Chief David Craig: “If Hunted Stops Being Real, I Won’t Have Anything to Do With It”

Hunted Chief David Craig

Hunted Australia is back, and this season, The Chief, aka Dr David Craig, says that we’re in for “a showdown” between the Hunters and the Fugitives. But if you’ve ever wondered how much of Hunted is real, you’re not alone. The show took the nation by storm last year, but there were many people who wondered how the simulated manhunt compares to a real-life investigation. We spoke to The Chief and got the scoop.

How Hunted Australia Maintains Its Legitimacy

Chatting to The Latch over the phone, The Chief was quick to acknowledge that “there’s a lot of production stuff” that he didn’t feel “qualified” to speak on.

“I can tell you what I do know from my side,” he said. “This is what makes it real for me — and I’ve done training with some of the world’s best organisations, from Singapore, London, Washington, all these places — and this is the best training simulation there is, because it’s so dynamic.”

He continued: “The production team don’t know what I’m gonna do, and no one knows what the Fugitives are gonna do — not even the Fugitives, I think! So it is really dynamic, it is like a real investigation, and it’s crammed into such a short period that it is very intense.”  

It’s the fact that the simulated investigation is so close to a real life investigation, Dr Craig said, that is what’s so interesting to him about the show.

“If it’s not legitimate, I’ll be honest, if Hunted stops being legitimate, I won’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “It’s gotta be real.”

How Hunted Mimics a Real Investigation

Most of the viewers who are watching Hunted at home won’t ever be privy to the inner workings of a real life, high stakes investigation. The Chief said that the way things play out on Hunted is actually very close to real life.

“I’ll give you a good example,” he said. “If we think a Fugitive is using someone else’s phone, we can’t just say ‘well, we want to intercept that phone’ — it doesn’t happen like that. We have to say, ‘we think Fugitive X is with this person and has borrowed their phone, and we think that because CCTV caught them at a café together, we think they swapped phones, so we would like to intercept that phone’.

“We have to justify [the request],” he explained. “Sometimes we ask for things and we don’t get it, sometimes we do. But there are times that we should have asked for something, and we haven’t, and we’ve missed really crucial evidence. So it’s very much like a real operation in that sense.”

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How Hunted Australia Compares to a Real Investigation

Having worked on high-profile cases like the 2005 Bali Bombing investigation, one might think that The Chief wouldn’t find Hunted especially stressful. After all, it’s just a game, right?

In actual fact, Dr Craig takes his role on Hunted very seriously.

“You know, I would say this. In Hunted, the only relief in the back of my mind is that I know a bomb isn’t going to go off and people aren’t going to get killed if I get it wrong,” he said. “Apart from that, there is every bit of pressure.”

The reason for this, he explained, is that Hunted is set up “like an amplified police operation”.

“If 20 people escaped from a prison breakout, there would be literally thousands of police involved, and intelligence agencies and everything,” he said. “But we’re a small group of people, and we have to work really smart, so it’s extremely stressful, because the Hunters are all really good people, but if we fail, it’s my fault. That’s the way I view it.”

He continued: “I’m fighting for my own reputation here, which is pretty silly, because I had a great career!”

The Chief laughed.

“Why would I come out and do this, I don’t know! But there is a lot of pressure in doing it, but it’s also very enjoyable. It’s a fair dinkum competition, and I want the Hunters to win, ‘coz we’re the good guys,” he said. He laughed again. “Even though people don’t think we are!”

Everyone on Team Hunter Is Equally Important

While Dr Craig may be the Chief Hunter, he doesn’t view his role as more important than anyone else on the team. Rather, it’s “just different form other people’e role”.

“We need to have that mentality,” he explained, “because we need to work really, really closely in a high pressure environment for a long period of time, so we have to have that real equal relationship between everybody.”

Each Fugitive presents their own challenge for the Hunters, and that means different Hunters’ skills come into play.

“If they go down a cyber crime track, then the cyber team will come to the forefront and they’ll be really vitally important,” he explained. “But if someone goes off the grid and they’re not using any technology, then our intelligence team, the ground hunters work that they’ve done, their skills come to the forefront. It just depends on the Fugitives.”

He continued: “I’m very lucky to be the Chief Hunter, but I’m not the most important person — everyone is exactly the same. I make the decisions and it’s my reputation, so my role is to call the shots, and I do that, but the information I use to do that comes from the Hunters.”

Which Hunter Has the Most Difficult Role

While different Fugitives call for different skills, The Chief said that Dr Karla Lopez, Hunted‘s forensic psychologist, probably has the most difficult role of them all.

“She’s really good at what she does, but psychologists usually have plenty of time to assess and make informed decisions and assessments on predicted behaviours, and they have time to do that,” he said. “Here, I’m asking Karla to make a call based on very scant information, and that’s really, really difficult to do professionally, and she’s bloody good at it!”

Still, The Chief was quick to reiterate that “each role has its particular difficulties” and that “they’re all absolutely vital”.

“We need every single person,” he said.

How Much Access the Hunters Actually Have

If the thought of someone having access to your bank accounts, your search history, your phone records gives you the ick, you’re not alone. In fact, The Chief “wouldn’t give up all that information”, either!

“And I wouldn’t want to be on the run for three weeks, either, with a group of people like the Hunters chasing me!” he added. “I’ll tell you what, I don’t think it’s a very pleasant experience!”

But with the chance for a share of $100,000 on the line, the Hunted Fugitives have offered up access to the Hunters, as long as the request is justified.

“It needs to be clear that these people have volunteered for this, so we’re not breaching anyone’s privacy, we’re not breaking any laws,” Dr Craig said. “In the real world, these are [criminals] that we’re pursuing, and society lets us have access to that information if we justify it.”

Hunted Australia airs at 7.30pm, Sunday — Tuesday each week, only on 10 and 10 Play on Demand. Miss an episode? Catch up on 10 Play.

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