Roger Rogerson: Telling it straight

A polished performer, extremely enthusiastic worker, outstanding detective... – police appraisal of Rogerson, pre-1984

If Roger Rogerson was directing the traffic, I wouldn't leave the kerb. – Sydney Queen's Counsel, 1986

There are a lot of stories about Roger Rogerson, some of them true. Depending on who's telling the tale, he is (or was) good or evil, charming or chilling, ace detective or baddest apple in the barrel.

The prosecution says he gunned down a robber as cold-bloodedly as he once allegedly connived to get a fellow policeman shot. But the defence has witnesses that Rogerson once rescued several children from drowning – as fearlessly as the night he disarmed a vicious killer, winning another bravery award to add to his collection.

Then there is the Shirley Bassey tale: as a young detective, Rogerson caught a thief with the singer's handbag, snatched from a nearby theatre where she was appearing. He took it to her dressing-room, mentioned he was half Welsh himself, and the sultry one took him for a drink. Whenever she came to Sydney after that, she would call her favourite cop.

But it's a story Rogerson tells almost as an afterthought that reveals the ambiguous moral code of a man with the steel nerves to play both good cop and bad cop.

It happened in 1994, halfway through his three-year jail sentence for perverting the course of justice. One day, two neatly dressed strangers turned up to see him at Berrima prison in NSW's Southern Highlands ("A dogs' jail", as Rogerson wryly calls it in prison slang, "for paedophiles and ex-police").

Sombre and earnest in suits and ties, the two visitors looked a little like Mormons.

They were on a mission, but it wasn't from God. They were from the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service and they had a deal to offer.

If Rogerson would testify about the "police culture" of the previous 30 years, he could walk free on a special licence. They had the form ready for him to fill in. Rogerson asked what they expected for the get-out-of-jail card. They said they wanted him to tell the commission about a group of "old school" senior police, and listed several names well known to him.

"They told me I was a conduit between what they called 'corrupt senior officers' and younger officers," snorts Rogerson.

"The blokes they wanted me to tip a bucket of shit on, they were great Australians," he adds indignantly. "One bloke fought the Japanese; another was a tail gunner, for God's sake. But that didn't matter. If I was willing to bag them, all I had to do was sign up and I'd be straight out."

They slid the form across the table. Rogerson tore it up and dropped it in the bin, then went back to his cell to contemplate another 18 months' jail. And the visitors went back to the royal commission with the unsettling news that the most infamous bent cop in Australia couldn't be bought.

'A man of his word'

Rogerson is a man of his word... (but) he killed men in the line of duty, was very vicious and wouldn't hesitate to lock you up and flog you badly – with the help of other police, of course. – Arthur "Neddy" Smith, criminal, 1992

Before Roger Rogerson went to jail again early in 2005 – for lying to the Police Integrity Commission – he was in a bad way. Two days before he was due to face the NSW District Court, his solicitor took him to his psychiatrist, Dr Thomas Clark, who was shocked by the change in his patient.

Months before, Clark had assessed Rogerson as "stoic" and with "a new resolve to shape his life" – but now he seemed incoherent, depressed, perhaps suicidal. He could not follow logic and showed signs of paranoia, even "creeping dementia".

"He has been neglecting himself. He's usually such a dapper sort of person. He was actually in tears . . . quite inappropriately," Clark later told the court. Rogerson had been admitted voluntarily to a psychiatric hospital, preventing him from attending, he said.

Unmoved, the Crown prosecutor asked: "Could this all be an act by him, a ploy, to avoid being sentenced?"

"It could be," Clark replied, an answer that must have deepened Rogerson's depression symptoms when he heard about it.

At least his solicitor, Paul Kenny, stayed on message. When Rogerson came out of hospital to be sentenced to a minimum of one year's jail, Kenny told reporters sadly: "Roger used to be a tough guy – these days he's just a broken-down old man . . . a hard man completely broken by the system."

Rogerson's courage and intelligence have never been in doubt. He must also be a fine actor. Only weeks before his sentencing, he had put on a convincing brave front to speak at the 50th birthday of retired standover man Mark "Chopper" Read in Melbourne. Ignoring his own troubles, he spoke warmly and well to a gathering in a Collingwood pub.

He told funny stories, joked and had a drink with people he might once have enjoyed locking up. Had there been a piano there he might have played a few tunes, the way he used to at police functions. But after returning to Sydney to face his demons, it seems the facade crumbled and he slid into depression.

