Roger Rogerson denies Whiskey involvement
Before giving evidence at the Whiskey Au Go Go inquest, disgraced detective Roger Rogerson stumbled by saying he would tell "everything but the truth".
And when Rogerson was finally sworn in, his counsel indicated the convicted murderer did not want to answer any questions about the 1973 nightclub firebombing on the grounds that it might incriminate him.
But after coroner Terry Ryan compelled him to give evidence "in the public's interest", Rogerson didn't give away much, complaining at times of a bad memory, hearing and video link reception during three gruelling hours of questioning on Friday.
Seen arriving with the aid of a walking frame in prison greens on the link at Long Bay Correctional Complex, the 81-year-old rejected inquest evidence that he had made threats to stop a heroin operation at the Whiskey before the bombing and denied police had "verballed" James Finch to get a confession.
Finch and John Stuart were arrested within a week of the Whiskey blaze and convicted of murder that same year.
Rogerson gave evidence during the inquest's third sitting in Brisbane as the only person still alive who signed a confession made by Finch days after the attack on the Fortitude Valley venue.
Former ACT attorney-general Bernard Collaery told the inquest this week the Sydney underworld was "jealous" of the Whiskey's heroin operation and Rogerson and another notorious NSW police officer Fred Krahe had threatened the venue before the firebombing.
As an Immigration Department special investigator, Mr Collaery said he had warned Queensland police the Whiskey would be burnt down.
But when asked about the evidence on Friday, Rogerson said the first time he had heard of the Whiskey was when he was told to pack his bags and fly up to help investigate the fire.
"Fred who? What were we supposed to have done?" he said after complaining of a "blurry noise coming through the speaker".
"Fred was a cranky old bugger. Fred would look down his nose at someone like me - I never had any association at all with him.
"I had nothing to do with Fred Krahe at all and I had nothing to do with the Whiskey Au Go Go - that's it in a nutshell."
When lawyer Chris Minnery suggested it was not the first time someone had suggested Rogerson had been involved in the protection of criminals linked to the heroin trade, the ex-detective said: "I beg your pardon - that is not true.
"I have never protected heroin dealers. I hated heroin dealers."
Rogerson was called to testify after Ryan was told at the inquest the former officer would be able to give direct evidence about events on March 11, 1973, when Finch was interviewed days after the blaze.
Rogerson said he had been brought into the Whiskey investigation from NSW because of his understanding of possible connections with Sydney-based criminals and was there as "an observer".
Rogerson could not remember details about Finch's confession and had not read his own 1973 statement about it in "donkey's years".
When read his statement, Rogerson agreed he had heard Finch say in another room "kill me, kill me, why did you catch me?" as well as "thumping noises" before the interview.
But he rejected Mr Minnery's suggestion that Finch's confession was the result of a police "verballing".
"It certainly wasn't a verballing. It was a genuine confession," he said.
Rogerson said Finch was only implicated in the Whiskey blaze once police spotted him with Stuart, who he described as a "raving ratbag and complete rat".
The inquest continues.