Former Detective Sergeant of the New South Wales Police Force, found guilty of murder 2016
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Roger Rogerson: Out of jail, ready to talk.
Sunday Profile Transcript: Roger Rogerson , March 12, 2006 MP3 Listen Julia Baird Hello...I'm Julia Baird...and tonight on Sunday Profile...Roger Rogerson....out of jail and ready to talk He's Australia's most notorious ex-cop.... ....a mate of underworld figures such as Neddy Smith .......Rogerson became infamous in the 1980's for his alleged crimes and misdemeanours. Indeed during that decade 'Roger the Dodger' as he was known......was rarely out of the headlines ......and in 1986, the detective once tipped to go all the way to the top ......was flung out of the force. Two jail terms and a host of inquiries later ......Roger Rogerson continues to protest his innocence... and insists that he's the victim of a vendetta waged by a group of cops who are out to get him Now Rogerson is trying to break with the past-he's served his time....he's even read the Bible and is touring the pubs and clubs with a somewhat unconventional comedy act - but does he think that his prison days are finally over? Roger Rogerson: I'd like to think so. Julia Baird: Are you worried that people are still pursuing you, are out to get you? Roger Rogerson: Well, look I've been pursued by government instrumentalities such as the Police Intelligence Commission, by the Australian Crime Commission and originally by a group of police that were put together because they wanted to get me. Julia Baird: So what you feel has been a fairly orchestrated campaign, has this come to an end now or do you think it's still going? Roger Rogerson: Well I'm still facing a charge in South Australia which was laid by The Australian Crime Commission, that's being heard in Adelaide. Now that's another case where they were listening to my phone at home. I've been thinking about this for the last eighteen months or so, I don't know how or why I could be found guilty of committing some criminal offence of counselling and procuring a public officer from the South Australian Police Force to commit an offence and that's basically what I'm charged with. Julia Baird: Well obviously it's a case which is still pending but I'm interested in the idea, in the fact that you were bugged for this. I mean your last prison sentence came about after... Roger Rogerson: That's right. Julia Baird: ...an astonishing 38 000 hours of your conversations were recorded. Have you checked your house for bugs now? Roger Rogerson: I learnt years ago it's no use checking your house for bugs. My wife and myself if we want to talk about something in private, in strict privacy, we leave our house, we walk across the road where we have bushland and we talk in the bush. Julia Baird: So you think you're being tapped now? Roger Rogerson: I wouldn't be surprised because knowing the quality of the people that work at these organisations...nothing would surprise me. Julia Baird: Have you cut all your ties with the criminal fraternity? Roger Rogerson: Basically I cut my criminal ties you might say when I left the cops. Now alright, when I left the police I set up an engineering business and I would get the odd phone call from Ned Smith for a couple of years but don't forget Neddy Smith has been in gaol since 1988. Julia Baird: But you saw him in jail, didn't you and you also met him for beers occasionally. Roger Rogerson: No, no, no. He would invite me to have a beer down in the Haymarket, in the open on many an occasion I had a former police officer with me who was then a lawyer. It was just a beer. I thought we lived in a free society. I thought we, I didn't think we lived in Russia but that's another annoying thing about it because it's the media mainly that get on the band wagon and write all this crap about, you know someone having a beer with someone and coming to a conclusion which is in 99% of cases completely incorrect that they're colluding or conspiring to commit crime. Julia Baird: I'd like to talk about your side of the story and I'd like to go back to right back to the beginning of Roger Rogerson joining the police force in 1958. Roger Rogerson: That's correct. Julia Baird: Aged 17. Roger Rogerson: That's correct. Julia Baird: Had you always wanted to be a cop? Roger Rogerson: Not really, no but I had a cousin who had joined the cadets, you know I knew one or two police officers or my parents did and, no it was not something that I'd sort of dreamed of doing from a little boy. Julia Baird: And did you dislike crooks; was that kind of part of your motivation? Roger Rogerson: No, of course not, no, not at all, that never crossed my mind at all. Julia Baird: Okay, you know you went on to be one of Australia's most promising police officers. You were given at least twelve awards or commendations. Roger Rogerson: That's correct. Julia Baird: The young officers looked up to you, a lot of people say they were in awe of you. They considered you someone who was brave, courageous and effective. I mean did being a cop come easily to you? Roger Rogerson: I think it did, I think I found out later on that I had a fairly high IQ. I suppose I might have been a little bit more intelligent than some of the other kids that had joined as cadets with me and, you know I was lucky enough to work with some intelligent people. Julia Baird: Did you get a thrill from chasing and locking up crooks? Roger Rogerson: The thrill to me was catching them, chasing them, investigating