‘My days are numbered’: Exposing Australia’s dirtiest cops

In the early morning of February 7th, 1986, a man was walking his dog in Centennial Park in Sydney, Australia. He looked over the calm pond and noticed something strange. He saw what looked like a body floating in the water and called the police. The police soon arrived and rowed out to the body to drag it out of the water. To their shock, they recognized her immediately as Sallie-Anne Huckstepp (31).

The police standing over the body of Sallie-Anne

Sallie-Anne was born in December 1954 and went to school in Sydney. She got married at 17 to Bryan Huckstepp. Bryan was addicted to heroin and asked Sallie-Anne to do sexwork to pay for heroin. Eventually, Sallie-Anne developed a heroin addiction too. In 1981, she met Warren Lanfranchi, a heroin dealer who worked with Arthur ‘Neddy’ Smith. Smith was a self-confessed drug-dealer and robber, who led a gang of other criminals.

Later in 1981, Lanfranchi robbed another heroin dealer and in this process fired shots at a police officer. What Lanfranchi did not know, is that this heroin dealer was under police protection. When he and Sallie-Anne realised this fact, they feared for their lives. Lanfranchi asked Neddy Smith to make a deal with the involved police officer to get him cleared of the shooting and robbery. Neddy Smith complied and made a deal for the officer and Lanfranchi to meet. Lanfranchi went to this meeting and was shot twice by the police officer, killing him instantly.

Lanfranchi’s body in the street where he was shot by Rogerson

The police officer in question, Roger Rogerson, claimed self-defence as, according to Rogerson, Lanfranchi had tried to shoot him. Rogerson was commended for his bravery in this situation. Rogerson had joined the police in 1958 and had a good reputation. He was even named as possibly being on the list for the next police commisioner. In November 1981 a police inquest concluded that Rogerson had acted in the line of duty in attempting to arrest Lanfranci and killing him when he saw the gun. However, they did not believe his claim that he shot him in self-defence. Why?

Two nearby residents had heard the shooting and testified. Rogerson claimed he had shot Lanfranchi twice, in quick succession. But… Mary McElhone and Jane Healy had both heard that there was a longer time between the first shot and the second shot. The second shot was the one that killed Lanfranci, as it was a shot to the head. Jane testified: ‘It was the first time I realised police could lie. He lied. I know he lied‘. This was the first time the public saw cracks in Rogerson’s carefully crafted professional image.

Roger Rodgerson

Sallie-Anne, then 26 years old, was waiting for Lanfranchi to return home from the meeting. When he did not, she already knew what had happened. Two weeks later, she went to the police headquarters with her father and a lawyer. She claimed that Rogerson had killed Lanfranchi and had stolen the money that he had brought to settle their involvement in the robbery and shooting (10,000 Aus dollars). Sallie-Anne also told them that Lanfranchi left the house unarmed as he left his gun at home. As a sexworker and heroin addict, Sallie-Anne had been aware for years that the police were firmly involved in the criminal world and that Rogerson was the one at the top. Sallie-Anne also told the police that she had been paying the police to not arrest her during her time as a sexworker. Her statement reads: ‘While operating as a prostitute, I made regular payments to members of the vice squad over 10 years. I have been involved in a number of transactions which I referred to in my statement which have involved substantial payment to members of the drug squad and other detectives relating to drug matters. I believe that the New South Wales Drug Squad and the Armed Hold-Up Squad are both totally corrupt and that they feed on the very activities which they are supposed to stop‘.

Sallie-Anne being interviewed by different media

Sallie-Anne did not leave it at a statement to the police, she went to the media. She famously gave an interview to Ray Martin on the Australian tv-programme 60 Minutes, coming across as an honest and engaging woman. She said to Ray Martin about waiting for Lanfranchi: ‘I kissed him at the door and asked him what time he thought he’d be back. He said if he wasn’t home by 6 o’clock, I would know he’d been killed.‘ Sallie-Anne knew her life would be in danger after this interview. When asked about her reasons to tell her story, she quietly spoke: ‘When the police become judge, jury and executioner, then somebody has to speak. Somebody has to come forward. Somebody has to start somewhere and stop it. Everybody is entitled to justice‘.

