The RCMP sergeant from British Columbia who developed the Mr. Big tactic over 25 years ago is disappointed at the Supreme Court’s ruling, but believes officers will make due.
“I think they’re overreacting,” said retired B.C. RCMP officer Al Haslett to Global News today.
“It is not a bunch of rogue cowboys out there doing this technique. It’s scrutinized, there are checks and balances in place. There never was any issues. They’ve changed the goalposts, but i’m confident investigators will be able to adapt.”
In upholding a ruling allowing a new trial for Nelson Hart, who confessed to killing his young daughters in 2002 after Mr. Big was used on him, the Supreme Court put new restrictions on the practice.
Now, officers will have to prove the admissibility of confessions reached with the tactic, while judges must consider the circumstances in which the confession was made.
“It’s one of the strongest tools to solve murders,” said Haslett, who pioneered the technique over a series of cases with Peter Marsh in the late 80s and early 90s.
“Unfortunately we have to live by it, but I’m confident that the people who want to do the job will continue to do the job.”
The Mr. Big investigation is used to obtain confessions in cold cases. Police befriend a suspect while undercover and pose as members of a criminal organization. They try to recruit the suspect, and once they gain the suspect’s trust, they set up an interview with the head of the fake organization, known as ‘Mr. Big.’
The person posing as Mr. Big asks about the past crime, putting pressure on the suspect to confess.
“It’s been extremely successful,” said Haslett.
“We’ve solved closed to 500 homicides that may never have been solved. The public has benefited from it, and victims’ families have had immense closure on them. Very successful.”
The success of the technique meant it soon spread across Canada, and while it had detractors, had always been upheld as legal in Canadian courts.
Until now. And while Haslett said he was cautiously optimistic the program would continue to be a success, he was deeply critical that Nelson Hart will get another trial.
“Nelson Hart is going to get away with murdering his two twin daughters. He knows what he did, his wife knows what he did, and I hope they suffer every day.”
– With files from John Daly and Sarah Trick
© Shaw Media, 2014