Is this the last word on who or what killed Gary Lee-Rogers?
Jean Lennane President, Whistleblowers Australia Link here
I very much doubt it. Within days of the completion of Gary’s inquest on 20 and 21 April this year, where Senior Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge had severely criticised Gary as not being a genuine whistleblower, and Whistleblowers Australia (WBA) for informing Schapelle Corby’s legal team about the case, the issue of drug- running and other serious security failings at Sydney Airport blew wide open. Who would now believe there was no substance to Gary’s original complaints? And nothing serious enough to put his life at risk?
What I had informed the Corby legal team about was the anonymous phone call Gary received before his death, telling him that he “had tripped over evidence of drug importation through Sydney Airport, involving the old Commonwealth Police network. The caller named x and y” [both fairly senior members of the then Australian Protective Service (APS)]. I had also told them I thought it likely that such issues, and the potential for embarrassment to the re-merged APS/AFP (Australian Federal Police), could help to explain AFP head Mick Keelty’s apparent hostility and unhelpfulness to the Corby team and case.
Now ex-AFP officers and others are coming out with what they know on the airport drug issues. (Could one of them have been Gary’s anonymous phone-caller, whose very existence was pooh-poohed by the court?) I am hopeful it’s only a matter of time before we start hearing from people who know what really happened to Gary — something the inquest, as is not unusual in our failing system, didn’t manage to find out.
From the first week of the inquest I have been convinced, by the attitudes and behaviour of many of those involved, that what happened is known to some. This doesn’t prove he was deliberately murdered — he was so ill it wouldn’t have taken much to kill him — but in the words of forensic pathologist Dr Duflou, “Something has happened before death, in my view, in that apartment.”
Brief history of the case (for more details refer to reports in the Whistle, January and July 2004) In September 1999, APS officer Gary Lee-Rogers made a report on security failings at Sydney Airport. He also reported problems with missing equipment, and other alleged misconduct in the APS. Within a few weeks his career was over; he had been (illegally, as it turns out) suspended without pay, and charged with a number of criminal offences — charges which over the next two years had to be progressively reduced owing to lack of evidence. The only one remaining for his trial which was to have been on 4 November 2002 was that of allegedly forging his supervisor’s signature on overtime sheets to obtain moneys he was not entitled to.
A witness who supported Gary’s claim that his supervisor had given him an electronic signature to use would have made that charge also difficult to sustain; and there would have been grave fears within the APS that if Gary continued to insist on pleading not guilty, and mounted an aggressive defence, his original complaints would become public, with enormous embarrassment for the APS, which was in the process of re-merging with the AFP, presumably to negate any such exposure by being able to claim the restructure would have fixed any problems.
After two and a half years of typical whistleblower torment and persecution, Gary’s physical and mental health had broken down, and he spent several weeks of the last few months of his life in hospital, mostly because of Mark Latham’s complaint — recurrent pancreatitis. His final discharge from Queanbeyan Hospital was on 21 September 2002. He was last known to be seen alive on 26 September, also the last day he made or answered any phone-calls. His body was found on 1 October, having been dead 2-4 days.
The Coroner’s finding
The inquest finished on 21 April 2005 with the finding by Coroner Milledge that “Gary Lee-Rogers died between 26 October [sic] 2002 and 30 October [sic] 2002 at unit 1/5 Charles St, Queanbeyan, NSW. The cause of death is natural of an unknown aetiology.”
In my opinion, this is a truly extraordinary finding. While there were indeed a number of possible causes of natural death (albeit from illness exacerbated by the stress of his two and a half years of persecution as a whistleblower), homicide was certainly not excluded, given the many strange and unexplained happenings, appearances of the death scene, and the hopelessly inadequate police investigation. And how can you make a definite finding of any cause when the cause of death isn’t known?
Even the date of his death isn’t known. He was last seen alive on 26 September, (unless he was murdered later) and didn’t make or answer any phone calls after that — unusual for him if he’d been conscious and functioning. However there were at least three possible known causes of prolonged coma, as well as other possibilities that the perfunctory autopsy could easily have missed.
An item of evidence referred to by the Coroner in her introduction, but not mentioned or accounted for in the decision, was that “I was also troubled to read the statement of Emma Kate Richardson where she refers to a verbal altercation at the flats that may have involved Mr Lee-Rogers on 28 September 2002”. Ms Richardson attempted to give this statement to police in their initial door-knock when Gary’s body was found on 1 October, but it was ignored by the officers who called at her flat and only came to light when a different officer visited some days later. Even then there was no attempt to see if she could pick Gary from a photo line-up, or his alleged assailant, AFP agent Anthony Maguire.