them and catching them. I never complained if a crook beat us at court. I get rather annoyed at the way the police carry on now. They blame magistrates for allowing people out on bail and then when you read into the story you find there's not much evidence there anyhow. You need evidence to keep people in custody. Julia Baird: Can you remember the first time you shot someone? Roger Rogerson: I've fired plenty of shots that never hit anyone. I don't remember any of those. Julia Baird: So what did it feel like when you shot someone? Roger Rogerson: Well look everything was done in the line of duty. I mean there were always other people around me, other detectives, they were all operations, I didn't sort of go out at night with my gun and gun down people or chase people on my own. Every shooting incident was part of a fairly large operation. Julia Baird: But very few of us actually do that in the line of our work. Did it shake you up at all? Roger Rogerson: Not really, I don't' think I had any bad dreams about it or anything like that. I mean you were given a gun to protect yourself and use it to effect the arrest of a fleeing felon, that's what it's for, maybe they should use it more often. Julia Baird: Did you play by the rules very strictly in the early days of your career? Did you have a very strong sense of... Roger Rogerson: Well I believe I've always followed the rules. I was a young fellow, I worked with older men, senior men, I learnt from them. I mean what amazes me today is when I was made a Detective Sergeant, when I was promoted to Detective Sergeant at 34 years of age after fifteen years service, I used to be called the 'Boy Sergeant' but from what I see today we have police officers now who can apply for a sergeant's job after seven years service and then I'm told you can apply for an Inspector's position after twelve months acting as a Sergeant. I think this is one of the problems. We've got senior officers who have not had the experience, the practical common sense experience to be able to handle the jobs that are expected of them. Julia Baird: I mean you say that you played by the rules but you also admitted that if you wanted to nab someone you had no qualms about verballing them. I mean you said, "The police culture at the time... Roger Rogerson: Where did I say that? Julia Baird: In one of the articles I've read you told a reporter, "The police culture at the time was that it was justified provided the bloke was guilty." Roger Rogerson: Did I say that? I don't remember saying that. Julia Baird: So you're saying you never verballed anyone? Roger Rogerson: No, I don't think I did. Julia Baird: That wasn't part of the culture at the time? Roger Rogerson: Well it's been alleged it was part of the culture at the time but I'm not going to admit that I verballed anyone. Julia Baird: Okay, well let's look at some of the reasons people have been suspicious about you. I mean you were heavily mixed up with the Underworld during your time in the force. Roger Rogerson: Well who? Julia Baird: Well Ned Smith is one example. Roger Rogerson: Well look, no, heavily involved with the Underworld...Ned Smith. Julia Baird: I'm quoting from an interview.... Roger Rogerson: Ah yes... Julia Baird: Where you said that you knew, "More criminals than any other policeman." Roger Rogerson: That's true. That means that I'd locked up hundreds of criminals and that I'd been able to use some of them as informants. That I was the guy who could talk to guys, I could get down to the gutter and talk to someone. Our power was getting information from informants; we were encouraged to do it. Julia Baird: So what kinds of things did you do with your criminal acquaintances? Roger Rogerson: Well I'd mainly have a drink with them. They might have a problem themselves. There were problems I know over their children, I'd go and see the headmaster or something and say look, "You can't blame the kid, you know, it's the father." Little things like that, they appreciate it because when you've been in custody as I have been myself, locked up, everything becomes monstrous, the slightest little problem with your wife or with your family becomes a monstrous problem inside. Julia Baird: So you must have found yourself growing close to some of these families if you were assisting then in such a manner. Did you find yourself liking them? Roger Rogerson: Look there's many blokes I locked up for crimes I liked; I had to admire their strength and their tenacity. You know, I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't be game to do some of the things that some of these blokes have done. So look, yes there was a bit of admiration there but it was a job. Julia Baird: Was it exciting on one level, you know doing these kinds of deals and hanging out with these criminals? Did you get a buzz from it? Roger Rogerson: No, no, my buzz was actually in getting the information and arresting the offenders. Julia Baird: Now in all the things your colleagues have said about you in your time with the police force, they've said you were the life of the party, a former police officer said that criminals like Neddy Smith gave you a lot of adulation and actually said you had a pathological desire to be liked. You were obviously popular, was it important to you to be liked? Roger Rogerson: Not really, no, I've always, you know, been able to crack a joke and I used to play the piano a little bit and we'd have little 'dos' and that's just my nature and my character. I had no pathological desire to be liked. I