OPP detective used ‘Reid technique’ to get Russell Williams to confess

Perhaps the most infamous interrogation in Canadian history was OPP Det. Sgt. Jim Smyth taking on Russell Williams in 2010.

Smyth used the controversial ‘Reid technique’ with Williams, getting the former CFB Trenton commander to confess to brutally raping and killing Jessica Lloyd and Cpl. Marie-France Comeau.

Captured on video, they’re seated in a small room, each with a chair.

“This type of thing is designed to overcome the will of any person, and it may be good, it may be useful at getting confessions from people who are guilty,” said defence lawyer James Foord.

“The problem is, it seems to be pretty good at getting people to say anything, so therein lies the difficulty.”

In September, a Calgary judge dismissed charges against a daycare operator who was charged with aggravated assault after a child suffered a serious head injury while under her watch.

After being questioned for eight hours, the woman confessed.

Provincial Court Judge Mike Dinkel excluded the confession, concluding she told Calgary police what they wanted to hear.

“You can lie to the suspect and say you have evidence. The cop might bring in a box, which is empty, but he pretends it’s full of evidence incriminating him, so the person begins to think, ‘this is hopeless, we’re screwed,'” said Foord.

Used across North America, police don’t rely solely on the Reid technique.

“There’s an awful lot of interviewing and skills and techniques that can be learned,” said Ottawa police Sgt. Brenda McGillvray.

The PEACE model, for instance, is more open-ended with a softer approach while the Wicklander-Zulawski approach focuses on non-accusatory interviews.

“I think in Canada we try to do things properly,” said Foord.

“We have one of the best justice systems in the world. Some places you get arrested and executed on the same day.”

— Kelly Roche


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