The human spirit is resilient. Three months later, in Kirkconnell Correctional Centre in central-western NSW, Rogerson came back from the brink of mental collapse. To pass what he now chirpily calls "my 12-month sabbatical", he took on sudoku puzzles and soon became the jail champion – a remarkable feat for a then 64-year-old so recently threatened by mental decay. He also read a Bible sent by an anonymous well-wisher. It came with a note that read: "Where will you be in eternity?"

By the time he was paroled in February 2006, Rogerson had recovered so well he seemed almost as sharp as a psychiatrist or barrister. In fact, when this reporter called him he recalled precise details of a conversation we'd had two years earlier. It's amazing what 12 months of rehabilitation can do. Either that or the prosecutor was right all along.

Blue Murder and the myths

There was one prisoner telling everybody he'd been shot by me... I said to him: 'Look, mate, the people I've shot don't end up in the hospital, they go straight to the morgue', and that quietened him down. – Roger Rogerson, 1990

The trouble with being Roger Rogerson, he says himself, is that the man gets buried under the myth – beneath the stories, jokes, lies, exaggerations and sheer entertainment.

He blames Blue Murder for this. People think they know all about him after seeing the compelling TV series based on events in the early 1980s Sydney underworld. A "docudrama", it blends the powerful appeal of perceived fact with the narrative drive of fiction.

Rogerson thinks it was fine entertainment. But as a study of police corruption, it's like mistaking Saving Private Ryan for a history of World War II, or Heath Ledger's Ned Kelly for the real outlaw. It is the nature of filmmaking to compress and dramatise. That the series could not be broadcast in NSW for years because of ongoing trials gave it the cachet of being "banned" – and a backhanded credibility. If it might sway a jury it must be right, mustn't it?

Not surprisingly, Rogerson argues that the character bearing his name was nothing like him. "For a start they had him smoking – I've never smoked in my life," he fumes. "They had him inviting [notorious criminal Arthur] 'Neddy' Smith to barbecues at my home. I never let Smith near my house."

Item by item, he picks holes in "his" screen character – the lawyer's tactic of finding flaws in a case to persuade a jury to reject it all.

One of his pet stories underlines his mixed feelings at being portrayed as a handsome villain by an actor (Richard Roxburgh) who uncannily resembles the younger Rogerson. "When Blue Murder came out I sat down to watch it with my wife, Anne," he says. "After watching for a while she turned to me and said, 'I didn't realise you were so good-looking when you were young!' "

He makes it a joke but it's on him: behind the laughter is the unsettling fact that the illusion is stronger than the real thing, that he has been flattered and defamed at the same time.

For good legal and dramatic reasons, Blue Murder put Rogerson front and centre of a sinister but plausible account of police corruption and criminal behaviour. Named and blamed at will because he has been convicted and jailed, he is caught in a notoriety trap that amplifies his guilt.

While Rogerson's name has become shorthand for "bent cop", the fact that other police – and politicians – were also guilty fades from memory. They got away with it because, unlike Rogerson, they didn't "stick their head over the parapet", to quote former colleagues.

The point is underlined by Darren Goodsir, the reporter whose book Line of Fire was a factual base for the Blue Murder script, as were Neddy Smith's memoirs (of which Rogerson says, "Neddy is a raving rat and a consummate liar"). Goodsir, now The Sydney Morning Herald's news chief (he has since become editor-in-chief), is a strong critic of Rogerson but points out there were worse police. "There were some bad cops: people who did grubby deals with paedophiles, people who did killings," Goodsir says. "Rogerson provides a convenient shroud."

But you won't catch Rogerson complaining that he carries the can for the ones who got away. He doesn't make admissions.

And unlike that other well-known Bankstown boy, Paul Keating, who now collects French Empire clocks elsewhere, Rogerson still lives in the old neighbourhood and sticks to the streetfighter code the former PM adopted so well in parliament: if you get knocked down, get up and keep punching. Don't dob. And never admit pain, fear or guilt. Especially guilt.

The Bradman of Padstow Heights

Before Avery, they used to make heroes of people like Rogerson... His greatest mistake was being born 20 years too late. – journalist Andrew Keenan, 1986

The man behind the myth turned 65 in 2006. A husband twice over, father of two, grandfather of seven, devoted oldest son of a sweet old lady who goes to church every Sunday. He doesn't wear jewellery, is partial to singlets and cardigans. He polishes his (plain black) shoes before going out. He would look at home in a bowls club or a Rotary meeting. You know he cuts the lawn dead straight.

