wall listening to your conversations.
The look on their face when I told them my answer was to die for.
When you question a suspect in a criminal investigation there’s no point asking them something that you can’t prove to be wrong, you’re just wasting your time.
‘Did you kill him?’ is a pointless question unless you have something to back up or challenge the credibility of any answer you’re given. And the best form of evidence as to someone's credibility, their reliability as a witness, or truth teller - is to see if they are prepared to lie to you in a situation when you know the real truth.
I remember one investigation, where a man had battered an elderly woman half to death in a robbery. He’d been identified by a witness as being nearby, but we couldn’t place him for certain at the robbery. It was sketchy. He’d been arrested at his home a few hours later, and found in possession of one of the old girl's bank cards. But, he had an excuse for the card. He’d said that someone had left it at his house; that it was nothing to do with him. We might have got him for handling stolen goods, but that would have been it, and we wanted to prove he did the robbery. He claimed he’d been at home all morning, said that it wasn’t him who robbed the lady, and that our witness was mistaken. The single witness, who saw him, probably wasn’t going to be enough to convict him. We needed more evidence - but there wasn’t any.
I’d been to his house. Looked around. I knew what he had in his fridge food wise and what waste was in all the bins. I knew what channels he had access to on his TV, and I knew what the morning's broadcast schedule had been from the TV listings. He had no idea I’d been to his home or checked any of this out.
My first questions were around what he claimed he'd been doing at home that morning, while he "wasn’t out robbing the old lady". Why did I want to know? Well, I wanted him to lie to me.
According to him, he’d made himself a lovely breakfast. A traditional English fry up. Bacon, and eggs, plus all the trimmings. We talked for ages about his breakfast, about how he liked to fry his eggs, just like he’d done them that morning.
Trouble was. I’d already done a recce of his kitchen. I knew he didn’t have a single saucepan in his house, let alone a frying pan. In fact there was no evidence of him having owned, consumed or prepared any food in his property that morning at all. It was all a lie. As was what he claimed to have watched on TV that morning while he ate that breakfast. And I could prove it. I put him back in his cell, and then went and photographed his entire kitchen, including his fridge, his bins, and all of the kitchen cupboards and utensils. All I did was let him lie to me.
Later I interviewed him again. His face was an absolute picture when we talked about the lies he’d told around his breakfast, about how it was impossible for him to have cooked it. He pleaded guilty to the robbery at court. Went to prison for five years. The lies were instrumental to this.
The truth costs nothing, but a lie can cost you everything…