Andrew Geddis describes the ‘Mr Big’ operation used to convict murderer Kamal Reddy:
To obtain Reddy’s confession, the police unpacked their “Crime Scenario Undercover Technique”; or, as it’s better known overseas, ran a “Mr Big” sting on him. In essence, the police tricked Reddy into thinking he was joining a criminal syndicate by infiltrating an undercover officer into his life who then involved him in a series of (sham) criminal offences for which he was paid small amounts of money. These “offences” brought him into contact with a number of other undercover police officers playing a range of roles connected with the “syndicate” and took him to various parts of New Zealand, including down to Queenstown for a holiday/apparent drug deal. One of the characters in this performance was an apparently corrupt cop, whom Reddy was led to believe could make any legal problems of the syndicate’s members disappear.
Following a period of initiation into this “syndicate”, Reddy was told that in order to join it as a full member he would have to pass an interview with its “Mr Big”. At that interview, Reddy was cajoled (but not compelled) into divulging what had happened to his wife and daughter on the grounds that without full disclosure of his past the syndicate could not trust him. He then took took a fellow “syndicate member” to the place where he had buried the bodies. Having obtained Reddy’s confession on film and substantiated it with the victims’ remains, the police dropped the act and arrested him for murder. And at his subsequent trial the main prosecution witnesses were his fellow “syndicate members”, telling the jury just how they had conned Reddy into implicating himself for the crimes.
It’s a trope of a lot of crime writing that police and the criminal underworld are mirror images of each other, and that the existence of the police calls the criminals into existence. I think this is mostly nonsense, but there is a weird symmetry thing going on here. Reddy was pretending not to be a murderer, which justified the police pretending not to be police. When Reddy stopped pretending the police could too. Which makes me wonder what happens when one of these techniques gets deployed against someone who didn’t actually do anything, and thus can’t stop pretending and break the symmetry. How long does the ruse go on for?