He is smaller than a lot of policemen of his era; age and injury have eroded the hard physical presence but not the cheery manner or the combative confidence usually seen in top sportsmen and others used to imposing their will. He mentions that journalist Evan Whitton once likened him to the young Don Bradman in an article about Dr Bertram Wainer, the abortion campaigner from Melbourne who also exposed police corruption.

Whitton credits the Bradman line to his co-author Bruce Hanford, but recalls the occasion well. In 1969 he and Hanford accompanied Wainer to Sydney to a tense meeting with senior NSW police to "discuss" abortion rackets.

Wainer the whistleblower feared being killed because illegal abortionists had paid bent police and politicians for decades. The acting CIB head, the ill-fated Don Fergusson (later found shot dead at police headquarters), chose the junior Rogerson and his "mentor" Noel Morey to front Wainer. Whitton recalls that Rogerson, though only 29, "was the sharpest of the three" police and did indeed resemble Bradman: compact, gimlet-eyed and cool.

The likeness was not only physical. Someone once wrote that Bradman combined "poetry and murder" at the crease; in business, too, "The Don" had a ruthless streak. Rogerson reputedly also did some of his best work with a bat, usually of the baseball variety. But that was all a long time ago.

He now lives in a neat house in a neat street in Padstow Heights, near where he grew up in Bankstown, in Sydney's south-west. Enterprising reporters have described the unremarkable brick veneer as a mansion with a luxury "Daimler" sedan in the garage. The facts are a little duller: the car is a 1980 Jaguar his wife, Anne, bought for $9000 nine years ago from a workmate. Mostly, he drives a geriatric Falcon wagon to carry tools to do manual work. The couple took a mortgage to buy the house for a modest figure in 1998 and are paying it off.

If Rogerson ever did have black money stashed away – apart from the $110,000 over which he was prosecuted in 1990 – there is no sign of it. Four trials and a divorce will do that. He says the last court case alone cost $200,000, covered by a loan they're also paying off.

He still has the weekender on the north coast he bought in 1979. The fibro house he bought in Condell Park, also near Bankstown, in 1965 went to his first wife, Joy, when their marriage collapsed in the early 1990s. The allegations and evidence aired in court hearings were shattering for the quiet, churchgoing woman he had met at Sunday school. Rogerson's two daughters – "they call me a silly old dickhead" – are married with children aged from four to 13.

These days Rogerson spends a lot of time tinkering in sheds. After leaving the force, he and a partner ran a scaffolding business and he has always worked on cars and houses, helping neighbours and friends with theirs. Favours went both ways: a court was told that a neighbour let him keep a tin of "documents" at his place. The prosecution suggested it was full of cash. Rogerson denied it.

His work ethic is strong. When he was jailed from 1992 to 1995 (for perverting the course of justice to explain the $110,000) he made fine jarrah wall clocks and dining tables that sold for good money – the tables for up to $2500 - to pay huge legal bills. Each piece had a Rogerson nameplate - a selling feature.

Manual work has been hard to do since he wrecked his shoulder three years ago. A roof fell under him as he helped a friend demolish a shed. He fell four metres, scared that flying corrugated iron might kill him. Now his left hand is weak, his right shoulder is cocked in the air and he limps. He still works "on the tools" but has to swing a hammer with two hands and his balance is bad. He recently cut his legs while rebuilding his garden fence.

It's a long way from the dashing Dirty Harry antihero in Blue Murder. But the reputation persists. Now he is playing along with it, working the speaking circuit to milk the maverick legend, no matter if he is a grandad with a dodgy shoulder.

Touring on the club circuit

Before he went to jail last year he started touring pubs and clubs with former AFL footballers Mark "Jacko" Jackson and Warwick Capper, after Jackson invited him at the suggestion of Chopper Read. Since getting out of jail – "my recent fact-finding mission", he deadpans – he has teamed up with Jackson, Read and two stand-up comics to do a new travelling show, Wild Colonial Psychos. It is somewhere between sportsmen's night and vaudeville, with a touch of freak show.

In April they toured Queensland. Before that they spent seven nights in Perth. While there, Rogerson and Read did an hour of drivetime radio on 6PR with Howard Sattler, a talkback veteran showing his disapproval of ex-crooks by giving them lots of airtime.

Sattler throws the compulsory hard questions and Rogerson and Read slip them like the old tent boxers they are. The host starts grinning in spite of himself, especially when the board lights up with calls.

