Roger Rogerson by Duncan McNab

Reviewed by E.B. Heath

Roger Rogerson once described as: a talented and capable detective, a natural leader and communicator, good father, helpful neighbour, mesmerizingly charming, and an all round good bloke.  Duncan McNab’s latest book, Roger Rogerson, presents Rogerson as an ego driven, corrupt and greedy detective, a murderer – an all round evil man. McNab gives a thorough account of how Rogerson morphed from good to very bad cop, and it is interesting.

In 2016 Roger Rogerson received a life sentence for murder.  The evidence that damned him was irrefutable.  CCTV footage clearly showed Rogerson, recognizable by his crab like gait, and looking like a novice actor on a two-bit film set, furtively entering the warehouse where drug dealer Jamie Gao was shot twice in the chest.  Rogerson and his accomplice, Glen McNamara, had been celebrated detectives, and one wonders how did they ever get to this point.

McNab details the environment that seventeen-year-old Rogerson entered when he joined the N.S.W. Police Force in 1958. Remembering the old adage, ‘it takes a village to rear a child’, it becomes clear that a very corrupt ‘village’ educated the young cadet.  Rather than ‘a few bad apples’, corruption prevailed within the Brotherhood of the Police.  Those who did not wish to participate had to keep their head down and say nothing.  Bullying comments like, ‘we know where you live’, along with threats of remote postings, ensured the activities of the Brotherhood remained concealed.  Law bending and breaking, rather than enforcing, ranged widely, from some uniform police eating for free, the armed robbery division skimming a cut from the proceeds, bribes taken for turning a blind eye to illegal trading, and later, taking a slice of the action from drug distribution.  It seems, in those days, the criminals and the police shared the same murky pond.  McNab quotes, from U.S. academic, Alfred McCoy’s Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia:

… no city in the world could rival Sydney’s tolerance for organized crime.  During the eleven years from 1965 to 1976, with the Liberal-Country Party in power, the State endured a period of police and political corruption unparalleled in its modern history.

It was within this context that teenage Rogerson learnt how to be a member of the police force and capable Rogerson could keep up with the best of them, excelling in all ‘aspects’ of policing.

From the 1960s to the early-1980s Rogerson’s career trajectory soared.  He was unapologetically as ruthless as the crooks, being involved in the deaths of several criminals in the line of duty, but his style of policing was catching up with him, albeit slowly.  He was a defendant in court cases but managed to escape conviction, in fact he received a few awards.  However, times were changing.  McNab gives an account of Rogerson’s dismissal from the Force in 1986, his time in jail from 1990 to 1995, and time in prison from 2005 to 2006.

When released from Kirkconnell Correctional Centre in 2006, McNab writes that he expected Rogerson, now in his 70s, to fade into obscurity and a stress free retirement.   However, that was not to be the case, and McNab’s main focus in this book is an account of the events of 2014, the death of Jamie Gao, and the subsequent court case, which saw Rogerson back in jail for the rest of his life, along with his co-conspirator McNamara.

McNamara’s story is perhaps harder to understand.  A younger man than Rogerson, he was a dedicated crusader against drug and paedophile activity.  He offered to act as under-cover agent in order to expose corrupt policing, but was not at all satisfied with the outcome of his efforts; the main focus was reserved for corrupt police, rather than both paedophiles and police.  Although readers might wonder why both issues could not be dealt with at the same time, particularly given the extent of alleged paedophile networks.  McNamara might have thought corruption beyond the police force was still in place to protect high profile pederasts and little was being done to protect the children.  He felt the need to leave the force, for the sake of his family’s safety, and retired to the south coast of Sydney to write a book, Dirty Work:  When Police are Protecting Drug Dealers and Paeophiles Someone has to Act:  A True Story.     Later returning to Sydney to be a private investigator.   McNab’s account makes it clear McNamara was an embittered man feeling the system had let him down, which clearly is the case!

McNab is an ex-detective with the N.S.W. Police Force, so he writes from a personal perspective.  He leaves the reader in no doubt that Rogerson was a dangerous man, although not a lone wolf.  Rogerson, corrupt, greedy and violent, was enabled and trained by institutional corruption and greed that prevailed at the time.

Roger Rogerson


Duncan McNab


Hachette Australia

Paperback:  ISBN:  9780733639357

328PP  –   $19.99



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