After the Headlines – Michael McGann (Part Two)

Continued from Part One…



 For reasons that can easily be speculated when looking at some of the Police personalities involved, the Kareela Cat Burglar case became a matter of interest to the Wood Royal Commission and as a result summonses were issued in 1996 for various persons to attend the Commission hearing rooms at the St James Centre in Elizabeth Street, Sydney where allegations concerning corruption about the case were to be heard in June of that year.

I had moved to the Gold Coast some years before this and returned due to a famous murder trial that I was heavily involved in. My summons was issued on Thursday 20th June 1996 while I was giving evidence at the Supreme Court at Taylor Square in the middle of Sydney’s Oxford Street.

I well remember seeing these 2 well-dressed young people in the public seating area of the Court and only thought that, given the nature of the murder trial, they were interested parties. I remember finishing my evidence at the morning tea adjournment and the male partner of these 2 people came up to me and said “Mick McGann?” Before they said anymore I had the feeling as to where they were from. Call it a Detectives sixth sense!

They introduced themselves as coming from the Royal Commission and that they had a summons for me. Naturally it is easy to get flustered under these circumstances and I was damned if I was going to let them see that they had rattled me so I told them that I would be with them in a minute as I had witnesses from my trial to attend to.

This gave me about 30 seconds breathing space and time to collect my thoughts. I returned to where they were and said to them, “Right what’s this about?” They said nothing but handed me the summons. I noted that my appearance was set down for the following Monday, 24th June 1996.

I remember contacting the number on the summons and being told that the matter was about the Kareela Cat Burglar investigation some 12 years before hand. That same day I found out that my then 2 year old daughter, Rhiannon, who was staying with my mum and dad on the Gold Coast has a bout of pneumonia and bronchiolitis and was very sick.

As I had been served the summons I had to request permission from the Royal Commission staff to fly to Queensland to see my daughter. Although she was very sick, she was in good hands and I returned to Sydney on the Sunday ready for the battle that lay ahead.


The old adage of ‘never letting the facts get in the way of a good story’ applies here in a big way.

During this week set aside at the Royal Commission to hear these allegations we were forced to listen to the version of events put up by these witnesses but, in a denial of natural justice, and despite each of us having Court appointed lawyers, they were NOT permitted to cross-examine them on their evidence.

Why one would ask? My thinking is that the Royal Commission knew the paucity of the evidence of these witnesses and the lies they were telling. Cross examination by an astute lawyer would have exposed both them and the Royal Commission and that would hardly suit the agenda of the Wood Royal Commission. As I have said, they needed runs on the board.

Strangely at the end of YM 1’s evidence in chief he was deemed by Counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner to be in ‘some personal inconvenience’ and hence his evidence was not tested in any way by cross-examination by any counsel appearing for any of us.

Although the nature of this ‘personal inconvenience’ was never revealed, one can only assume certain things in light of what was to follow and that the Royal Commission did not want him cross examined as they knew the case would fall apart once that happened.

Anyway after a week of listening to this and realising that it really didn’t matter what evidence was actually put up by us in reply to this rubbish, the Commissioner informed us that the papers on the case would be forwarded to the D.P.P. That was it.

Nothing more was indicated to us then and we left the Court to try to resume our lives and left wondering what would happen next.

On the last day of the hearing, family members of John Garvey came to the hearing rooms and left with us after we had finished. The media eyes of the world were on us and cameras and journalists followed us down the escalators and into the David Jones store.

I was the rear-guard so John could get his family into a restaurant and away from these vultures. As they did so I stopped and turned around, which caused the lens of one of the Channel 7 cameraman to hit me in the face, drawing blood.

I was dazed and angry. He could see what he did, took one look at the expression on my face and bolted. All in all not the greatest day of our lives.

The week of the hearing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.   I kept waking up at 2-2.30am thinking I’m going to gaol! The people I was staying with sympathised but had no idea what it was all about and I didn’t want to overly concern them.

I remember being up early after one of my 2.30am wake ups and having some breakfast when I saw a group of suited men coming through the gate of the house I was staying with. I knew that they had to be Police and I was, literally, terrified.

I couldn’t go to the door, so I hid and my mate went to the door to speak to them. In an unbelievable stroke of bad luck they were in fact Police executing a search warrant but had the wrong address. I have never been able to answer unexpected door bells since that time.