Outside the studio, two young women wait to be photographed with Read. Then the breakfast show host on 6PR's sister music station arrives. He has to meet "Roger", he says, because when he lived in Sydney he and his mates did their own Blue Murder "tours" of the pubs and restaurants seen in the series. A cult thing.

Later, an old friend calls Rogerson to say he will catch the pub show that night. Rogerson, sitting in a hired Tarago van, tells him drily: "We get an eclectic crowd, mate, but we're not keeping many away from the ballet and opera."

Two hours later he is perched on a stool on stage in a suburban beer barn, yarning away ("I'm not a comedian") to 100 strangers about shooting crooks in the line of duty in the "best police force that money could buy". The tag line to which is that these days, cops are namby-pamby, the streets aren't safe and "the new police service is so useless no one wants to buy it". The crowd, however, buys the hardnosed cop routine.

After the gig, Rogerson recalls his first show, at a Cronulla pub in late 2003. It was a packed house – and more than half were police, mostly young constables who had been babies when he was in "the job". Funny thing was, he says, they lined up for his autograph afterwards. It happened again at pubs in Rozelle, then at Bondi. The cult thing, again. But that wasn't what touched him most.

Before another show, at a pub in Sydney's west, a middle-aged man approached him in the car park and shook hands. His name was Brian Harland. Back in November 1980, Rogerson arrested an armed jail escapee who had just killed Brian's younger brother, Patrick. A 21-year-old apprentice, Patrick Harland, was awarded a posthumous bravery medal for chasing the escapees in his Volkswagen after they robbed the hotel where he worked part-time, an act of reckless courage that got him shot dead. Hours later, Rogerson cornered the armed killer, Gary Purdey, in a backyard garage. He could have shot him, but didn't. Brian Harland sometimes wishes he had.

Every year until she died, the Harlands' mother sent Rogerson a Christmas card, a way of thanking him for treating her family so kindly during the murder trial.

Brian Harland is still grateful. "Roger was the only one in court to say that Rick was a brave young fella. The others just called him 'the body' and 'the deceased', but Roger could see what it meant to Mum. He was at the top of the tree then and now he's doing it tough. I went to see him and shake his hand as a show of support."

The police force gave Rogerson its highest award in 1980 for arresting Purdey. A drug squad detective called Michael Drury won it the next year. It's a small world: just three years later, one police hero stood accused of pocketing blood money to have the other shot.

Black knight with criminal contacts

Roger is a polite, courteous, gentlemanly old fellow these days ... but I'm never going fishing with him. - Mark "Chopper" Read

It is 20 years this July since Roger Rogerson was drummed out of the force by a police tribunal he dismisses contemptuously as "a kangaroo court". Being found guilty of internal discipline charges rubber-stamped the end of a brilliant career that had capsized nearly two years before he handed in his badge in late 1986. Worse disgrace lay ahead.

Under the old police regime that nurtured his rise, he might have stared down the grave allegations against him. But any chance of weathering the scandals that started to break in 1984 vanished when John Avery became the new police commissioner in August that year.

Avery was a new broom with a brief to sweep out what the media dubbed the force's "black knights", and he tackled it with missionary zeal. Rogerson's was not the only name on Avery's hit list, but it was at the top.

Rogerson was the CIB golden boy, but for some years he had attracted speculation and suspicion as well as admiration. His network included both senior police and heavy criminals, but he had made enemies on the way up, and when the tide turned, people started to point.

Chief among Rogerson's criminal contacts were Neddy Smith, a violent armed robber and drug dealer, and Lennie McPherson, reputedly Australia's biggest Mr Big. When the Melbourne hitman Christopher Dale Flannery arrived in Sydney, Rogerson put him on his list of useful drinking buddies. It was a mistake.

Rogerson argued that such alliances kept his finger on the underworld's pulse. Others thought it positioned him to direct a cross-flow of bribes, inside information and favours between key gangsters and a police force some rated among the most corrupt in the First World, behind Hong Kong and New York.

No one denies that the charismatic detective sergeant punched above his weight. Whatever his methods, he got results. He made many arrests, won more commendations than his peers and, at the start of the 1980s, seemed set to become a superintendent, even assistant commissioner.

But the old order crumbled. By late 1984, when Rogerson was disgraced and ordered back into uniform, his friends at court couldn't save him, though some tried hard.

He was forced to take extended leave to fight accusations that will dog him all his life – the worst being that he had conspired to have Michael Drury, an undercover detective, shot, to help a drug pusher facing charges.

He would eventually be acquitted of this (and of attempting to bribe Drury) but as long as the Drury shooting remains officially unsolved, a cloud hangs over Rogerson.

