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Roger Rogerson: I'm 'a bit old' for all this

Date

Michaela Whitbourn

Roger Rogerson in Sydney at the time of the Jim Byrnes case in 2013.

Roger Rogerson in Sydney at the time of the Jim Byrnes case in 2013. Photo: Peter Rae

Disgraced former detective Roger "the Dodger" Rogerson told a court recently he was "a bit old" to be getting involved in anything nefarious.

"If I was interested in doing it, I probably couldn't. I would probably get caught," the 73-year-old told the Supreme Court in February last year, after hobbling into the courtroom on a crutch.

"I'll deny that I did anything [criminal] in the past. It's what people think I did," the former NSW detective sergeant insisted.

This perception problem, as Rogerson would have it, is acute. His high-profile fall from grace has inspired books and television shows, including the 1995 ABC telemovie Blue Murder, based in part on Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir's book Line of Fire.

Rogerson was a decorated senior police officer when he shot dead drug dealer Warren Lanfranchi in Chippendale in 1981.

The coroner found he was "endeavouring to effect an arrest" but the shooting marked a turning point in Rogerson's career. He was dismissed from the police force in 1986.

He was found corrupt by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1994 but did not face criminal charges as a result of the findings. The inquiry, codenamed Milloo, probed the relationship between police and criminals from the mid-70s onwards.

The then ICAC commissioner, Ian Temby, QC, found the relationship between Rogerson and Arthur "Neddy" Smith, the convicted murderer, rapist and underworld kingpin, was corrupt and "well known to very many police" and "many criminals".

"The notorious relationship between Smith and Rogerson went unsupervised over many years," Mr Temby wrote in his February 1994 report. "Rogerson's dealings with Smith brought discredit on the Police Service, and must be described as scandalous."

Evidence tendered during public hearings, which were held between November 1992 and October 1993, included secretly taped phone calls between the men showing an "extraordinary frequency of contact and a degree of easy familiarity which cannot be consistent with proper practice".

Rogerson, who spent five years in the armed hold-up squad, was accused of conspiring with two criminals to murder undercover drug squad officer Michael Drury in 1989 but was acquitted. He was also acquitted of attempting to bribe Detective Sergeant Drury in 1985.

He spent three years in jail in the 1990s for perverting the course of justice over a $110,000 payment deposited by him into a bank account under a false name.

The former detective served another 12 months behind bars after he and his wife, Anne Melocco, were convicted in 2005 of lying to the Police Integrity Commission in 1999.

Rogerson has also been accused of supplying drugs and assault but has never been convicted of these offences.

In 2003, Rogerson parlayed his notoriety into an entertainment career, taking to the speaking circuit with former AFL stars Warwick Capper and Mark "Jacko" Jackson in a show entitled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

After he was released from his latest stint in jail in 2006, Rogerson appeared in a show called The Wild Colonial Psychos with Jackson and the late Melbourne career criminal Mark "Chopper" Read.

In 2009, Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones launched Rogerson's first book, Roger Rogerson: The Dark Side, at the Iron Duke Hotel in Alexandria, which was once owned by Neddy Smith.

Rogerson told the Supreme Court last year - in a case brought by Sydney woman Virginia Diroy Nemeth against "Big Jim" Byrnes - that it was "not unusual at all" for people to ask him to do illegal things.

Asked about her husband's reported links to the disappearance and alleged murder of Sydney university student Jamie Gao, Ms Melocco told Fairfax Media on Monday: "I know nothing about it. Nothing at all."

Rogerson, who is in Queensland, is wanted for questioning over the Gao case.

Police suspect Mr Gao, 20, got ''in over his head'' and was kidnapped and killed after arranging a ''secretive'' meeting with an unknown party.

Glen McNamara, a former NSW detective and an associate of Rogerson, was charged with the murder of Mr Gao on Monday.

Mr McNamara wrote the 2010 "true crime" story Dirty Work, which was launched by former NSW police officer Tim Priest. The launch was also attended by Mr Jones.

Mr Temby wrote in his 1994 ICAC report that Rogerson was described by former Assistant Police Commissioner Ross Nixon as "the life of the party" and by former Chief Inspector of Police John Burke as a "very charismatic person".

"Both these men were critical of the man Rogerson later turned out to be," Mr Temby said.

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