As an example of the possibly unhinged state some of us were in due to this process, I vividly recall writing a letter to my daughter, which was sealed and not to be opened before she was 21.   It was a similar thing to those that RAF bomber crews in World War II who, fearful they wouldn’t be coming back from a sortie over enemy territory, wrote their last letters to their family and loved ones.

This may seem weird reading this in 2015 but believe me the atmosphere of the Wood Royal Commission was that toxic and tense that at the time it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Each of us dealt with the stress in our own ways.

I remember afterwards, if I heard the landline telephone ring and no one was there I would scream down the phone, calling into dispute the parentage of whoever was there. As I mentioned I became paranoid (and still am) about unexpected knocks or doorbell rings. I used to (and still do) hide somewhere and shrink myself down so no one can see me until I think they have gone.

It could be Jehovah’s Witnesses for all I care but there was no way I was answering that door!


To say that we Police were a more paranoid lot at this time than we usually are would be an understatement.

At Police send-offs during this time you were always worried about telling war stories with blokes you had worked with because you didn’t know if the person you were talking to was a spy for the Royal Commission. Guys I know, before they would start telling stories at functions, used to go into the toilets and strip off to show their mates they weren’t wired up.

I did exactly the same thing to a former workmate of ours who had left the Police Force but who worked with me at the Regional Crime Squad at Miranda at the time, although he was not involved in the Kareela Cat Burglar investigation.

He was now doing a job totally removed from the Police Force and one day during the lunch adjournment I paid him a visit in his City office just to keep him up to speed on what was happening because we couldn’t phone anyone (paranoia again).

He was pleased to see me but instead of saying ‘hello’ I put my finger up to my mouth so that nothing else would be said and proceeded to strip to my underpants and did a pirouette so he could see I wasn’t wired up.   Such was the atmosphere at the time.

Of course while you were driving the paranoia became greater with anti-surveillance tactics abounding (going through red lights, u turns at lights, changing lanes, sudden stopping etc) with every car near you being a potential Royal Commission surveillance vehicle.


The Royal Commission hearings were mainly held on the third floor of the St James Centre at 111 Elizabeth Street Sydney, just next store to and above David Jones.

The hearings rooms had about 68 seats at the back for members of the public, the media and potential witnesses.   There were also two 100 cm television monitors showing whoever was speaking at the time but mainly focussing on the person in the witness box at the time.

The media were also provided with a separate press room with phones and a television monitor.

The hearings brought with them the usual crowd of onlookers, mainly judgemental pensioners who had nothing better to do than see and hear the daily dose of juicy revelations. Some brought their knitting with them to pass the time, like modern day Madam Defarge’s sitting at the foot of the guillotine waiting for another head to drop.

Once the Wood Royal Commission was over you could guarantee they would then find yet another equally scandalous venue somewhere in Sydney to pass their time and make them feel that they were better than the people passing through such commissions of enquiry.   All very tragic.


It seems that intimidation and harassment were tools of trade and well-practised by some Royal Commission investigators. Indeed their reported methodology at the time was to “get their (victims) balls in a vice”.

It no secret at the time that officers of the Royal Commission would visit witnesses’ homes at Christmas time, wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays etc to issue summonses for to them to appear at a commission hearing. This modus operandi could only have been done with only one thing in mind-intimidation.

The Police, in our own case of the Kareela Cat Burglar, were kept on a string to make sure they gave the evidence that was required of them. In the case of one of the whistleblowers, members of the Royal Commission who were questioning him supplied him with the answers. This can be heard on the tape of that interview and implies that the Royal Commission investigators, at least in this case, knew they were safe from any action that could be taken against them, as well as ensuring they obtained the evidence they wanted.

Later, in the case of this particular rollover, the Commission investigators returned to him accompanied by a Commission Lawyer. This witness was then told that he was going to gaol for 14 years, that he would not see his family and that one of the main Police witnesses had rolled over when that was not, in fact, the case. They then proceeded to outline to this witness a version of the Kareela Cat Burglar macing incident that suited their purpose, which was then adopted by that witness.