wasn't liked sometimes when I got home late from working late; I wasn't liked very much by my first wife. I should have been home with the kids she used to tell me all the time. That suffered I can tell you. Julia Baird: Another police officer said, "It's inescapable that when you start knocking about with the likes of Smith, it's going to rub off on you." Did you feel you were getting drawn further into the criminal world and did you ever find yourself preferring their company to those of say your colleagues? Roger Rogerson: Well see, well we've jumped from what I said before about one of the questions you asked me, I never got involved in the social thing with Ned Smith. It was having a beer with him and this was when I was in the cops and I would always tell my superior that I was going to have a beer with Ned Smith. Mainly it was the Star Hotel at Alexandria, little old pub there. Julia Baird: But you didn't record all these meetings in your notebook, did you? Roger Rogerson: I, every time I met with Ned Smith to talk about something or other I wrote it in my diary because it was after work; I was getting overtime for it. Julia Baird: So when Ian Temby found that you didn't, he got it wrong? Roger Rogerson: Found what? Julia Baird: ...found that you didn't record all these meetings in your notebook? Roger Rogerson: He didn't, I don't remember him saying that. Julia Baird: That's true, that was one of his findings. Roger Rogerson: Yes but that's hang on, that's Neddy Smith saying I had all these meetings. He's saying, "Oh Ned said it, it's got to be true." I said, "We didn't." Julia Baird: So what happened then, I mean you were effectively kicked out of the police force in 1986 because of your association with criminals? Roger Rogerson: No, no I was charged departmentally. One was telling the world, I think to Ray Martin that Ned Smith was an informer. There was another situation where Ned rang me about some gold coins. My next phone call, from the same phone, was to the Property Tracing Section to see whether these gold coins had been stolen. Well they put the wrong connotation...I mean I did it straight away. If I wanted to knock some gold coins off why would I ring up and have my name recorded at the Property Tracing Section that Detective Sergeant Rogerson has made some inquiries about some gold coins. Wouldn't that be prima-facie that I'm trying to find out whether there were gold coins that had been stolen. Julia Baird: But nonetheless the powers in the police force decided that this was enough to expel you from the force. Roger Rogerson: Yes, this was Jack Avery the former commissioner and he was the one that sacked me. Julia Baird: Because of a campaign against you? Roger Rogerson: He led the campaign, he was part of it, this new broom that got in, that they put in all the new police that were there, before the Royal Commission. Julia Baird: And what about those people around you who kind of stuck by you through this time? Obviously it's had a serious toll on you, what about your family? I mean your first wife you were married to for more than twenty years, Joy. Roger Rogerson: That's correct, yes. Julia Baird: She stuck by you for a very long time but then eventually gave up, what happened, did she lose faith? Roger Rogerson: We got divorced after I'd long left the cops. I still had the trials to face. It was 1990. Julia Baird: Right, but that's the point she stood by you until 1990, what happened? Roger Rogerson: Well maybe she just got fed up herself, you know maybe it was my fault. I'll take all the blame; I'd never blame my first wife. I mean she, we had two beautiful daughters, I've got seven fantastic grand kids. My daughters are very close to me, I know they're very close to their Mum but they're also very close to their Dad. Julia Baird: Are you and Joy still in touch? Roger Rogerson: No, no I mean we've never been in touch since we got divorced. Julia Baird: And of course your second wife, Anne Melocco is still serving out a stint of weekend detention. Roger Rogerson: That's right; yes that's wonderful, nearly finished now. She's been unbelievably strong and she's an absolutely fantastic woman but she's being punished because she's married to me. Julia Baird: Do you feel guilty about that? Roger Rogerson: Course I do. Julia Baird: Because she was caught up in the lies you told to the Police Integrity Commission. Roger Rogerson: Well she was called to the witness box before me. I heard her give evidence. The whole thing was a trap, 38304 hours of listening device tapes, trying to find some evidence about me protecting a strip joint. That was what they were trying to do and what do they pick up? A bit of nonsense about us doing a little bit of work for Liverpool Council and all Anne ever did was type out the quotes and do the invoices for myself and the other guy who was involved with me. Julia Baird: And what about your brother Owen because he has said that being related to you ruined his career. Roger Rogerson: That's right, ruined his career. Julia Baird: Do you feel guilty about that? Roger Rogerson: Course I do because they would not appoint Owen to be on the control board that runs the Casino because his name was Rogerson but he's suing the police department. But yes, his career was ruined because his name is Rogerson. Julia Baird: Do you still have any contact today? Roger Rogerson: Of course I do, Owen visited me, he brought me Mum up to see me. We're not close but we're brothers and we'll always remain brothers but of course