The “also” in the Coroner’s statement refers to “Among the many deficiencies in the police brief I was particularly concerned with the inadequacy of the investigation into the Federal Police Officer’s movements on the night he allegedly assaulted the deceased.” Coroner Milledge was formerly a NSW police officer, so presumably has some expertise in police investigation. However the quoted statements, which would seem to conflict with her decision, are typical of many such throughout the preamble.
She seemed often to want to have a bob each way, praising Gary and Whistleblowers Australia, for example, as great people one minute, and vilifying them as manipulative bullies the next. No such each-way bets with her legal team, though — “Mr Shevlin and Mr Saidi I would trust my life to those men, absolutely.” Which doesn’t do much for the idea of decisions based on objective assessment and analysis of the evidence.
The inquest, through the Coroner, gave WBA unprecedented access to internal APS files in this case. A couple of highly relevant files had mysteriously gone missing, and the first 8-9 pages were missing from several others as shown by the remaining pages having been renumbered. (Counsel representing the AFP explained this by saying it is not unusual for the AFP to have missing pages and renumbered files!) However there was a lot of most valuable, and potentially highly embarrassing, information still there. The files were contained in two large satchels, the volume of which would have prevented most people from ploughing through them all. However they had failed to allow for the presence of ex-fraud squad whistle- blower detective Debbie Locke, who was prepared to spend many hours studying them in detail, and even transcribing crucial items in longhand, as she was — rather strangely — not permitted to photocopy them.
Some very revealing memos and emails detailed Gary’s persecution by the APS. Crucially, an audit had been conducted because of complaints “by a disgruntled employee” — unnamed, but presumably Gary. The audit showed over $300,000 worth of equipment missing, including over 50 firearms, which have never been found. (Is arms-smuggling going on through our airports too?). It also showed that a recently-ex-APS senior officer had been paid over $300,000 to recruit 20 APS officers for Sydney Airport. The contract had not been advertised or put out to tender in any way; and as the audit stated, the cost was some ten times what would have been expected. There was no evidence of any action having been taken to correct this or recover the money, let alone to discover whether those awarding the contract had shared in the largesse.
It is hardly surprising that no-one on the bar-table seemed interested in getting this information out into the open, so it was left to whistleblower Debbie Locke to do it in her evidence. This was not a popular move; and possibly contributed to the Coroner’s decision to put a permanent suppression order on WBA’s submission that covered some of it.
Who were the bullies?
According to the Coroner, it was WBA, whose “inclusion made this inquest almost unbearable in many respects” in part because “both Lennane and Locke treated those decent, hardworking and committed men [her legal team, Shevlin and Saidi — S/S] like the enemy. They continually questioned their impartiality in dealing with issues at Inquest. They used all the tactics they accuse others of employing when wishing to demean and discredit a whistleblower.”
Indeed, as the only volunteer parties at the bar-table of eight taxpayer-funded lawyers, Debbie and I seem to have had a remarkable impact. Because we were abusive and unpleasant to them and the Coroner? Everything we said in her presence is on transcript; and after the first week Shevlin and Saidi refused to speak to us off the record, even to answer the simplest housekeeping questions, apart from a couple of occasions when they pounced on us, loudly verbal, for some alleged misdeed. And the friendly, bantering end-of-day chat outside the courtroom on 22 April last year that we had thought could mend some bridges turned into a serious accusation of “Whistleblowers allegedly recording conversations” as police report I 21233465 states.
Why S/S should have got so excited and alarmed about the possible recording of what they were saying, e.g. that Saidi wanted to be played by Sean Connery in the movie of Debbie Locke’s proposed book about the case, with Sharon Stone as the Coroner, isn’t clear. Could they have been worried about throwaway remarks about Gary being a “liar” and “wanker” coming from the supposedly neutral Crown Solicitor’s office? Or Saidi mentioning to Debbie Locke that he could be the one signing her husband’s cheque (in his compo case against the NSW Police)? Unfortunately, we weren’t in fact recording it. This didn’t stop the Coroner stating that, among our other crimes, “They secretly taped meetings between Whistleblowers and my legal team.”