The bulk of the threats were made off tape and proceeded over several days. At a later stage, the witness was advised that he would not receive a Hurt on Duty pension unless he repeated the evidence that he had given before the Royal Commission.

During cross examination at our later committal it was discovered that his statement had been prepared for him by the Commission Investigators with the procedure being that material, suitable to the Commission, was extrapolated from the taped interview transcript into a narrative statement in the form of a statutory declaration.

In the course of his evidence this witness indicated that his statement contained material not said by him and he signed it after being threatened. He also conceded that he had “great fear” at the time and that he had been tricked.

One well-known story of Royal Commission intimidation tactics was that of a former police officer from the south western suburbs serving a custodial sentence at Berrima gaol who was visited by officers of the Wood Royal Commission. He was asked to provide information to the Commission regarding alleged Police corruption in his area but told the Commission investigators that he could not help them.

He was then transferred over night from Berrima to Goulburn Gaol where he was put among murderers, rapists and armed robbers, all of whom had their own reasons to hate any Police officer regardless of whether they were uniform of Detectives. I can safely say that this transfer to Goulburn was not for the good of his health.

It appears that he was told by other prisoners to stay in his cell and not come out. This common sense advice was taken by this officer. After a short time he was transferred away from Goulburn.

The question must be asked however, what if he had been killed or taken his own life while at Goulburn? Who would be responsible? The Royal Commission cannot be held accountable by law!


As those of us who have had the experience of appearing before the Royal Commission would know that the media played a decisive, intrusive and one-sided role in the day to day hearings. In his book ‘The Electronic Whorehouse’ Paul Sheehan aptly described the news media’s ‘ingrained conditioning to rush towards the smell of blood’ and the media certainly smelled blood during the Royal Commission.

Who of us could forget the Daily Telegraph’s sports writer, Ray Chesterton’s almost daily sarcastic attempts at humour, trivialising other people’s misfortune? Besides, what was the thinking behind putting a sports writer to offer presumably incisive comment and insight into the daily tragedy of the Royal Commission?

Many of us would also remember the sexually explicit videos played on national television concerning the corrupt activities of certain witnesses that were designed for maximum intimidation with little or no consideration given to the effects on family and friends of the officers concerned, regardless of these alleged ‘illegalities’.

In commenting on this incident one respected newspaper journalist stated that “(T)he release of the video to the media in December 1995 guaranteed it would lead that night’s television news. It was great theatre but also the ugliest act of the Royal Commission”.

Promotion of the Wood Royal Commission was heavily dependent on leaking sensational material to certain ‘favoured media representatives’ to ensure wide coverage which in turn drew attention to the Commissions hearings and its work. It tended to be very much a ‘name and shame’ process, which was designed to maximise the potential discomfort of corrupt officers and seek to force them to come forward.

The stage managing of the Royal Commission was always clear when something spectacular was about to occur in the hearings because there would be many extra media representatives present, compared to an ‘ordinary’ day.

But at the end of it all, the main problem with the media ‘frenzy’ that prevailed during the Wood Royal Commission was that allegations that received blanket media coverage were often left in the air for a long time before those accused had the opportunity to rebut them. For many of those accusations there has been no rebuttal and never will.

The story of Detective Senior Constable Greg Clout comes to mind.   He was totally humiliated by the Royal Commission over an allegation that he had stolen some spanners from a criminal during a search warrant and taken them home with him. The Royal Commission executed a high profile search warrant at his house and he and his wife were lampooned across the newspaper by Ray Chesterton as ‘Mr and Mrs Spanners’.

At the end of it all the Royal Commission handed the spanners back. After a litany of illegal actions during the execution of the warrant, Detective Clout and his wife requested a copy of the video shot by the Commission which was filmed during the search warrant execution.

After much legal wrangling they were given an edited copy which was passed to them as the ‘real thing’. The problem was that the Royal Commission had edited the video, removing the parts that were not favourable to their cause.

The case of Joyce Newby also shows the unfair treatment of individuals by the Royal Commission. She was put on trial while 8 months pregnant, despite the fact that the main person involved in the allegations against her gave evidence that she was not involved.

It was simply a matter of yesterday’s headlines, tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper.


