The confession by Russell Williams was by all accounts expertly coaxed — the work of a whip-smart detective who was unyielding in an interrogation running some 10 hours.
"It was an excellent piece of police work on behalf of [Det. Sgt.] Jim Smyth who conducted this interview — one of the best interviews I've ever seen," Det. Insp. Chris Nicholas told reporters Wednesday. "It's a smart man being outsmarted by a smarter man."
Smyth, an Ontario Provincial Police behavioural specialist, is seen in the interrogation videos at first trying to earn Williams's trust and offering access to a lawyer. He then asks him general questions before getting him to agree to submit a DNA sample and an imprint of his boots.
"They begin circling in and in and in — it was a fascinating thing to watch — I've covered courts and policing, I've never seen anything like this," said CBC reporter Dave Seglins. "This is one for the history books, in terms of a police interrogation."
Eventually, Williams confessed to the murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd and 86 other charges.
Detective found remains of Tori Stafford
Smyth, who has earned a reputation as a savvy veteran, played a key role in the case of Tori Stafford in Woodstock, Ont. On instinct, Smyth searched a largely empty stretch along 6th Concession North in Arthur Township and found the remains of the eight-year-old girl, who had been abducted more than three months earlier.
Smyth later told the Toronto TV station CP 24 that he and other officers often took the back roads to and from work, checking areas of interest for possible clues.
"Essentially, I think we've always believed that we would find Tori and we're hopeful that we have," he told CP 24 before the remains had been identified. "The whole investigative team, we just feel relief."
Media outlets praised Smyth for following his "hunch," though the detective shrugged it off, saying that the police had followed "hundreds of hunches" that hadn't yielded anything.
Julian Fantino, then OPP commissioner, praised Smyth's work, telling the Toronto Sun the Stafford case was resolved by "tenacity, determination and intelligent police work."
"[Smyth] is like all of the police officers on this case who worked extra hard and never left any stone unturned," Fantino said.
Terri-Lynn McClintic and Michael Rafferty have been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the Stafford case.
'An admirable job'
Smyth began his career with the York Regional Police in 1988 before joining the OPP in 1997, according to the Sun. In 2007 he began working with the provincial police force's polygraph unit, behavioural sciences and analysis services.
Smyth has also taught forensic interviewing and forensic behavioural science at Toronto's Seneca College.
Dave Robbins, a former interrogator for the OPP, praised Smyth's work in the Williams case.
"Our interrogator here does an admirable job," Robbins said on CBC's Connect with Mark Kelley. "He starts off by talking about DNA evidence and he goes to the four locations and he gives Col. Williams an out: 'Is there any reason that it might be in there?' and Williams says 'No.'"
"He goes to the next step and he talks about the tire treads and as soon as he mentions … tires, there's an absolute reaction from Williams. His hand goes up behind his neck. He's shocked by that, obviously."
Pat Brown, a Washington-based criminal profiler, said Smyth demonstrated a strong ability to "read" Williams, which helped elicit a full confession.
"[Smyth] even knew that [Williams] wanted control, so he said, 'You can get the control back at this point because you can decide how it's going to play out if you co-operate and if you discuss this with me and give me your story, essentially," Brown said.
"If you don't give me your story, we're going to have a different one, which is you're a cold-blooded psychopath. Is that what you want? Or do you want to control the situation?
"That was a very smart move — the detective was very good in the interrogation."