It was a horrific crime against a reputedly honest policeman doing his duty. Drury was standing near his daughter when he was shot twice through his kitchen window. The .357 calibre hollow-point bullets inflicted massive internal wounds. Drury survived, but thought he wouldn't, making a "dying deposition" in which he accused Rogerson of trying to bribe him to "run dead" in a big heroin-trafficking case against a Melbourne drug dealer, Alan Williams.

Some speculated Drury was delirious or affected by medication but he stuck to his story, despite pressure from at least one senior policeman, Angus McDonald, who refused to believe the allegation against Rogerson.

'A clean kill'

But the CIB golden boy was already tarnished. He had been under attack by sections of the media – notably investigative reporter Wendy Bacon – and the family and girlfriend of Warren Lanfranchi, a criminal Rogerson shot dead in intriguing circumstances in 1981.

Rogerson shot Lanfranchi twice, the shots spaced several seconds apart, officially while trying to arrest him at a meeting in a Sydney lane set up by the treacherous Neddy Smith in a spot staked out by 18 detectives.

Lanfranchi's family and his girlfriend, an articulate, attractive and media-savvy prostitute called Sallie-Anne Huckstepp, went public – accusing Rogerson of killing Lanfranchi because he had robbed a heroin dealer friendly with bent police. Huckstepp, too, would be killed – she was strangled and found floating in a pond in Centennial Park in early 1986. Neddy Smith was charged with her murder years later, after boasting about it to a fellow prisoner, but was later acquitted.

Rogerson robustly defends the Lanfranchi shooting as a "clean kill" of a violent gunman, sex offender and drug dealer wanted for armed robberies – and for trying to shoot a traffic policeman. "We'd arrested his co-offenders for the robberies – no way we could not arrest him." He says Lanfranchi was also a murder suspect, that his fingerprints were on a baseball bat found near a man who had been bashed to death.

Questions still linger. Did Lanfranchi (as his girlfriend swore) have a $10,000 bribe with him?

The police said he did not. Did Lanfranchi produce a handgun? The police said he did - and swore that was why Rogerson was forced to shoot him.

A coroner's jury found Rogerson had killed Lanfranchi while trying to arrest him but declined to find it was in self-defence or in execution of his duty. Despite media and public disquiet, fuelled by Lanfranchi's angry family and Huckstepp's subsequent death, few police rank it as the blackest mark against Rogerson. A respected Victorian detective who worked in Sydney in the era says the consensus was that "Lanfranchi had it coming".

But the Drury case is different - even if not seen that way at first. When Rogerson was initially acquitted, in separate trials, of attempting to bribe Drury and of conspiring to kill him, police openly congratulated him. He got a standing ovation at a CIB dinner. Money was collected to support him.

But when Rogerson was subsequently charged over $110,000 held in bank accounts under false names, support for him withered - even among so-called fellow "black knights" in the force. When newspapers ran bank security photographs of Rogerson waiting to get the secret money, the public relations war against Avery's "God Squad" was lost.

Rogerson's explanation of the cash's origins - the sale of a vintage Bentley car - strained credibility and would, in fact, eventually land him in jail for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. It seemed to some police that while they were passing around the hat, Roger had been stashing cash that publicly implicated him in sinister deals. It looked bad for everyone. For self-preservation, if not moral pangs about Drury's near-death, they distanced themselves.

All of which might explain why Rogerson is now quieter about Drury's shooting than about Lanfranchi's. Maybe he learnt a lesson in a bold TV interview with Ray Martin on April 1, 1986, when he claimed he had never met a corrupt policeman "except Drury". He also claimed Avery's officers were trying to "fit him" with a charge and named Neddy Smith and Lennie McPherson as "informants". Any chance he might be allowed to go quietly ended at that moment. Days later, the discipline charges were laid that formally destroyed his career.

He is more careful now. He calmly repeats his version of events: that on his way home on the night Drury was shot, June 6, 1984, he dropped in at the Arncliffe Scots Club to meet Christopher Flannery, who had called him earlier in the day about a car he had seen in his street. (Flannery, the hitman police believe was ordered to kill Drury, thought he was a target, too - correctly, as it turned out. He disappeared in mid-1985.)

Rogerson says he had a drink with Flannery and left around 6.30pm. But Flannery's wife, Kathleen, later stated Rogerson was still there when she turned up about 7.15pm. If correct, the time difference is crucial.