When I arrived home on the Gold Coast after my appearance at the Royal Commission, I tried to adjust back to normality but with little success. I told my then wife that whoever knocks on the door, no one is to come in without a warrant. I left a tape recorder on the kitchen bench of our home and gave her strict instructions that anyone who came to the door was to be taped, no excuses!

There were many time that I used to sit bolt upright in bed at 5.00am on many mornings, swearing that I heard someone pounding on the front door. I would race out of bed, check the back garden (figuring that if they were there to arrest me they would have personnel stationed in the backyard-that’s what I would do) and then I would peer under the front curtains.

Of course no one was ever there and it was all in my mind.

I used to live in a good street on the Gold Coast in the suburb of Robina. People used to cruise past on the weekends looking at houses, as you do. In my paranoid state I regarded them, without any evidence at all, as potential Royal Commission surveillance personnel.

I remember on several occasions doing some gardening and I was in a blue shearers singlet, shorts and old slouch hat and was using a flat bladed shovel. I saw these vehicles slowly passing by and I would always stop and glare at them with my shovel held like I used to hold a shotgun. Who knows what they thought about the good citizens of Robina when they saw me.

On another occasion I was reversing out of my driveway and saw a van similar to a HiAce up the road between me and the morning sun. It had darkened windows so the wind was up with me already. I watched so that the sun showed me in anyone was in the van but of course there was no one.

Bad days indeed and a field day for psychiatrists!

No wonder my marriage folded up in December 1996, some 6 months after the Wood Royal Commission.


I am, by nature, a big bloke. My dad was big, his father was big and my brother is big. I like to think that I was a good size to be a Detective-big enough to intimidate when I wanted to, fit enough to play volleyball, ride bikes and run.

When I left Sydney after our appearance at the Royal Commission had finished in June 1996 I was actually haggard and lost a heap of weight.

In 2004 I ended up with colon cancer and they took out a large amount of my large intestine.   The reason I relate that piece of information is that I didn’t lose any weight at all when I had cancer!!

It appears that the Royal Commission affected me more than cancer!


After our appearance in June 1996 and after 3 years of waiting and hearing nothing about the matter yet still wary of early morning knocks on the door or strange vehicles in the street, we thought that our hearing in 1996 was all there was to it and had relegated it to one of life’s ‘character building’ episodes.

After all we had done nothing wrong and the matter was so old, some 12 years in fact by the time it had reached the Royal Commission in 1996 and here it was 1999 and the matter was now 15 years old.

I should have known better!

All of this was to change in early July 1999 when I received an unexpected phone call from Brian Harding informing me that we were being criminally charged over the cat burglar case. Brian told me that he, Garvey and York were charged on 3 counts comprising   1) Assault OABH   2) Common Assault and   3) Perverting the course of Justice, while John Davidson and I were to face 5 charges, with the additional charges for us being 2 further counts of perverting the course of conduct over the record of interview that we had had with YM 1 in 1984.

The resulting charges naturally created another round of unwanted media articles, in some cases by the same journalists who had covered the original Royal Commission some 3 years previously.

In the lead up to my first appearance as a defendant at the Downing Centre in 1999 I remember having a talk with my then partner about renting my unit out and for her not to visit me in prison-there was no way I wanted anyone seeing me in prison greens. I was trying to be practical but she started to cry.

I made sure that I made light of what was in front of me to people like my mum and dad. They knew I had been charged but did not know what was involved or the possible resulting gaol sentence that I faced. I managed to reassure them that all was OK and there was nothing to worry about.

In reality I was only saying it for their benefit, not mine as I didn’t believe a word I said!!


By way of interest and giving us another free kicking, all 5 of us were fully paid members of the Police Association from the time we were sworn in (in my case in 1973) up until the time we left to Force. This period of paid Association fees certainly covered the time in 1984 when the incident with the Kareela Cat Burglar occurred.

Once we had been notified of the charges being levelled against us we all naturally immediately approached the Association for legal assistance but it was refused, despite the fact that we were fully paid up members..

The reasons given by the Association was that we were not financial members of the Association when we were charged in 1999 because we had already left the Police Force. Even if we joined as associate members we were still not entitled to any legal aid, other than for a Hurt On Duty claim.

We also unsuccessfully argued our case with the Association that the matter would be of general interest to the rank and file but this was also rejected.