The follow-up to that incident was also mentioned critically by the Coroner, where “...it is alleged Saidi and Shevlin were hiding behind a tree making notes about Ms Locke and Dr Lennane. I visited the courtyard and could not find a tree let alone one capable of hiding two substantial figures.” There was no attempt to check the whereabouts of the tree with us before making that statement. When we went afterwards to check for ourselves, where we remembered seeing them emerge from behind the ‘tree’ (actually a 2.5m high, dense, wide shrub) as we were doing our usual end-of-day filming session with independent filmmaker Steve Ramsey a year before, we found the ‘tree’ had gone (!) and only a recently-cut stump remained. No doubt Mr Saidi had forgotten its existence, or surely he would not have allowed the Coroner to be misled by its absence into thinking it was never there. No doubt it was also pure coincidence that the ‘tree’ had been cut down before the hearing occurred, but no wonder whistleblowers get ‘paranoid’. (Photos of the ‘tree’, with S/S emerging from behind it, and the stump, are available on Debbie Locke’s website, www.whistleblowing.com.au)
The outrageous Whistle But it seems it’s not only whistleblowers who get paranoid. The subject that took up a large part of the 28 pages of transcript from a special extra hearing called at short notice on 31 August last year, was my previous reports on the case in The Whistle. And whereas on S/S the Coroner says “I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them as far as their ethical position is with regards to any inquest and dealing with any members of the public or any group. I’ve never had any complaints before. And, as I say, I trust them with my life. But if Dr Lennane wants to continue to write letters and chip away at things and publish things that [sic] untrue well she can brace herself because I’ve had enough of it. You know, in the old days you’d say you’d read the riot act to somebody, we’ll let Whistleblowers know that the riot act is being read to them because I will not tolerate it again.” And there are many, many more pages in similar vein or worse. “And I can tell you this, Miss Locke, and you can tell Dr Lennane this, she is on the edge of me considering whether I should be taking some action against her. I am tired of all the smears. I am tired of the intimidation. I am tired of all the obstacles she is putting in our way to try and do a good job.”
“You know, Dr Lennane is the first one to throw brickbats at people and complain about people, but her conduct is shabby, absolutely shabby. And if she is the public face of Whistleblowers well you want to rethink your position because she is doing Whistleblowers no good service.”
Serendipitously I was out of town and unable to get to the hearing, much apparently to some people’s disappointment. However it was clear that an undertaking had to be given on behalf of WBA not to publish any more outrageous reports in T h e Whistle, or the Coroner would remove our privileged status of being allowed to examine witnesses — the reason there was no report after the hearing last October. This was also because, as seemed to be the Coroner’s pattern, she “read the riot act” to us at regular intervals, (was this just to keep the boys happy?) then did what they didn’t want; in this case made us formally a party to the proceedings. Unfortunately that pattern seemed to have stopped when she made her final decision.
One could interpret her behaviour as indeed being that of a victim of bullying. But by WBA, who had no direct access to her, or by her legal team, who did? And who deeply resented WBA’s presence and our insistence on including evidence they didn’t want to hear? “I was committed to embrace Whistleblowers Australia at Inquest and allow them the opportunity to inspect documents and examine witnesses. Counsel assisting and his instructing solicitor advised me against it...”
So what were the heinously outrageous statements in those Whistle reports which had this extraordinary effect? “The first newsletter that I read, I think I told you this, I got so angry I was shaking. And I don’t get angry very much. I’ve got to tell you. I don’t get angry very often at all. But I was livid, absolutely. Just to think that the hard work that’s gone into this inquest and to be treated like that is just appalling, absolutely appalling.”
Unfortunately space prevents reprinting the reports in full. However one such item was the opening sentence of my report on the second week. “The inquest resumed on Monday 19th April 2004, and closed at lunchtime on Friday 23rd.” This to me was simply a statement of fact, but got the remarkable, repeated response: “But it’s just the attitude, it’s the approach. And it’s the publications, the constant publications with the criticism. I must say that was terribly hurtful what she said ‘Oh, and it was all finished at lunchtime on Friday.’ No recognition that we’re working hard. You know, just slurs all the time. I believe that things should be published but I’ve got to tell you I am thinking at this moment of putting a non-publication order on any of the evidence that’s in this.” “But stupid things like, you know, ‘finishes at lunchtime on Friday’ as though we’re doing nothing. You know, oh here they go, they’ve swanned down to Queanbeyan, they’ve done a week, they’ve done almost a week’s work but they’ve had to leave early on the Friday.”
