Eleven years ago, Roger “Don’t call me The Dodger” Rogerson was sitting in the dock, clutching a John Grisham thriller as he waited to find out how long he would be spending in the Big House this time around.
“Few in the community would not have heard of Roger Rogerson,” said Judge Peter Berman in 2005, noting that Rogerson had once quipped the media had changed his name by deed poll to “Disgraced Former Detective”.
Rogerson after being released from Kirkconnell Correctional facility in 2006. Photo: Adam Hollingworth
As a police officer, Rogerson was present on two occasions when police shot and killed people, and on another two occasions he shot and killed people himself. The most famous of these was the heroin dealer Warren Lanfranchi, whom Rogerson shot and killed in a laneway in Chippendale in June 1981.
Lanfranchi, who, according to his girlfriend, Sallie-Anne Huckstepp, was unarmed and carrying $10,000 and was delivered to the meeting by major crime figure Neddy Smith, who is currently serving a life sentence for an unrelated murder. The money was never found.
At the inquest, Rogerson was found to have fatally shot Lanfranchi while trying to effect an arrest. Interestingly, the jury failed to find that it was in self-defence. Witnesses told the inquest that they had heard two shots which were 10 seconds apart.
Rogerson speaking to the media in 1985. Photo: Russell McPhedran
Years later, when the ABC screened Blue Murder, an explosive mini-series based on Rogerson’s infamy, he was less than impressed.
Of the scriptwriter, he said: “Ian David is a boof-headed, bald-headed, big-headed c—. I should have sued the c— and those f—wits at the ABC but of course I’ve got no credit left.”
And on the famous scene in Blue Murder which revisited Rogerson shooting Lanfranchi, Rogerson said: “I mean, he made it out to be this f—ing conspiracy between the 18 coppers who were there that day, when really it was just a Saturday afternoon’s work as far as we were concerned.”
Warren Lanfranchi, who was shot dead in Sydney’s Chippendale in 1981.
Rogerson was charged with his killing.
In 1984, only three years after the Lanfranchi shooting, undercover detective Michael Drury was standing in his kitchen at his Chatswood home when he was shot. He gave what was taken to be a dying deposition that he was due to testify in a major drugs trial and that Rogerson had offered him a bribe to protect a Melbourne drug dealer. However, he survived.
In 1985, Rogerson faced trial and was acquitted of the bribery of Drury. In 1989, he was acquitted of conspiring, with Christopher Dale Flannery and the confessed drug dealer Alan Williams, to murder Drury.
As his famous barrister in the bribery case, Chester Porter, QC, was to recount some years later, it was Rogerson’s word against Drury’s. Not only did Rogerson prove to be most compelling in the witness box, but during the hearing Porter had lulled Drury into a false sense of security by getting him to extol his virtues as an undercover cop, one of which was the ability to lie.
Sallie-Anne Huckstepp: found floating face down in a pond in Centennial Park.
“Very foolishly,” Porter later wrote in his autobiography, “he looked around at the magistrate’s court and said words to the effect that he could tell lies in the court, and nobody could pick him.”
Porter devastated Drury with this, pointing out that, as he was such a proficient liar, how was the jury to know when to believe him.
Apart from his trial, other matters were spiralling out of control for Rogerson in 1985.
Tony Martin (playing Neddy Smith) and Richard Roxburgh (playing Roger Rogerson) in the television show Blue Murder.
Huckstepp was found floating face down in a pond in Centennial Park. Neddy Smith was charged – and later acquitted – of her murder.
Then there was the problem of gangland murders threatening to bring everyone down. Hitman Chris Flannery, also known as Mr Rent-a-Kill, was not only a central figure in the underworld wars, he was out of control.
Flannery, who was last seen in May 1985, was believed to be the shooter at the attempted murder of Drury the previous year.
The real Neddy Smith with Roger Rogerson.
At an inquest into Flannery’s suspected murder, Neddy Smith maintained that the one person Flannery trusted was Rogerson and that, after Flannery disappeared, Rogerson said to him: “Chris had to go, mate. He was becoming a danger to us all.”
Coroner Greg Glass announced that he suspected that Rogerson killed Chris Flannery. And if Rogerson didn’t kill Flannery, then he knew who did, the coroner said.