The Associations lack of assistance is in itself another long story but it resulted in us having to pay for our own legal representation. I remember John Garvie, sitting with me in the Court in the last day of our Committal hearing, saying that if we get committed for trial he will have to sell his house to pay for the lawyers.

And people wonder why we are still so angry!!



That the prosecuting authorities were hell bent on obtaining convictions against us (and would answer the question as to why they felt the need to fabricate the evidence in the first place) became apparent when sworn evidence from many witnesses previously given in the 1985 District Court trial was examined.

This considerable amount of freely available and previously Court tested evidence in committal and trial hearings, but which was ignored in 1999 by the latest D.P.P. prosecuting authorities who had charged us, enabled corroboration of our version of the events that we had maintained since the incident had occurred in June 1984.

In addition, a quantity of jewellery was later located in a Sydney jewellers shop after YM 1’s arrest in 1984 and this was positively identified by owners as being stolen from various premises that YM 1 told us he had broken into. So much for us investing his confession as they alleged we did.

Screwdrivers found in his possession at the time of his arrest were scientifically matched to some other Kareela homes, again stemming from YM 1’s confession to Davidson and myself.

The evidence of the various independent civilian witnesses who saw YM 1 pointing towards the bushland, indicating where he may have dropped his balaclava, witnesses who identified that particular balaclava as being the one found by Davidson and produced during the trial as well as Police witnesses who later spoke to YM 1 in the Police cells after he had been subjected to the macing by Garvey, were all ignored by the prosecuting authorities in their pursuit of a conviction.

Finally if there were any doubts that those pursuing the 5 of us were ignoring any evidence in our favour, these would be dispelled when it was learned that crucial evidence from a former Breaking Squad Detective, now a respected Sydney barrister, was totally disregarded.

This person had accompanied John Davidson to Sutherland Police Station in early July 1984 for a further interview of YM 1 at Sutherland Police Station some days after the initial confession had been recorded between Davidson, YM 1 and me. I was on leave at that time and unavailable to assist John in this interview.

The interview concerned a quantity of jewellery that had been located in a jeweller’s shop and the interview was recorded by this former Detective in his own official notebook. Again the interview was unsigned by YM1. In that interview particular references were made by both Davidson and YM 1 to the original confessional interview that had taken place some days earlier on the 30th June which I had recorded.

This later interview was NOT the subject of any charges whatsoever by the DPP yet this interview could not have occurred without the first confessional interview between YM1 and John existing in the first place.

The reader will recall that this earlier interview was the one that was the subject of charges against John and me for perverting the course of justice, which the Royal Commission claimed didn’t happen and that YM1 had somehow been verballed by us!




 The committal into the charges laid against us was heard at the Downing Centre Local Court in 2000 and 2001 and lasted some 13 hearing days over that time.

Our first day at the Downing Centre was horrible. Here we were as defendants. I couldn’t get my mind around the fact that I used to arrest criminals, who were defendants, so what the hell was I doing here?

My vivid memory of that first day was the number of people, all lawyers who had given us hard times in the witness box over our years as detectives, coming up to us to shake our hands and wish us all the best. I had 2 of them tell me that if we went to trial to let them know and they would give evidence on our behalf.

Only one of my former colleagues from the NSW Police came in to see us and wish us luck.   He had caught the train in from Bringelly in western Sydney with the sole purpose of wishing me the best. Once he did that he turned around and went home. As far as I’m concerned he’ll never be forgotten by me.

The reason that this action by my former colleague was so special was because so many of my former colleagues, who were still serving members of the NSW Police did not come to the Court and did not want to know any of us, despite having worked with us for well over 20 years.

I measure the worth of people by how they act when it all hits the fan. Who is in the trenches with you and who has retreated. These former NSW Police colleagues, who I loved more than brothers, have been largely forgotten by me because they were found wanting when we needed them. They did this because they were rapidly getting promoted to senior ranks and did not want to be seen to be associating with us.

At the end of the committal hearing in 2001 the Magistrate, Mr Ian Barnett made a comment on the discovery of the fabricated statements that formed the prosecution brief, saying “The defence have also raised related issues concerning…how the original statements of persons made to royal commission investigators were adapted into formal statements, again all these materials detract from the prosecution case.

