Australian Crime Stories: The Story Behind the Murder of Jamie Gao

Jamie Gao

Trigger Warning: This article contains details about a real life murder.

In September 2016, two former police detectives, Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Jamie Gao.

The pair were found guilty of murdering Gao, who was 20 at the time, and dumping his body in waters off Cronulla the following day.

Now, Rogerson and McNamara are the centres of the first episode of the fourth season of Channel 9’s Australian Crime Stories, where host Adam Shand investigates.

The series will chase down fresh leads and reveal new evidence of some of Australia’s most notorious crimes.

Here, we look at what happened to Gao and how two police officers were charged with his murder.

The Set-Up and the Murder

On May 19, 2014, Gao headed to the Meridian Hotel in Hurstville, Sydney, ready to make final arrangements for a drug deal.

He was meeting McNamara, a former detective who was now a true-crime writer and private investigator.

This particular meeting was not unusual, as it was actually one of 27 the pair had had that same year.

As surveillance footage showed, Gao and McNamara met, shook hands and had a conversation which lasted just 24 minutes. Then Gao left.

The following day, May 20, 2014, more surveillance footage showed McNamara and Gao arrive at a deserted industrial estate in Padstow, Sydney.

McNamara is driving and pulls up so that his car is at the door of a specific roller shed — Gao then gets out of the car and ducks inside.

At this point, the former detective is wearing a hoodie and his face is not visible. Then, three minutes after they go inside, another man walks to the unit. He has a very distinctive walk — just like that of a 73-year-old former cop, Roger Rogerson.

Then, Rogerson comes back out and moves his car behind McNamara’s, before McNamara comes out, collects a surfboard and bag from his own boot and takes it inside.

Exactly twenty minutes later, McNamara drags the bag out of the shed. It is visibly heavy and is later found out to be containing Gao’s body.

Rogerson helps him put the body bag into the car and the men drive off.

Two hours later, the men then visit a Kennards Hire store and then two hours after that, are seen at McNamara’s apartment in Cronulla with a six-pack of beer.

Everything was caught on CCTV.

Within that time, they had already moved Gao’s body onto McNamara’s boat in the garage.

New claims in Australian Crime Stories alleged that Gao had been lured to his death by Chinese triad members who had sanctioned his murder.

Crime journalist Mark Morri said that members of the gang had supplied drugs to Gao to sell to Rogerson and McNamara and that his theory had never been dismissed.

According to the series, CCTV captured two men of Asian descent getting out of a car with Gao, before he entered with the two former detectives. The men then leave and come back five hours later for Gao’s car. The same men were then spotted a few days later at Sydney International Airport, checking in for a flight bound for Hong Kong.

The Days Following the Murder

The next morning, the pair are seen by footage leaving the apartment with two fishing rods. At their trial, the jury would hear that they dumped Gao’s body at sea.

In the series, the question came up of whether McNamara actually tried to dispose of Gao’s body by himself.

Former NSW assistant police commissioner Clive Small told the program that “if Rogerson had been on the boat when the body was thrown overboard, he would have known that they would have to have a very heavy weight to the body so that when it was thrown, it would sink immediately or that he had to cut the body open so there was no oxygen causing the body to float.”

“Roger Rogerson will tell you how you dispose of bodies, you don’t just put it over the side because it will rise up,” Small added.

Later, in court, the two men would place blame on each other — proving that Rogerson may have actually stayed on dry land.

Following their “fishing trip”, the men go about their usual routine with footage even showing them at the Crown Hotel, Revesby.

However, only two days later, police would secretly seize McNamara’s station wagon. Upon investigation, 2.78 kg of ice (the drug) was found in the front seat. Later, the court would allege that the pair planned to steal the drugs and kill Gao.

The arrest and conviction

On May 25, 2014, McNamara was arrested and charged with murder and supplying drugs. Gao’s body is then found the following day off Shelley Beach, Cronulla. He was wrapped in a tarpaulin.

On May 27, 2014, Rogerson was also arrested. He is charged with murder and supplying a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs.

The trial

After two years in prison, on Friday, September 2, 2016, Rogerson — then 75 and McNamara, then 57, were found guilty of the murder of Gao.

During the trial, it was found that Gao had been shot dead, however, both men blamed the other. Justice Bellew could not determine beyond reasonable doubt who shot Mr Gao, however, was “satisfied” that one of them had.

It took the jury just under one week to reach the verdict.

In his closing remarks, Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Bellew said: “The joint criminal enterprise to which each offender was a party was extensive in its planning, brutal in its execution and callous in its aftermath.”

“It is clear that the offenders acted with complete disregard for the life of another human being.

“The offending surrounding the deceased’s murder was of an exceptionally high degree of seriousness.”

Gao’s family were pleased with the outcome and according to ABC News, they said the sentence was “the best outcome we, as Jamie’s family, could have hoped for”.

Australian Crime Stories premieres Wednesday, September 16 at 8.30 pm on Nine and 9Now.

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