After the 60 minutes interview, Sallie-Anne became an author and worked briefly as a journalist. Unfortunately, public interest faded and Sallie-Anne dissapeared out of the public eye. She also started using heroin again. It seems that Sallie-Anne knew her time was up. She had asked her estranged husband in a letter if he would take care of their daughter if ‘things went wrong‘. Sallie-Anne was dating David Kelleher at that time (1985), he was also a drugdealer. He was then arrested for importing heroin. Follwing his arrest, Sallie-Anne started a relationship with a police officer, Peter Parker Smith. Kelleher later claimed that Sallie-Anne told him she was using Peter Parker Smith to get information that would be useful at Kelleher’s trial.

On the evening of the 6th of February 1986, five years after the murder of Lanfranchi, Sallie-Anne received a call. She then quickly left the house, telling her roommate she would be back in 10 minutes. She did not come back. Her body was found the next morning and it was concluded she had been strangled and drowned.

Neddy Smith was the prime suspect in the murder of Sallie-Anne. The police could not find evidence linking him to the murder. Rogerson had an alibi, he was drinking at a club with a police prosecutor, but the police believed that he had ordered the murder of Sallie-Anne. They just could not prove it… Rogerson reacted on television to Sallie-Anne’s murder with:’I was shocked when I learned that Sallie-Anne Huckstepp had been murdered here in Centennial Park. I think that’s because she was a very attractive and a good-looking, little bird, but she got a lot of sympathy from different people, including members of the media and the public, but she really was just a typical, common prostitute‘.

The case went cold, until, years later, Neddy Smith was in prison for the murder of tow truck driver Ronnie Flavell and the shooting of Harvey Jones, an brothel owner. Smith confessed to a cell mate to strangeling and drowning Sallie-Anne. Smith claimed that he strangled Sallie-Anne for 6 minutes and then stood on her back to make sure she drowned. He also said strangling someone is ‘the hardest thing in the world…but the most satisfying thing I ever did in my life‘. His statements were recorded on police tapes, because his cell was bugged and his cell mate instructed to chat to him. DNA-testing was done on the body of Sallie-Anne and material found under her fingernails was sent for testing.

Smith was tried for the murder of Sallie-Anne. He pleaded not guilty and claimed that he was celebrating his wedding anniversary the night she had been murdered. No evidence revealing the identity of the murderer was found at the crime scene. The DNA found under Sallie-Anne’s fingernails could belong to 3% of the population, including Smith. Smith claimed that he knew he was being recorded in his cell, and that he claimed that he killed her to generate publicity for the book that was being written about him, called Catch and Kill Your Own. Constable Peter Smith, that was having a relationship with Sallie-Anne at the time of her death, testified that she had said that she was scared that Neddy Smith and Rogerson would try to kill her. Neddy Smith was acquitted of Sallie-Anne’s murder in 1999. He later claimed in a interview with a journalist that Sallie-Anne had been murdered on the orders of Rogerson, because she kept ‘bugging him’. He also said that the man responsible for the murder had never been arrested and is not in jail.

Neddy (Arthur) Smith leaving court after the acquittal

Neddy Smith turned into a police informer when he was convicted to life in prison. He testified at the Independent Commission Against Corruption about corrupt police officers that helped him carry out robberies. However, he did not name Roger Rogerson.

Suprisingly, Rogerson was only fired from the police force 2 months AFTER the death of Sallie-Anne for police misconduct, including improper association with criminals. He denied that he had anything to do with Sallie-Anne’s murder. In 1995, a Royal Commission investigated police corruption and named Rogerson as one of the central corrupt officers. Rogerson was not convicted of any charge until 1999, earning him the very fitting nickname ‘Roger the Dodger‘. He was convicted of perverting the course of justice and lying to police commissions. In 2016, Rogerson was convicted to life in prison for the murder of another drug dealer, Jamie Gao. He lost his appeal in 2021 and is now still in prison.

Neddy Smith is also still in prison and was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. In the Daily Telegraph, former NSW Police Assistant Commissioner John Laycock describes him as a ‘broken-down old man‘.

Sallie-Anne Huckstepp

And so, finally, all the claims made by Sallie-Anne were offcially declared to be the full truth. No one has ever been convicted of her murder. Sacha Huckstepp, Sallie-Anne’s daughter who was 12 at the time of her murder, is an actress and a succefull casting agent in Sydney.

Did you know about this story and the bravery of Sallie-Anne?