During our committal we were able to show to the Court that the prosecution witnesses were lying on oath and were unreliable, as well the fact that at least 70% of one of the four prosecution statements tendered in the prosecutions brief of evidence had been fabricated.

When the whole of the prosecution’s case against us was examined it was found that there was such a volume of evidence showing witnesses lying on oath, lying in 1996 to the Royal Commission to obtain their indemnities, poor memories, major inconsistencies in their evidence etc.

In fact so much so that it would not be possible in this story to attempt to outline all aspects of the disgraceful prosecution brief that was brought against us.

To show how the Royal Commission fabricated the evidence against us I have simply chosen one part of the Royal Commission brief of evidence that best illustrates that fact.

In the beginning it did not occur to any of us that the Wood Royal Commission would fabricate evidence to ensure convictions against us. After all ‘perverting the course of justice’ was what we had been charged with.

However prior to the commencement of our committal hearing in June 2000 we had subpoenaed various documentary materials from the archives of the NSW Government and the Wood Royal Commission to assist in our defence. These subpoenaed documents were only available to us after the committal had actually proceeded.

Among the large amount of material we received were the original first person transcripts of prosecution witness interviews conducted by the Wood Royal Commission investigators in 1996.

These transcripts were drawn up, verbatim from tape-recorded interviews between those witnesses and Royal Commission investigators which were all “kept at the Commission”. The statements that were contained in the brief of evidence tendered to the Magistrate who eventually issued the summonses against us were typed up from these verbatim transcripts into a narrative summary form, with the necessary legal jurat at the commencement of the statement.

Those statements (as opposed to the actual ‘I said/He said’ transcript) then formed part of the brief of evidence to the issuing Magistrate. The original transcript was filed away.

In the case of one rollover witness he was interviewed on tape at his home on the 30th May 1996 by investigators Stevens and McGinlay of the Royal Commission. In the first half of the transcript this witness relates the story of what happened at Sutherland Police Station in accordance with our version of events.   The tape is suspended while a break occurs and when the interview is resumed the witness recants his previous evidence and rolls over.

When I compared the original verbatim transcript of this interview with the actual narrative statement from the Royal Commission brief of evidence, it was found that about 70% of that statement had been fabricated and did not appear in the original interview transcript in any way or description.

The amount of extra material substituted into the prosecution statement made us wonder if another interview had in fact occurred with this witness at some later time that we weren’t aware of.


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This was clarified when the witness appeared at our committal in 2001 and stated, under cross examination, that he had in fact only the one interview with the Royal Commission investigators in 1996, no other.

The prosecution’s own witness agreed under cross-examination that whoever prepared his statement put something in his statement that was wrong.

This was all happening in a climate where the Royal Commissioner had warned in 1995 “As far as this Royal Commission is concerned, let there be no doubt about it, corruption extends to noble cause corruption’


An obvious question to ask by the dispassionate reader would be:-If the statements were so blatantly wrong, why would anyone sign them?

The answer to this can be found among the cross examination of the various witnesses who invariably stated that the statements were signed out of fear of being charged with an offence such as perverting the course of justice (there is a touch of irony in this when it is considered that the statements themselves were fabricated and therefore a perversion of the course of justice in their own right) or being told to sign it before he got into more trouble or being told by the investigators and, in some cases Royal Commission solicitors, that they would receive 14 years gaol and never see their children again!

To further induce them into signing their statements, the Royal Commission investigators told various witnesses blatant untruths that other officers, who were more actively involved in the incident at Sutherland Police Station than they were, had already ‘co-operated’ with the Royal Commission, when that was clearly not the case.

This lie caused the already shocked and vulnerable witness to become more fearful of the consequences if he refused to help the Royal Commission.


 Each of the four Royal Commission witnesses in the prosecution brief against us was issued with indemnities in 1997 against being prosecuted themselves, with these indemnities being subject to certain conditions.

During our committal in 2000 it was discovered that one of the roll over witnesses that the Prosecution relied upon to prove their case against us, had, in order to gain his indemnity actually told lies to the Royal Commission in his appearance in 1996.

When asked by the Royal Commission in 1996 whether the incident at Sutherland Police Station in 1984 involving the Kareela Cat Burglar was the ONLY corrupt act this person had been involved in in his 28 year Police career he agreed with Justice Wood that it was indeed the only incident he was involved in Unfortunately Justice Wood did not realise at the time that he was being lied to by this individual.

