Books, News & Commentary, Non-Fiction

Crime writer Duncan McNab on Roger Rogerson and other crimes

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Duncan McNab is a former police detective who has written seven non-fiction books looking into crime and corruption in Australia. Roger Rogerson, the cop turned criminal is one of McNab’s favoured subjects.

Rogerson was once one of the most highly decorated police officers in New South Wales but he was dismissed from the police force in 1986, and jailed twice. In 2006 McNab wrote The Dodger: Inside the World of Roger Rogerson.

In 2014 Roger Rogerson and a fellow cop, Glen McNamara, murdered student Jamie Gao in cold blood. Both were found guilty of murder and possession of 2.78 kilograms of methamphetamine and sentenced to life imprisonment.

McNab sat at in the Gao murder trial courtroom for 18 weeks for his new book on Rogerson simply titled Roger Rogerson.

We asked McNab about Rogerson’s criminal mind and what makes him “evil”. Roger Rogerson is published by Hachette Australia.

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Roger Rogerson was a venerated cop for a long time. When were you first aware there was something rotten behind that image? 

By 1981 I was slowly becoming aware there was something pretty rotten in the NSW Police. After the Lanfranchi shooting, rumours about Roger started swirling – The CIB of that time was gossipy. Roger had done something stupid – he’d put himself on the front page, and the media were sniffing around rather than simply accepting what they’d been fed. The times were intriguing – corruption both in politics and policing was finally becoming a story and up popped Roger.

How do you think Rogerson maintained his double life?

Roger’s first wife reckoned there were two Rogersons. One was the venerated copper, father and good neighbour – Roger was the bloke who’d always lend a hand. At the same time, he was corrupt, greedy, ego driven and a killer. I reckon it was his charm, showmanship, and our willingness to believe he was a great bloke combined with the ‘brotherhood’ of policing that protected him for so long.

Roger is a consummate actor and he played the role of good guy superbly. A gullible media who didn’t ask the hard questions and senior police who didn’t want any hurdles for their careers helped Roger greatly.

He was talented, capable, and a natural leader – the bloke you called on to do the tough jobs and get a result. When you’ve got someone built up like that, police/political PR means you don’t tear them down.

What is his status in prison?

He’s the grand old man. He’ll charm his fellow inmates, tell stories, offer advice on the court cases and so on. One story I’ve heard is that Roger, a competent pianist, is holding singalongs and karaoke in the aged care part of Long Bay.

You’ve described him as one of the most “evil men in Australian criminal history”. But how did he present to his friends and family? 

I’ve spoken to a few of his mates – hardworking honest blokes – who were astounded at what he’s done. They knew he was a bit of a rogue, and that’s fair enough, but the murder of Jamie Gao etc. has stunned them with its greed and cruelty. They’ve been conned by the ‘good’ Roger, They’ve told me of some of his work for charities they support, and his willingness to help mates in need. After Jamie Gao, they’ve seen the rotten side of Rogerson. Both his first family (wife and two children) and current wife Anne have remained silent. Anne only came to court on a couple of occasions throughout the last two years and the very long trial.

Can you think of anything positive about him?

I reckon any positives about him went out the door a few decades ago. So much promise, so much ability and so utterly wasted.

Do you think there’s good and bad in all of us?

I do…but I reckon the good usually outweighs the bad by a huge margin. Some crooks I’ve met over the years are honourable! The art is in the balance.

Do you know if Rogerson has read this book?

I don’t know. He read The Dodger, and though he later said I hadn’t approached him for comment, it was bullshit – Roger never let the truth get in the way of one of his yarns. He wrote me a letter and reckoned he’d be too busy to talk. After the book came out I got a call – usual Roger stuff…threatening, quite unpleasant and so on and showed what a deeply arrogant and unpleasant man he was.

What do you think he would think of it if he read it?

I’d be surprised if he liked it! Fortunately he doesn’t get many phone calls from prison, and they’re all monitored!

Who are your favourite crime fiction writers?

I’ve been reading crime fiction – a few books a week if time permits – since I before I hit double figures. Favourites – yikes. For food and crime, it’s Martin Walker and his ‘Bruno’ books; Australia’s Alan Carter (‘Cato Kwong’ series) Gary Disher’s ‘Inspector Challis’ series, PM (Pam) Newton; US writers like Michael Connelly, Steve Hamilton, Ace Atkins, Michael Malone and James Crumley – and greats like Ross McDonald, Raymond Chandler etc. UK writers, John Lawton, Robert Goddard and Charles Todd (who turns out to be a US mother/son team writing about the UK). I prowl the shelves to find someone new or the latest release from a favourites. I avoid Scandinavian crime…..more Australian please!! I’ve given up on Lee Child after Tom Cruise slipped into the Reacher role in film…I get the giggles.

Who are your favourite non-fiction crime writers? 

Dominick Dunne, both his non-fiction and his fiction (well, a few names changed!) are my favourites – his yarns take a different approach to the usual non-fiction crime…side stories, gossip, snippets, context, personal glimpses..makes for a much more intriguing story.

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5 responses to “Crime writer Duncan McNab on Roger Rogerson and other crimes

  1. Rogerson was a protege of Ray Kelly and Kelly learnt corrupt policing from Gaitskill.I am sure there are others like them just waiting to unleash.I taught guys who are Commisioner material but the Force always attracted bullies as well.

  2. It’s a shame The Dodger is an old fellow now. He’s been entertaining me for decades. Oh well – a prison death is what he’s been working on his whole life.

  3. Rogerson sounds like a classic sociopath. Could have been equally successful and damaging as a rightwing politician or pedophile priest.

  4. Years ago I had the opportunity to speak in detail to a fellow who was a classmate of Roger Rogerson, who remembered him in primary training and after as a recordist in short-hand at the local court working together. He remembers him as a likeable and very intelligent person able remember details minutely, particularly in court to be able to give evidence to run circles around the best barristers, in citing legislation etc. Apparently, this natural intelligence aided Roger in getting noticed early, from those above, in becoming a detective in CIB and being considered a good possibility in rising to Commissioner. Unfortunately, intelligence is part of what can be good about a person, but Roger used his intelligence for self benefit and not for good.

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