I feel terribly lousy because of what they did to him. Julia Baird: Does he still blame you? Roger Rogerson: He doesn't blame me, he's never blamed me. He's saying because he's a Rogerson it had to be because of me but he doesn't blame me physically and say, "Well, you know, look blah, blah, blah." Julia Baird: Well obviously all of this has taken a serious toll on your family. Roger Rogerson: Of course it has. Julia Baird: And it's also taken a toll on you and before your jailing in 2004 you were apparently suffering from depression and anxiety. Roger Rogerson: That's, absolutely. Julia Baird: Your psychiatrist told the court that you were close to psychotic. What was going on then? Roger Rogerson: Well I was. I was completely off the air. I mean I... Julia Baird: Did you think you were losing your mind? Roger Rogerson:: Well, why not? I mean this was going on for six years. It took them three years to summons Anne and myself and suddenly one day a summons server arrived with a summons from there to charge you with perjury or false swearing but three years after, of course it affects you. Julia Baird: Are you still suffering from depression? Roger Rogerson: Not now, no. No I got over it, I think the twelve months did me good in the end. Julia Baird: And you're suffering from Parkinson's disease? Roger Rogerson: No, no that's wrong, I'll produce a Doctor's Certificate to prove I haven't got Parkinson's Disease. Julia Baird: Despite this depression which the psychiatrist detailed and the minor stroke you suffered in 2004, it didn't save you from the prison sentence. Were you scared about going back to gaol? Roger Rogerson: No, why? Julia Baird: But you had had your share of bad times the first time around, didn't you in Berrima you had said that that was fairly unpleasant, you had hot water thrown at you, you were menaced? Roger Rogerson: No, that was at Long Bay Gaol. Julia Baird: Oh, Long Bay, right. Roger Rogerson: Yes, nothing happened at Berrima and nothing would happen at Kirkconnel. Kirkconnel is a protection gaol. It's full of dogs, it's full of paedophiles, sex offenders and ex-cops and those sort of people. Julia Baird: So what was your time like there? Roger Rogerson: Went fairly quickly. I had a job, I was a storeman, I was treated fairly. Julia Baird: So I believe you saw Rodney Adler when you were there, how's he doing? Roger Rogerson: Well Rodney came there and he seemed to settle in fairly well but then all this rot started about him supposed to be doing work in the place and he wasn't there for very long and he was on the truck and off to Bathurst. Julia Baird: Was he given any heat? Roger Rogerson: I think he was, I think he was mistreated I think. Not mistreated physically but I think there was a bit of undercurrent there about maybe for what he was there for and you know I had quite a few chats to him and we had a couple of cups of coffee together. Julia Baird: When you say 'mistreated' are you talking about by inmates or by the guards? Roger Rogerson: I think the system mistreated him. I think that had he been called into the Governor's office and been told that, "Definitely you can't do this and you can't do that and you can't do something else", I think that he would have done as he was told. Julia Baird: Do you feel that you've changed at all after another stint on the inside? Do you feel bitter about what's happened to you or more philosophical? Roger Rogerson:: No, I'll always remain bitter about certain things. No, I think I'm, I don't feel too bad. In fact I you know, I came home and spoke to my wife and said I want to make sure that certain things don't worry me again. And my wife Anne sort of always accused me of being a control freak. I like things just right. I like the lawn being just right and the edges done just right. Maybe I've changed and I'm not going to worry so much about those sort of things. Julia Baird: Did you spend anytime when you were inside thinking about the spiritual side of life? Roger Rogerson: Well someone sent me a bible. Julia Baird: Did you read it? Roger Rogerson: I had a bit of a read, it was a modern version from America called The Message Bible and I was called out of the compound obviously to pick it up and I went and got it and there was no, nothing inside it, there was no note. I checked with my daughters because they're quite religious and their husbands and they assured me that they would have sent me a bible had they thought I would read it but they thought it would be a waste of time so they didn't send it. Someone did and it had a little note in the back there, you know, "Where will you be in eternity?" So obviously it was worrying about my future. Julia Baird: What did you think of it? Roger Rogerson: Not a bad book, yes. Julia Baird: Do you believe in God? Roger Rogerson: Yes, I believe in a God of some description. I'm not a religious man. I grew up in the Protestant faith, my mother's very religious and my daughters are and their husbands. One of my son - in - laws is a Minster of religion. Julia Baird: Anglican Minister? Roger Rogerson: No, he's a Church of Christ Minister. Julia Baird: Right. Roger Rogerson: But I went to the Sunday School, that's where I actually met Joy, at Sunday School. Julia Baird: And is there a faith in you that's developed more over the years? Roger Rogerson: Not really, no, I must admit I've lost faith in human nature. Julia Baird: But a faith in God? Roger Rogerson: Faith in God? I'm not real certain. I'd like someone to come back and, like if Kerry