Can a criminologist interrogate a criminal?

The perfect crime - looking over the shoulder of criminologists: How do you lie correctly?

Looking over the shoulder of criminologists: How do you lie correctly?

We used a congress for criminologists as a trial course for bad behavior. And lying. Most importantly: not what you say, but how you say it.

You can't help yourself: When police officers talk about their experiences with criminals, someone else inevitably listens. We ourselves don't really listen to what we hope or believe. No - what criminals say interests and fascinates the other guy in us: the goblin we often deny. Maybe the devil. In any case, the evil side feels animated when police officers talk about evil deeds. You start to ponder: Hm, and what if the perfect crime, despite this cunning on the good side, doesn't succeed after all?

If so, as a perfect criminal you would have to practice perfect lying for years. Where should you learn that, if you please? For example at a specialist congress of criminologists.

The biggest traitor is the face

This year's congress of the Swiss Working Group for Criminology was dedicated to the subject of establishing the truth. So I went into the wild undergrowth of lies. Though undergrowth is the wrong picture, given what criminals have said about lying. You can distinguish undergrowth from grassland, but initially not lies from popular speech blossoms.

The novice in the world of crime already makes his first serious mistake: he concentrates on the drivel during interrogation, while the policeman concentrates on the way he babbles. The liar makes every effort to tell a story plausibly - and reveals himself in what he does not consider: gestures, blinking, direction of gaze, sitting posture, position of the arms / hands and so on. There are tons of signs on the body that give us away. Most of all, however, our own face unmasked us.

The basic lesson in the taster course on the perfect crime is: The lie is in the how, not in the what. First you learn to control every fiber on your face, every fingertip, before you serve up an innocence story. The training of the eyes is likely to be the hardest. Cunning swindlers, say detectives, not without an undertone of admiration, "look you straight in the eye, without blinking once, while they rearrange the world for you out of all the lies."

Details are the biggest pitfalls

Detectives, lawyers and judges took part in the congress, of course. But also forensic scientists (many things are falsified at corpses and crime scenes), psychologists and psychiatrists, representatives of health and accident insurance companies. A prison chaplain from the canton of Solothurn also entered her name on the list.

The background of the large number of speakers during the three days of the congress was correspondingly broad. The short speaking time of around half an hour accelerated some lectures at the expense of comprehensibility. Those who had also published on the topic referred to their own book for “further explanations”, with the organizers' approval.

Olivier Guéniat, the police chief of the canton of Neuchâtel, talked about the practice of many interrogations. Liars, he said, the police don't dislike. Lies and contradictions are useful in solving crimes. And also a gripping matter for the interviewer himself.

Even in the first few moments, the investigator was confronted with a heap of lies, not least from the victims. Lies don't always prove someone has committed a crime. And vice versa: someone could largely tell the truth - and still be the murderer. It is beneficial for the investigator when people on the interrogation chair talk excessively and reveal many details, especially those that seemed unimportant to them. When asked days later, even good liars would get tangled up in the details.

With that we have learned the second lesson in the crash course on the perfect criminal: don't mention any details! Or just true. According to Nietzsche's extra-moral recipe: You shouldn't lie because you don't remember the details anyway. Simply not getting your teeth apart during interrogation. Buck and be silent. Think about what you really say a thousand times beforehand.

Do not touch anything after the fact

Terrible images of murder victims appeared on the screen when Christiane Trapp appeared on the Kurhaus stage. The German lecturer in criminology at the University of Freiburg spoke of the terrible in a lively objectivity, as if she were talking about cake baking. Once a cell phone rang in the audience. Trapp interrupted calmly and asked: "Who is complaining from the beyond?"

It was about the so-called staging: the concealment of an act by the perpetrators manipulating and staging things. What kind of nefariousness people can think of is bizarre. One hardly has adequate ideas about human abysses. Even black speculations remain pious.

The police met a maddened man in front of a house who, as if out of his mind, even scrambled up a wall. His wife, who was bleeding to death, was lying on the carpet inside. Nevertheless, it was precisely the one who was supposedly so disturbed that his wife's murderer was. An act that the actor had planned just as carefully in sheer desperation, as he carefully changed the scene of the crime to make everything look like a robbery. With an almost ridiculous mistake: He acted from the inside of the house to the outside, not the other way around, as a robber would have gone.

The criminologist found amusement at people using tricks on crime scenes that she had seen on TV crime series like CSI. Obviously, it is nowhere near enough. The police pay attention to things that are little known. For example, criminology knows that “stagers” usually “touch up” their cover-up three weeks after the crime. This is the sign for investigators to examine the man more closely now.

Which also makes the third part of our rapid bleaching on the perfect criminal clear: Hands off the crime, especially three weeks later.