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neddy_Smith
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sallie-Anne_Huckstepp
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Rogerson
  4. https://9now.nine.com.au/60-minutes/60-minutes-under-investigation-the-sex-worker-sallie-anne-huckstepp-turned-hero-who-exposed-australias-dirtiest-cops/71033318-14a5-4980-97f8-764e0fb38cc1
  5. https://timalderman.com/2021/06/11/the-murder-of-police-whistle-blower-sallie-anne-huckstepp
  6. https://www.news.com.au/national/crime/the-life-and-death-of-sallieanne-huckstepp/news-story/20f35a11f1322a56006fbca2d587d972

The curious case of the Somerton Man (+ update september 2022!)

Someone walking along Somerton beach in Adelaide in December 1948 found a man slumped against a seawall. They first thought he must be asleep, but he was very still. Too still. The police were alerted and started an investigation. They found the man lying with his head resting against the wall, with his legs stretched out and his feet crossed. He looked like he was sleeping.

The man was dressed in a suit and tie. An unlit sigaret was found tucked behind his right ear and another half-smoked sigaret was lying on his coat. His pockets contained a used bus ticket from Adelaide to St. Leonards (Glenelg), an unused train ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach, a aluminum comb (thought to be American), a half-eaten pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a packet of Army Club filled with Kensiats brand sigarets and a Bryant & May matchbox. Nothing else was found that could point to the man’s identity.

A police photo of the Somerton man

The night before a couple saw a man in the same location moving an arm, and another couple didn’t see him move, but did think his positioning changed. Both couples assumed the man was asleep or very drunk.

The autopsy showed that the man was in great physical condition. The pathologist, John Burton Cleland, described the man as of ‘Britisher’ appearance and between 40-45 years old. His hands were not calloused and his toes were wedge shaped, like a dancer or when wearing boots with pointed toes. His calf muscles were highly developed, also like a ballet dancer. All the labels in his clothes were removed and he was not wearing a hat. His dental records did not match any in the system. The pathologist concluded after the autopsy ‘I am quite convinced the death could not have been natural … the poison I suggested was a barbiturate or a soluble hypnotic‘. The body was embalmed on the 10th of December after they had failed to identify him and find his next of kin.

In January of 1949, staff found a brown suitcase in the station’s cloakroom that had not been picked up by it’s owner. It had been checked in on the 30th of November, which led the police to believe the Somerton man might be this lost owner. The case contained a red dressing gown, red pair of slippers, pajamas, underpants (4 pair), a shaving kit, brown pair of trousers, a screwdriver, a table knife altered to be short and sharp, scissors with sharpened points and a stenciling brush. A thread card with orange thread was also found, the brand Barbour wasn’t available in Australia at the time. Police had seen this thread before. It was used to repair a hole in the pocket of the trousers the dead man had been wearing. All the tags had been removed, again, but now the name T. Keane was found on a tie and a laundry bag. Police believed this name could have been left on purpose (to confuse the investigation) or by accident. No-one named T. Keane or Keane was found to be missing.

A inquest by the coroner Thomas Cleland concluded that seeing as the mans shoes were very clean, he was murdered elsewhere and the crime scene at Somerton had been staged. This also explained why no vomit had been found at the scene. However, this did not align with the sightings of the man moving around on the night of the 30th of November. Cleland suggested that the witnesses might have seen someone else. The witnesses denied this, claiming the dead man was the man they saw. Cleland, the coroner, stated ‘I would be prepared to find that he died from poison, that the poison was probably a glucoside and that it was not accidentally administered; but I cannot say whether it was administered by the deceased himself or by some other person‘. After this inquest a plaster cast was made of the man’s head and he was buried in Adelaide’s West Terrace Cemetery.

The gravestone of the Somerton man

At the time of the inquest, a tiny piece of paper was found in the pocket that was sewn closed. The words ‘ Tamán Shud’ were printed on it. After investigation by police, it was found to mean end or finished and was printed on the last page of a book called ‘Rubaiyat’ by Omar Khayyam. A photo of this piece of paper was released to the public. Miraculously, a man came forward with an 1941 edition of a translation of the Rubaiyat. How this man, that remains unidentified, found this book is unclear. The most common story is that the man found the book in his unlocked parked car (which was parked in Glenelg, the town the used bus ticket was to). Tests showed that the piece of paper was ripped out of this copy of the Rubaiyat. The back of the book showed lines, as if someone had written on a piece of paper on top of it. Police thought these lines represented some kind of code. Code experts were asked to decipher it, but were unsuccesful.

The text in the back of the book ‘ Rubaiyat’

The back of the book also contained a phone number, belonging to Jessica Thomson, ‘Jo’. She lived in Moseley, Glenelg, about 400 meters (1300 ft) from where the Somerton man was found on the beach.