Rogerson later told Channel Nine’s Sunday program: “Flannery was a complete pest. The guys up here in Sydney tried to settle him down. They tried to look after him as best they could, but he was, I believe, out of control. Maybe it was the Melbourne instinct coming out of him. He didn’t want to do as he was told, he was out of control, and having overstepped that line, well, I suppose they said he had to go but I can assure you I had nothing to do with it.”
Former police officer Michael Drury. Roger Rogerson was charged with his attempted murder but found not guilty. Photo: James Brickwood
Smith’s testimony at Flannery’s inquest revealed the bitter falling out with Rogerson. Asked by a journalist if he felt sorry that his most infamous informant was serving a life sentence as well as suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Rogerson replied: “Very sorry. I feel so sorry for Ned I hope he dies as quickly as possible.”
Rogerson: “Because he’s a c—! Ha ha ha ha! Because he’s a big strong bloke, a brilliant street-fighter in his day, a guy who, for a while there, was making $30,000 a f—ing minute and who had more cash than the Reserve f—ing Bank, and now he’s lost his marbles and that’s sad. I hate seeing blokes go to jail. I’m like Rex Hunt I catch ’em and I throw ’em back. For mine, jail doesn’t work. To me, the challenge was always catching ’em. And listen, I’ve never, ever denied having a good time doing it. I enjoyed being a cop. I met some fantastic people, worked some great cases and travelled to some wonderful places. It was good bloody fun.”
Christopher Flannery photographed in 1981.
Among the good times Rogerson enjoyed was an alleged romp with singer Shirley Bassey. Rogerson claims that he was walking to his favourite hamburger shop in the city when he spied someone hotfooting it across Goulburn Street “with a nice sequined handbag tucked under his arm”.
Rogerson told Ralph magazine: “So I chased after him, tackled him to the ground and elicited a confession out of him. Turns out he’d swiped Shirley Bassey’s handbag from backstage as she rehearsed for a gig at Chequers that night … Anyway, after I whipped this bloke up to Central and charged him, I walked back to Chequers with the handbag. I knew the owner pretty well and he introduced me to Shirley … and, well, let’s just say she showed her appreciation in a very special way.”
Interviewer: “Are you saying you banged Shirley Bassey, the same Shirley Bassey who sang Goldfinger, backstage at Chequers?”
Shirley Bassey, who Rogerson claims he ‘got to know very well’. Photo: Sandy Scheltema
Rogerson: “No, I’m not. I’m saying we got to know each other very well, and that’s all I want to say as a gentleman. The rest is private and secret … up until now.”
The “bloody good fun” Rogerson enjoyed as a rogue cop came to a crashing halt in 1986 when he was finally dismissed from the service after the Police Tribunal sustained seven of nine misconduct charges against him.
But, in a strange twist, it was the plans Rogerson made on the expectation he would be jailed for the Drury matter that ultimately brought him undone. While the jury was deliberating on his fate, Rogerson was overheard telling his then wife Joy about his secret bank accounts.
Rogerson on the speaking circuit with Mark “Jacko” Jackson and Warwick Capper. Photo: Rick Stevens
During his next trial, there was no sign of Chester Porter. Years later this silk explained.
“He told me quite a deal and when the facts came out about his secret banking accounts, it wasn’t completely consistent with what he told me. There could have been embarrassment,” Porter said.
In 1990, Rogerson was found guilty and jailed for conspiring to pervert the course of justice with two other men, including drug smuggler Nick Paltos, for organising bank accounts totalling $110,000 in false names. The accounts had been set up during the Drury trial
Anne Melocco leaving court after her husband was sentenced to two and a half years jail in 2005. Photo: Wade Laube
He spent nine months in jail before being acquitted on appeal. But, in 1992, the appeal was quashed and Rogerson returned to Berrima jail until his release in 1995.
Rogerson turned to scaffolding on his release from jail with a sideline in regaling pub audiences with his tales of his police activities. This included auctioning signed photos of himself standing near Lanfranchi’s body as it lay in the gutter in Dangar Place, Chippendale.
But within a decade Rogerson was back in jail after being convicted of lying about bribing a Liverpool Council official to obtain work.
Rogerson had already committed perjury at the Police Integrity Commission before being told his house had been bugged for a long time and there were tapes that showed he was lying.
“It’s an absolute invasion of privacy!” he hissed from the witness box, demanding to know if he’d been taped having sex with his second wife Anne Melocco. “I want to know how good I am,” he said crossly.
Informed by counsel assisting David Frearson that there were no sex tapes because the commission was only interested in illegal activities, Rogerson retorted: “So there is no tapes there of me having sex, because that would be legal?”