Packer had said, "I saw a nice white light that I was heading to", I'd be off to church. Julia Baird: What do you think happens when you die? Roger Rogerson: I don't know, I don't know. I'd like to think that it all happens, that you go up to heaven and have a nice life up there but then I look at the practical side. I think of all the millions and millions of people that have lived since Jesus was on this earth, where are they? Are the good people in heaven? They must be sick of living in heaven by now, you'd think it would get boring, I don't know. That's, they're all the things that I look at but my daughters tell me I shouldn't look at it that way and my mother assures me I shouldn't but I suppose I'm a pragmatic sort of a person. Julia Baird: And if you did cross the line and you were going towards a white light, you went to the Gates of Heaven, St Peter's standing there saying, looking at the deeds of your life and saying, "Roger Rogerson...", what would be the end of his sentence? Roger Rogerson: He'd probably send me back, I deserve to be sent back. Julia Baird: Why? Roger Rogerson: I think I just, I've been pretty naughty over the years just being myself. As I said, I'm no white knight and I never pretended to be a white knight but I suppose you could say that I don't really deserve, there'd be more deserving cases to go to heaven than me. Julia Baird: You wouldn't say, "Can I be forgiven for not being a white knight?" Roger Rogerson: No, I wouldn't ask for forgiveness, no, I'd cop it on the chin, I'd cop it on the chin. Julia Baird: Let's talk about you being back on the comedy circuit. What is it about your story that makes people laugh? Roger Rogerson: I crack a few funny lines which I think are funny. For instance I usually start off by saying, "People mainly want to know the difference between how we did things in my day and how things are done today", and I say, "Look, ladies and gentlemen, when I was in the police, it was always well known that the New South Wales Police Force was the best Police Force money could buy." And then they laugh and then I say, "But today the Police Force we've got today, nobody wants to buy it", which usually gets a better laugh, a bigger laugh. And I talk about you know the things, mainly the shootings and what have you and I talk mainly about Lanfranchi and about Butch Burns and I talk about Phillip Western. Julia Baird: A lot of people have wondered how you can get on stage with someone like Chopper Read who jokes about murder and violent crime, I mean can you see why people would be upset? Roger Rogerson: Well who's upset? The punters aren't upset. Who's upset? What some Church of England and Anglican priest or a...? Julia Baird: Or a Church of Christ one if we're being specific. Roger Rogerson: Well one of my daughters came along, Melinda came along and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Julia Baird: I'm interested in this because you've spoken so much, you've been so insistent through this interview that you have stuck by the rules, that you always did the right thing as a cop, that your alliance with any criminals wasn't an alliance it was simply as informants, it was simply professional and now you're part of an act with a murderer. I mean is there part of you that's uncomfortable about that? Roger Rogerson: I see! They're going to book me for consorting every time I go on stage are they. This is a show, this is an entertainment, all right, it's brutal, it's brutal but people love it. I mean the people who watch our show; obviously they don't go to the opera, they don't go and watch Shakespeare. This is what they like and good on them. Julia Baird: But you don't feel any discomfort yourself? Roger Rogerson: Well look I talk about what I did and how we kept the streets clean and look all I say, 'I stand on my record'. Okay now what I did or didn't do or what you think I did or you think I didn't do, my record I say proves that how we did things back in my day kept the streets clean. Now that's all we're interested in. Julia Baird: As we said before you were a cop who was once tipped to rise to the top. Roger Rogerson: Yes, someone told me I was going to be Commissioner once, yes. Julia Baird: You were a hero of the force, you've now served two jail sentences, you said to me then if you've probably been a bit naughty, you haven't always been a white knight. Roger Rogerson: I'm not a white knight. Julia Baird: Do you wish you'd done things differently? Roger Rogerson: No. Julia Baird: Do you have regrets? Roger Rogerson: No, I would never, well. Look, the regret is this that I should never have been a detective, I should have looked at some of these people who I saw go on to become Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners. I should have got a job at headquarters and then bummed my way through there and got a nice easy job and that's the way to do it. That's the way to get to the top. Julia Baird: Do you think you can put the past behind you now? Roger Rogerson: Well what do you mean put it behind me, the only people who bring the past forward are people like you again, I don't, I never talk about it. Julia Baird: You talk about it on stage. Roger Rogerson: Yes, on the stage, what I did, that's right, but how can I when people ring up and say, "Roger would you come on here, would you have an interview with us?" And it all comes out again and then you'll say to me, "Can you put it behind you?" How do I put the past behind me when everyone wants to bring it out all the time?