This caused great headlines, causing the likes of Ray Chesterton to salivate, with the headlines screaming ‘Veteran quits over one act of corruption’.

His lies to the Royal Commission, however, became exposed when he was later cross-examined about his own evidence at our committal. He admitted, after receiving a Section 128 Certificate from the Magistrate, that he had not been truthful to the Royal Commission in 1996 and in his career had deliberately falsified evidence in about 10 Local Court cases prior to the incident at Sutherland Police Station in 1984. He agreed that as a result of his own fabrications, people had been convicted.


The Crown Prosecutor for most of our committal was a Mr Ingram.   In accordance with his role he did us no favours but played a straight bat all the way through.

After our committal had finished and the charges thrown out he was obliged to report on the issue of an ex-officio indictment against us.

In his report to the DPP he made the following comments as to the veracity of the evidence and witnesses put forward by the prosecution:

“….the prosecution case was completely decimated by the end of the committal hearing.   Such prosecution evidence……………was rendered so unreliable by the consequential effects of such material on the truthfulness and accuracy of the prosecution witnesses that it could reasonably be said that such prosecution evidence retained little or no real residual weight.’

 “…one seldom sees a more comprehensive destruction of a prosecution case than occurred in these matters.   The prosecution witnesses that I saw give their evidence presented exceptionally poorly, their evidence was often imprecise on important matters, their evidence was often inconsistent, their credibility was open to legitimate criticism on numerous fronts and the conduct of the investigators at times material to the preparation of the witnesses’ statements was open to serious criticism on the evidence given by each such witness.”(My emphasis)

So much for ‘level of skill and integrity’ as referred to by Justice Wood in 1999 regarding his own investigators.


 The guns of the Wood Royal Commission fell silent nearly 20 years ago and it has now been virtually relegated to the legal history books. Life as they like to say now has ‘moved forward’ and those affected by this episode are left to pick up the pieces of their life and go on as if nothing has happened.

However the hypocrisy of having the Wood Royal Commission fabricating evidence against Police that were themselves accused of fabricating evidence means that it cannot ‘move forward’ until there is some resolution.

In addition to the double digit suicides, the Commissions fatal drug dealing at Kings Cross and their total lack of accountability makes any outcome politically difficult and way too hard, considering how the Royal Commission came into being and the many political, legal, Police and media reputations that rode on its back.


 After our committal in 2001 had exposed the corrupt activities of some of the investigators with the Wood Royal Commission, we made a number of written complaints. I, for one, was not prepared to let this go.

The problem we encountered was that most Government Departments were in the beginnings of ‘election mode’ for the March 2003 NSW State Election and did their best to avoid dealing with the subject. The flick passing of this whole episode by various authorities would have made Wally Lewis look like an amateur!

Apart from the NSW Government Departments, I personally made approaches to various Police Complaints Authorities, Anti-Corruption Units such as ICAC (which deemed “Not appropriate for ICAC to investigate matters”), Federal Politicians (both Government and Opposition), you name it, anyone I could think of.   No one wanted to know.

The media were supportive and there has been a plethora of stories over the years about the corrupt actions of the Royal Commission in regards to the Kareela Cat Burglar case but that’s where it lies.

I personally appeared at an enquiry conducted by Bronwyn Bishop at the NSW State Parliament building in 2003 where myself and other colleagues gave information about the Royal Commission corruption.

The fact that our evidence to that enquiry did not even make the final report of Bishop’s enquiry says a lot.


 Because no one will ever say so, the answer to this question can only be speculated but based on solid speculation!

Consider this: many of the lawyers who appeared at the Royal Commission went on to become judges in the NSW District Court (such as James Black QC) or the NSW Supreme and District Courts (such as Michael Finnane QC) and indeed the High Court of Australia (notably Virginia Bell). Investigators working for the Wood Royal Commission returned to their respective State Police Forces and were fast tracked for promotion due to their role at the Commission (due to their supposed ‘integrity’), not to mention the large amount of money received from overtime, travel allowances etc during the time of their work, as well as a certain number of journalists who benefitted from their reporting of the Wood Royal Commission.