He later muttered, “The sooner I leave this state the better.”
“Perhaps for other people as well,” Frearson deadpanned.
View to a kill: the death of Jamie Gao
Surveillance camera footage creates a detailed timeline of the 2014 killing of Jamie Gao.
Early January, 2014 Jamie Gao and Glen McNamara meet at least 27 times in the lead-up to Gao’s death, often at the Meridian Hotel in Hurstville.
Early March, 2014 Roger Rogerson obtains keys to storage unit 803 at Rent a Space, Padstow, from a friend named Michael McGuire. Rogerson says he wanted to look at office furniture. Gao is eventually killed inside the shed.
April 27, 2014 A white Ford Falcon station wagon with number plates BV67PX is purchased at Outback Used Cars in Lethbridge Park. The car is later used to transport Gao’s body. Rogerson and McNamara deny involvement in the car’s acquisition, but Rogerson’s fingerprints are found on the receipt.
May 19, 2014 McNamara removes his 4.5 metre Quintrex boat from Hunter Self Storage at Taren Point without notifying staff. This is later used to dump Gao’s body at sea.
May 19, 3.15pm CCTV footage from Rent a Space captures Rogerson removing office chairs from storage unit 803 and placing them in the back of his silver Ford station wagon.
May 19, afternoon A white Nissan Silvia, consistent with Gao’s car, does a U-turn outside Rent a Space.
May 19, 7.50pm The night before Gao is killed, McNamara and Gao meet at the Meridian Hotel, Hurstville. The meeting lasts about 30 minutes.
May 20, 11.37am McNamara uses a payphone in Cronulla Mall to call Gao. CCTV from Cold Rock Ice Creamery captures him walking towards the phone.
May 20, 1.17pm Rogerson and McNamara drive in separate cars to Rent a Space. McNamara is seen opening and closing the door four times in nine minutes.
May 20, 1.35pm Gao is seen walking down Arab Road, Padstow, dressed in dark-coloured clothes, towards a white Ford station wagon that McNamara is in.
May 20, 1,42pm McNamara drives to the front gate of Rent a Space and enters the gate code – his hood is up and sunglasses are on.
May 20, 1.46pm Gao is seen getting out of the back of a white Ford station wagon and shielded by McNamara as he slips into storage unit 803. It is the last time he is seen alive.
May 20, 1.49pm Rogerson opens the door to storage unit 803 exactly three minutes and 16 seconds after Gao and McNamara entered.
May 20, 2.03pm McNamara comes out of the storage unit, retrieves a silver Ocean & Earth surfboard bag from the white Ford station wagon, and returns to the storage unit.
May 20, 2.18pm McNamara and Rogerson are seen dragging a surfboard cover containing Gao’s body, and load it into the boot of the white Ford station wagon.
May 20, about 4pm Rogerson and McNamara are seen at Kennards Hire in Taren Point, buying a two-tonne chain block that was later used to lift Gao’s body into McNamara’s boat.
May 20, about 5.15pm A few hours after the killing, Rogerson and McNamara share a six-pack of beer at McNamara’s unit in McDonald St, Cronulla. (McNamara claims he only helped to dispose of Gao’s body because his life was threatened by Rogerson.)
May 21, 7.28am A Quintrex boat carrying the body of Gao and a blue tarpaulin leaves McNamara’s Cronulla unit block.
May 21, 7.32am McNamara and Rogerson are seen carrying fishing rods in the lift of McNamara’s unit block.
May 21, 11.05am After disposing of Gao’s body, McNamara brings his Quintrex boat back to Hunter Self Storage at Taren Point.
May 22 McNamara says he was so worried when he found 3kg of ice in his car that he went to Kmart and bought two pillowslips, a measuring jug and a spoon. He claims this was to “seal” the drugs to stop them from exploding.
May 25, 6.30pm Robbery and Serious Crime Squad detectives arrest McNamara at a vehicle stop at Kyeemagh. He is refused bail and appears at Kogarah Local Court the following day.
May 26 Fishermen spot the body of Jamie Gao inside a surfboard bag wrapped in blue tarpaulin about 2.5 kilometres offshore of Shelley Beach, Cronulla.
May 27, 11am Police swoop on Rogerson’s Padstow Heights home. He is escorted out in handcuffs and taken to Bankstown police station, where he is refused bail.