The last sentence of the first report also caused some offence. “With Gary’s inquest half over, many, many unanswered questions remain. Most may never be answered. The Coroner seems to be trying to do a good job. We need to work on those advising her to get them to give her both sides of the story.” It seems it was this that she interpreted as meaning she was simply a puppet in their hands, rather than what it really meant, that decisions, like computers, are only as good as the information supplied.
With my psychiatrist’s paranoia, I have to wonder whether such extreme — and on the fact of it unwarranted — reactions mean I must have hit a nerve I didn’t know was there. Judge for yourselves.
Another item in The Whistle reports that caused offence, not only to the Coroner, but also the NSW Police legal team, was about detective John Moore’s promotion. It reads: “Police investigation. This was allocated to a junior officer in Queanbeyan, Detective Senior Constable John Moore. WBA expressed concern to a NSW Police Assistant Commissioner about this at the time, pointing out that it put Moore in an impossible position, as there was a question of homicide by an AFP officer. ... Moore’s junior status has since been remedied by his promotion to sergeant — hardly adequate; many whistleblowers might have their own interpretation of a promotion in such circumstances.”
They took offence at what they took to be an implication that Moore’s promotion was “corrupt”; and were at pains to show that it was already in train long before our objection.
Not wanting to make things worse at the time, when we were under so much attack already, I refrained from explaining what I had really thought most whistleblowers’ interpretation might be — that an officer who had saved his own and a fellow service potential embarrassment by failing to find anything in his investigation, was being suitably rewarded. Certainly, despite NSW Police DI Bailey’s and the Coroner’s extensive (and well- justified) criticism of his investigation, Moore’s career seems to have prospered — at the time the inquest finished he was an Acting Inspector.
Presumably he’s learned from Gary’s case not to put crucial items of evidence in the lost property section (Gary’s mobile phone, with its evidence of threats made to him, and by whom) and — one hopes — not to leave them, without examining them, for 4-5 months until they are destroyed. And for all we know he has other talents that amply justify his continued promotion.
I accept that Moore’s promotion to sergeant was already under way before we raised our objection, i.e. it was not done “corruptly.” However any whistleblower would wonder what chance Moore would have had of the promotion proceeding if he’d found evidence incriminating police and had insisted on proceeding with it.
What they didn’t want
1. There would not have been an inquest into Gary’s death without WBA’s and media intervention. Local Coroner Lenarduzzi indicated he did not intend to hold one, although Gary had been telling WBA and others for a year before his death that his life was being threatened, and had said that if he were found dead it would not be suicide. The autopsy, done in Canberra by a visiting pathologist from Melbourne, in our opinion nowhere near thoroughly enough for such a case, and which according to normal guidelines for a suspicious death should have been done at the expert forensic centre in Glebe, failed to find the cause of death.
2. Without WBA’s intervention, witnesses called for the inquest would not have included anyone with a favourable opinion of Gary. “Character assassins” called to give evidence included men who’d been rivals for some woman’s affections ten or more years before. His mother however would not have been called. She is in her eighties, and too physically frail to make the journey from Melbourne to Queanbeyan, but was repeatedly misrepresented at the bar table as not wanting to give evidence. Then when she made her wish to give evidence clear by writing directly to the coroner, there were claims that she was mentally impaired following a stroke. An important item of her evidence, given by phone link-up in the last week of the inquest, unshaken in cross-examination, but not mentioned by counsel assisting the coroner in his final submission, or the Coroner’s decision, was that she had spoken to a male officer at Queanbeyan police station who identified himself as “John Moore” in June 2002, three months before Gary’s death, who said there was indeed a contract on Gary’s life, and they knew who it was, “someone in Sydney.” John Moore, the officer in charge of the NSW police investigation into Gary’s death, denied any prior knowledge of Gary, although Gary had been reporting to Queanbeyan police station twice a week for two years as a condition of his bail.
3. This piece can only scratch the surface of the nearly 2 cubic metres of documents produced so far in this case. Our 39-page submission to the inquest has a lot more detail, but at the insistence of various other members of the bar-table, has been suppressed, together with the two submissions written by them in reply, because “Their unsubstantiated allegations, their wild accusations that they have presented to me in the submission are not in anyone’s interest.” This criticism could hardly be sustained if anyone with an open mind were allowed to read it; but as the suppression order stands, they can’t. Quite a neat trick when you think about it, accusing us of writing something so bad that no-one can be allowed to read it to see if the accusation is true.
So for more details you’ll have to wait for Debbie’s book — Gary Lee- Rogers is dead — and the film.
Note: All quotations in italics are taken directly from the court tran- scripts. Precise references available on request.