The ‘Mr. Big’ procedure is a technique used by law enforcement officials to attempt to coax a confession from suspects in a criminal case – often murder-related. The technique has proven highly-controversial, and has gained new-found interest thanks to its role in the popular Netflix show – ‘The Confession Tapes’. At its simplest, the technique uses a fictional criminal organisation to gain the trust of a target/suspect, before trying to elicit a confession from them. Read on for more, including famous cases, and why the technique has proven so controversial.
Law enforcement officials that are investigating a case often have a clear suspect in their mind – but a lack of evidence means an arrest cannot be justified. Various techniques have been created to try and address this issue – some have a successful conviction rate, others don’t. But some techniques raise serious ethical issues – and the Mr. Big technique is one. The technique was created by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during the 1990s – and has proven to be a popular technique in Canada. It has an impressive conviction rate, though the means of securing the conviction have been criticised.
How Does it Work?
The Mr. Big technique has been called an ‘elaborate sting operation’. The technique begins with a case that the Police have a suspect for, but limited or no evidence is available. For a few weeks, they place the suspect under surveillance – trying to learn everything they can about him. Then, the Police develop a scenario which sees an undercover officer interact with the suspect – with the impression given that it is a chance meeting. During the meeting, the officer will strike up a friendship with the suspect, and normally pay them a fee for some sort of favour e.g. a short car journey.
Contact is kept between the two, and eventually more tasks are requested, which results in further money being given. The impression is given to the suspect that he is working for a criminal organisation. This can be achieved through large quantities of money being counted, or requiring the suspect to conduct nefarious activities – such as forging documents. Once the suspect has supposedly earned the trust of the group, he is introduced to the leader – ‘Mr. Big’. Little does the suspect know that Mr. Big is actually a highly-skilled and experienced Police interrogator.
Upon meeting, Mr. Big tells the suspect that the group have received incriminating evidence or information about him. This relates to whatever the original case was. This ostensibly puts the entire gang in danger – so Mr. Big wants to know exactly what happened. Mr. Big says he can exert his influence by utilising a ‘mole’ in the Police or perhaps promising to make evidence disappear. Eventually, the skilled interrogator tries to secure a confession from the suspect – usually through endless and often aggressive questioning. The meetings are recorded on camera. Once a confession is secured, the suspect is arrested. When Police are unable to obtain a confession and believe the suspect is innocent, the gang suddenly vanishes.
While reading that section, I’m sure you realised yourself how many problems there are with such a technique. While there is no doubting how many times the technique has secured a rightful conviction, there are many criticisms of the technique. The technique normally preys on an individual who as a result with their association to a crime – is unable to secure any employment. Therefore, when he is paid well by this fictitious crime organisation – all of his problems appear to be solved. Therefore, in the majority of instances, a suspect could make up a confession – if it will ensure he can stay in the gang. Victims of the sting have often said they are put into a position where they must confess.
Other criticisms revolve around the ethical issue of an abuse of trust. Law enforcement officials prey on an individual and earn their trust – only to effectively betray them – regardless of the outcome of the case. Many confessions secured from the Mr. Big technique are considered to be ‘false’. Finally, as you will have no doubt surmised, this sort of technique needs a lot of time and money to work. These operations usually last around nine months to a year, and will often cost around $300,000 to work. When they aren’t successful, it is clearly a big waste of time and money.
There have been a number of famous cases where the Mr. Big technique has been used. Fans of Netflix’s ‘The Confession Tapes’ will be familiar with the Rafay Murders. This was a triple-murder case. Atif Rafay – whose parents and sister were killed, and friend Sebastian Burns – were the prime suspects of the Police. However they were believed to be at a cinema at the time of the murders. They were also seen at places throughout the night in question. Burns was the target of a Mr. Big sting, which secured a confession from both Rafay and Burns. Despite evidence to suggest a terrorist organisation was responsible for the murders – the duo were sentenced to prison. Many consider the duo to be innocent.
Another well-known case revolves around Andy Rose – a man that Police believed was responsible for a double murder. While on bail, Rose was befriended by investigators, and eventually introduced to Mr. Big. Mr. Big promised that his organisation could change evidence against Rose. Following several drinks between Rose (a former alcoholic) and Mr. Big, a confession was made. Yet two years later, Rose was cleared and subsequently acquitted thanks to DNA evidence. This is an example of a case where the Mr. Big technique didn’t work.
Finally – we look at a case where the technique certainly worked. Dax Mack was a suspect in a murder case. A Mr. Big operation was implemented, which after four months secured two confessions. Mack burned the body of his victim – and took undercover investigators to where he did it. In the aftermath, burned remains of the victim were found, along with gun casings that matched the case. Despite appeals that took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, appeals were exhausted, with the belief that the Police had acted fairly.
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So there we have it – a full review of the Mr. Big technique. The technique clearly has a mixed record – it has proven successful in some cases, but its ability to elicit a false confession has been criticised. In one case involving a man named Nelson Hart – a confession gained by the technique was deemed inadmissible in court. So the reputation of the technique isn’t what it once was. How effective and ethical it is can be questioned – it is simply up to you as the reader to decide whether or not it is a fair technique.