Former NSW detective Roger Rogerson
Known as "The Dodger", the controversial tough cop turned killer Roger Rogerson has died. Image by Rob Hutchison/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime

Charming and cruel, crooked cop Rogerson tainted to end

Duncan Murray January 22, 2024

For decades, his charm helped mask a ruthless self-interest that bound him to Sydney’s seamy criminal underbelly.

But the corrupt career of disgraced former detective Roger Rogerson will leave him remembered in death as one of the most crooked officers to ever carry a badge in Australia.

Rogerson died in hospital on Sunday aged 83 while serving a life sentence for murder.

Known as “The Dodger”, the notorious ex-policeman was moved from Long Bay prison to Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital on Thursday to receive end-of-life care.

Both hero and villain during his 28-year police career, Rogerson was at one time the NSW force’s most decorated officer, with a stellar career catching criminals and a formidable reputation for bravery.

That was before his close connections to some of Sydney’s most hardened crooks were exposed, eventually destroying his reputation, career and freedom.

Rogerson was ultimately convicted for the execution-style 2014 murder of drug dealer Jamie Gao.

Roger Rogerson as he leaves the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney.
 Rogerson was sentenced to life in jail for the execution murder of university student Jamie Gao. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Following his death, biographers described Rogerson as a charming but “cold-blooded” operator.

Former officer turned crime writer Duncan McNab said it was only when he asked Rogerson about the unsolved murder of Sallie-Anne Huckstepp – in which the crooked detective was said to be involved – that the “bravado just dropped”.

“You could see what a cold, cruel bastard he really was,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“Roger was pretty much Teflon-coated throughout the 80s.

“It wasn’t until he was caught on tape for the first time talking with a couple of other crooks about a large amount of money that he was trying to hide that he eventually went to jail for perjury.”

Roger Rogerson (C), Mark
 Rogerson (centre) received a police award in 1980 but within six years his career had unravelled. Image by Rob Hutchison/AAP PHOTOS 

Rogerson and his co-accused, former detective Glen McNamara, were jailed for life in 2016 after murdering Gao at a Sydney storage unit in May 2014 and dumping his body at sea.

Both of the men ran cut-throat defences at trial, arguing the other had shot Gao.

They were also jailed for stealing 2.78kg of methamphetamine with a street value of up to $19 million from the 20-year-old university student.

Crime writer Andrew Rule said ultimately Rogerson was a self-interested and calculating individual.

“He had a persona of charm, he had the jokes, he had the polite manners, he had the shiny shoes, neatly ironed shirt, as you would expect a retired policeman to be,” Mr Rule told ABC TV.

“And yet underneath that was this very steely, hard man and I always knew that underneath you would not want to be someone in his grasp.”

In March, the High Court rejected an appeal by Rogerson to have his murder conviction overturned, stamping out any hope the rogue detective had of being released.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said he was not going to “speak ill of the dead”, but Rogerson had lived a life of dishonour to the state’s police force.

At the height of his public recognition, in 1980, Rogerson received the coveted Peter Mitchell Award for outstanding police work but within six years his career would spectacularly unravel.

In 1986 he was dismissed from the police force for depositing $110,000 in bank accounts under a false name.

Earlier that decade, in 1981, he had been found responsible for the fatal shooting of another young drug dealer, Warren Lanfranchi, but controversially was deemed to have acted in the line of duty.

Lanfranchi’s girlfriend, Ms Huckstepp, said Rogerson murdered him over a drug-related dispute involving corrupt police.

She was later found strangled and drowned in a Centennial Park lake.

Rogerson was also implicated in the attempted execution of NSW undercover officer Michael Drury after the similarly decorated drug squad detective declined to accept a bribe in exchange for evidence tampering in a heroin-trafficking trial.

Drury was shot twice through his kitchen window on Sydney’s north shore, while Rogerson was charged but eventually acquitted of the attack.