Disgraced NSW detective Roger Rogerson, jailed for murder, could give evidence to the coronial inquest into the 1973 Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub firebombing in Brisbane which killed 15 people.
An inquiry into the nightclub arson, in the inner-city suburb of Fortitude Valley on March 8, 1973, started on Monday after it was ordered in 2017 by then attorney-general Yvette D’Ath.
Lawyer Chris Minnery, representing convicted murderer and key witness Vincent O’Dempsey, made a request for Rogerson to testify.
Rogerson is serving a life sentence in NSW for the murder of 20-year-old university student and drug dealer Jamie Gao in a Sydney storage unit in May 2014.
The former detective was sentenced in September 2016 after the NSW Supreme Court heard he killed Mr Gao to steal 2.78 kilograms of the drug ice.
Mr Minnery’s request was read aloud to the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday by Stephen Keim, legal counsel assisting Queensland State Coroner Terry Ryan.
“The request put forward by my friend is on the basis, as I understand it, that Mr Rogerson’s view in 1973 that Mr O’Dempsey was not involved in the attack on the Whiskey Au Go Go fire might be of some assistance to your honour,” Mr Keim said.
“Counsel assisting can see that there may be merit to call Mr Rogerson in relation to the adequacy of investigations carried out into the causes of, and the parties involved, in the fire, and the deaths immediately thereafter and in subsequent years.”
Mr Keim also pointed to a newspaper article that said Rogerson believed convicted Whiskey Au Go Go killer James Richard Finch did not make the admissions attributed to him by police.
“Mr Rogerson’s evidence on that subject alone may be of assistance to the court,” Mr Keim said.
“Therefore counsel assisting will request an inquiry be made of NSW Corrective Services as to the practicality of Mr Rogerson giving evidence by remote means and will report back to the court.”
Finch, who died in Britain earlier this year, was one of two men convicted of murder over the nightclub fire.
The other, John Andrew Stuart, died in his cell in 1979 after a hunger strike.
During a pre-inquest hearing in April, Mr Keim said the new two-week inquest would focus on evidence that Finch and Stuart were not the only ones involved in the arson.
“The evidence also raises concerns that the focus of the police investigation activities in the aftermath of the fires was not directed at finding all of the persons responsible for the fires,” Mr Keim said earlier this year.
“These concerns extend to fears that a broader group of persons, including possibly police officers themselves, had some role in planning the attack of the nightclub.”
Mr Keim said some findings of the 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry into widespread Queensland police corruption would be used in the inquest.