Jessica stated she did not know the man and why he would have her phone number. She then asked police to not record her name, as she was a nurse and it would be detrimental to her reputation to be associated with such a case. Jessica also made a statement that she once owned a copy of the ‘Rubaiyat’ book , and had given it to an Army lieutenant Alf Boxall during the Second World War in 1945. Jessica moved to Melbourne and married after that. She stated that she received one letter from Boxall to which she only replied that she was now married.

The police suspected that Boxall might be the Somerton man. However, when they found Boxall alive and well in Sydney in 1949, his copy of the ‘Rubaiyat’ was complete, including the last page. On the front page Jessica had signed her name and written out a verse.

The copy of the Rubaiyat Jessica gave to Boxall

During the years, people have thought the Somerton man to be a spy. He was found just after World War II ended, the circumstances of his death are very suspicious and he remained unidentified.

In 2009, Professor Derek Abbott and his team tried to solve the case through DNA and by attempting to crack the code in the back of the book. They found that the autopsy files of 1948-49 are missing and that most of the physical evidence, like the suitcase, has been destroyed. A professor of anatomy (of the University of Adelaide) looked at images of the Somerton man. He concluded that the man’s ears are of a rare genetic variant in Caucasian people (seen in only 1-2%). Also, dentists found that the Somerton man had hypodontia, a genetic disorder that leads to missing teeth.

Abbott suspected that Jessica did know the Somerton man. On a photo of Jessica’s children, it can be clearly seen that her oldest son, Robin, has the genetic disorders of both the ears and teeth. The chances that that is coincidental are very slim.

Jessica had died in 2007. Her daughter Kate told the tv-show ’60 minutes’ that her mother confessed to her that she did know the Somerton man. She suggested that her mother taught English to immigrants and spoke Russian, but would not tell Kate how she learned it. Kate thought both her mother and the Somerton man might have been spies. Robin Thomson, Jessica’s eldest son, was a ballet dancer… He unfortunately died in 2009 and was cremated.

Robin’s widow Roma and their daughter Rachel were also interviewed on ’60 minutes’. They believed the Somerton man was Robin’s father, as he shared some striking physical characteristics with him. Rachel and her mother wanted the remains of the Somerton man exhumed, so that they could test his DNA. In April 2021 it was confirmed by police that the Somerton man’s body will be exhumed so that DNA testing can be tried. Derek Abbott, the professor who started a reinvestigation of this case in 2009, said: ‘I knew it would happen one day. It’s an enduring mystery here in South Australia. The public wants to know who this man was. He also has a family somewhere missing him from their family tree and they have a right to know. There are so many weird twists and turns in this case — so many unlikely things keep happening.’

So many weird twist and turns indeed. When Derek Abbott finally met Rachel Egan, the woman who he thought was the Somerton man’s granddaughter, they fell in love. They married 4 months after they met, and since then have had three children. So his investigation into the Somerton’s man is now… a family affair?

I will update when there is news after the Somerton man is exhumed and DNA tests are done. What do you think, is Robin’s father the Somerton man?

Update sept 2022: The Somerton man has been identified by DNA analysis! Scientists used hairs caught in the death mask made before the burial of the unidentified body to make a DNA profile. This profile was then used to construct a family tree. After a lot of research, scientist found that the DNA from the death mask could only belong to Carl (Charles) Webb, an electrical engineer from Melbourne. And other evidence matched also. His sister was married to Thomas Keane, which connects to the clothing from the suitcase of the Somerton man that was labeled with T. Keane. One question has now been answered, but the rest remain: What was Carl Webb doing in Adelaide? What happened to him? Was he murdered? Maybe one day we will get answers to these questions too, what do you think?


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamam_Shud_case
  2. https://archives.sa.gov.au/finding-information/discover-our-collection/stories/“-what-poison”-mystery-somerton-man
  3. https://www.strangeoutdoors.com/historical-strangeness/tag/Rachel+Egan+Somerton+Man
  4. https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/scientist-at-centre-of-dna-breakthroughs-in-cold-case-appeals-for-government-to-exhume-the-body–somerton-man-to-finally-give-him-name/news-story/dfdbc3ca837001758808a7502a1239ee
  5. https://www.eleceng.adelaide.edu.au/personal/dabbott/wiki/index.php/List_of_facts_on_the_Taman_Shud_Case_that_are_often_misreported
  6. Sept 2022: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/have-scholars-finally-identified-the-mysterious-somerton-man-180980540/