In Line of Fire, Goodsir suggests Flannery had time to shoot Drury at 6.10pm, then hurry to meet Rogerson to fake an alibi. Rogerson, ever the expert witness, doggedly insists Flannery was with him at the time of the shooting "and he couldn't be in two places at once".

So if it wasn't Flannery, who did shoot Drury?

Rogerson, poker-faced, says he heard it was another Melbourne gunman, Laurie Prendergast. Then he changes the subject.

From Bondi to Bankstown

Roger was taught the value of things and was determined to do the best at whatever he took on. – his mother, Mabel Rogerson, 2006

Mabel Rogerson is almost 90 but her mind, voice and family loyalty are strong. She is proud of her family's "pirate relative" – Sir Henry Morgan, knighted by Charles II for plundering the Caribbean in the mid-1600s. She is also proud of her oldest son. "They" hounded him because of jealousy, she confides.

Roger Caleb Rogerson was born in Sydney on January 3, 1941, and spent his early days in Bondi before the family moved to a farmlet at Bankstown. They had a cow, goats, hens, and a horse that Roger rode to school. He learnt piano and played the organ at the local Church of Christ, where he met the girl he would marry.

His first name was from his father's nickname, "Rodgie", his second from his maternal grandfather, Caleb Boxley, a former Welsh coalminer who had migrated when Mabel was nine. The three generations lived happily together. "It was a home filled with love," Mabel recalls. She had a daughter two years after Roger, another son 11 years after that.

Roger's father Owen was born in Yorkshire in 1901, was apprenticed as a boilermaker in Hull shipyards and migrated at 19. He worked in the outback and then on building the Harbour Bridge before moving to the docks and, later, the railway workshops.

Owen ("a manly man") met and married Mabel in 1939. She was 23. He was 38 but told her he was 30; she did not uncover the deception for years.

Mabel hoped her oldest boy would become an engineer but he wanted to leave school and try the police or the air force. He became a police cadet in 1958. When he graduated two years later he excelled at touch-typing, shorthand and law, a young man on the make in a force on the take. The die was cast.

One of his classmates, Barry Leaney, was born on the same day and they graduated four weeks apart. When Leaney's Volkswagen broke down, the practical and generous Rogerson fitted a new clutch for him. Later, they went on holiday to the Gold Coast together and Rogerson was best man at Leaney's wedding in 1964, but they drifted apart.

It wasn't until much later, Leaney says, that he realised they had taken "separate roads". He worked in Special Branch, monitoring political movements for potential threats. Rogerson went to 21 Division, a tough "flying squad" used to clean up trouble spots, and later moved to the armed hold-up squad, where he would make his name "catching crooks".

Once, late in the 1960s, the Leaneys visited the Rogersons and noticed how many expensive electrical goods their hosts had. Leaney assumed his old classmate was getting a lot of overtime. Years later, he laughed at himself for that.

Two years ago he organised a cadet class reunion and invited Rogerson. Rogerson said he wouldn't come in case it embarrassed the others. "I feel sorry for the man," Leaney says. "I would not turn my back on him if I saw him in the street ... he is still a good bloke."

Call many ex-Sydney cops – and some serving ones – and mention Rogerson's name and men renowned for their sharp memories become vague. They recall his achievements - the arrests, the commendations, the way he went first when raiding armed robbers - but the rest is a blur. They can't wait to hang up.

One former policeman, now big in security, warily parries questions about Rogerson, stepping outside his office so no one hears who he is speaking about.

"In ways he was fundamentally kind," he says, "and a pillar of courage and competence, with no reverse gear." He pauses. "But I have a dilemma: I have known Michael Drury since he was a kid." He pauses again. "Let's just say Roger is a complex character."

In hours of talking over several days, Rogerson is cheerful and friendly but it's clear he holds up a mask to the world. He avoids any note of regret and pleads good cop to all charges - a good cop buffeted by forces beyond his control. That's his story and he's sticking to it. No one does it better. However, despite the stoic shell, he sometimes sounds wistful about the family life wrecked by his fall. He says one of his daughters said to him, "Mum had some good reasons to leave you, didn't she?" and he answered, "She probably did."

He jokes that he reads the death notices to see which of his enemies have died - but the bitterness is real.

He says he was made a scapegoat by senior officers currying favour with the new regime.

Only once is he truly angry. "They want to see me in the gutter, a broken-down drunk," he grates. "But I won't let it happen. I'm too proud." Then he recovers and makes a joke of infamy. "I've got broad shoulders," he says. "Even if one of them is stuffed."

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