My point being that, up against such a stellar cast of characters in such high level and high profile positions, the ‘system’ would hardly take any notice of what happened to 5 Detectives who were victims of the Royal Commission. What organisation or political party would dare pull on such people over being part of such a corrupt organisation? What better way to deal with this than to sweep it under the carpet as if it never existed.

It is now a matter for the history books but that doesn’t mean that any us who were victims of this corruption have forgotten what happened or remain unaffected. The hypocrisy of ‘the system’ is astounding. People should be made aware of what actually happened.


 After 451 public hearing days and 902 public witnesses, receiving 4310 exhibits, producing 37,452 pages of transcript and employing at its height 180 staff the Royal Commission had its last sitting day on the 13th March 1997. The final report was handed to the Government on the 26th August 1997. Peter Ryan had been appointed the new Commissioner of Police in New South Wales the year before.

Life went on and no doubt the good people of New South Wales believed that a new era in public safety and criminal investigation had arrived.

One would be forgiven for asking, in today’s climate, what did the $64 million Royal Commission actually achieve? During the Wood Royal Commission many people died and the lives of witnesses, families and friends were affected forever. One should also ask: “Is New South Wales a better place than before the Royal Commission?”

Each person reading this will have their own answer based on their own life experiences. Lloyd Taylor, the NSW Police association secretary predicted in 1994 the outcome in of the Royal Commission when he said, “At the end of the day the Royal commission will probably only convict a few officers but in the process damage many reputations by examining baseless allegations.”

It was reported in 2001 that ‘(N)early 85% of police officers charged with offences arising out of the Wood Royal Commission have walked free, with prosecutors blaming legal bungles and tainted witnesses.’

The dismal ‘score card’ of the Royal Commission was that, up until 2001 only 12 officers had been dealt with in the Courts for matters arising from the Commission-3 being found guilty at trial and 9 pleading guilty to corruption charges. Seven have received gaol terms

Further, more than 90 officers were named adversely during Justice Wood’s enquiry with 46 briefs of evidence being sent to the DPP involving 93 suspects, with 73 of them police officers.

In addition to our Court case, fourteen other Police officers accused of corruption had the charges thrown out of court because search warrants obtained by the Royal Commission were found to be defective and so poorly worded as to be illegal because they placed no limitations on what the 55 Royal Commission investigators could seize.

Further the Government then had to admit that many more of the Commissions search warrants-believed to be about 150-were also illegal

There is a certain touch of irony in the fact that the Judge who deemed the Royal Commission warrants defective in 1997 was Justice Ian Temby of the Supreme Court, the same man who, 3 years before had been criticised by the architect of the Royal Commission, John Hatton for his appointment as Senior Counsel representing the NSW Police Commission and who was replaced in that role by Michael Finnane QC.

In addition to the problems with the search warrants, the notorious ‘Loss of Commissioners confidence’ provisions that saw so many Police dismissed, Sections 181 B & D, have suffered ignominious blows with Industrial Relations Commission Judges later overturning several decisions to sack officers amid criticism of the processes used at the time by Commissioner Ryan and Police Internal Affairs.

As for the Kareela Cat Burglar case, the end of the Wood Royal Commission only meant unfinished business to a few persons as far as bringing the unaccountable actions of its investigators and their corrupt practices to public awareness.

As was put in one of the many news articles about our case “The issue here is whether or not the (Royal Commission) investigators took it upon themselves to behave in precisely the same fashion as they were tasked to investigate or was their behaviour part and parcel of commission policy. If it was then it can only be viewed as breathtaking hypocrisy

A newspaper editorial in 2001 put it succinctly:-“The Wood Royal Commission did shed valuable light on the culture of corruption in the NSW Police Service. It is deeply disturbing to hear credible claims that the commission itself was less than scrupulous in its methods.   The commission was supposed to restore integrity to the Police Service and its vital organs, such as Internal Affairs, not compromise it further.”

The Royal Commission was a causal factor in the deaths of nearly the same number of people as it was successful in prosecuting. One of the people that died as a direct result of the stress associated with the events of the Royal Commission was John Garvey’s wife. They have a lot to answer to.

The Royal Commission and subsequent Court case has scarred, not only me, but all of us who were unlucky enough to be involved.

It continues to haunt me.

Michael McGann.

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