Video: How to uncover stories, information and witnesses

June 18, 2021

In conversation with Sam Holder

Sam Holder is a national news broadcaster and journalist with a passion and specialism in witness interviewing and story building. He has travelled far and wide to cover everything from breaking crime stories to corporate malfeasance. Sam is a natural conversationalist with a particular knack for talking to witnesses.

As investigators, we share more with journalists than meets the eye. Both our crafts centre on the pursuit of information which is often concealed. Our paths and methodologies contain many similarities. We sat down with Sam to get his insights and experiences on how to uncover information and get the most from human sources. Below are three interesting lessons we drew.

1. Building trust and relationships with witnesses and sources is key. It’s often with the accumulation of time, attention and genuine interaction that witnesses feel comfortable to cooperate. Once a relationship is built, some individuals end up providing much more information than first expected. Some human sources will also have knowledge of other useful issues which were not foreseen at the outset.

2. In interview situations, asking direct questions is important and effective. At the close of an interview, asking what other information your interviewee thinks it would be useful to share can often uncover very useful information that did not arise in the conversation. Where a witness does not know the answer, they may be willing to introduce another individual who does.

3. Corroborating information is imperative. Wherever possible, verifying claims through multiple witness accounts or sources adds crucial weight and credibility to the intelligence. Digital tools, social media and OSINT techniques provide more ways than ever to test the credibility of a human source’s claims.

Other issues covered in our conversation include:

·        Use of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

·        Identifying false witness accounts.

·        The opportunity of a media platform as a motivator for some witnesses to provide their account.