When university student Jamie Gao snuck into a storage shed in Sydney’s south-west on May 20, 2014 carrying a hefty bag of the drug ice, he thought he was going to make a lot of money. Instead the 20-year-old was never seen alive again.
After 16 weeks of listening to very different versions of the killing, a NSW Supreme Court jury on Wednesday found a pair of former police officers guilty both of Gao’s murder and of stealing the 2.78kg of ice.
Former cop turned private investigator turned true crime writer Glen McNamara said Roger Rogerson shot and killed Gao before threatening the lives of McNamara and his two daughters.
His co-accused, notorious veteran police detective sergeant Rogerson, 75, said the student was dead on the floor next to the .25 calibre handgun when he entered the shed and he did not even know Gao's name until he helped remove the body.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Maxwell QC said on the first day of the trial he did not have to prove which man pulled the trigger. Instead, he only needed to show that the men went into Rent-A-Space 808 with the “specific intent” to murder Gao.
1. The relationship with the victim
McNamara met with Gao 27 times in the lead-up to his death.
The 57-year-old told the court these meetings were for "research" on his upcoming true crime book on Asian triads and the illegal drug trade in Sydney, and that Gao was a secret informant.
The jury was shown more than 150 text messages between the pair in the few months before the shooting.
Most of the texts were sent to organise places to meet up, in one exchange they referred to each other as "mum" and "son" and on the morning of the murder McNamara told Gao he couldn't meet up because he had "food poisoning".
2. The drugs
The crown alleged a white Ford station wagon, registration BV67PX, was bought by Rogerson and McNamara on April 27 and it was later used to transport Gao's body.
Gao had been missing for four days when police searched the station wagon parked in the basement of McNamara's Cronulla apartment block.
The jury was shown footage of a police officer searching the car and finding two brown pillow cases and a green backpack under the seats of the car, into which 2.78kg of ice had been stuffed.
3. The body
Two days later on May 26, a fisherman found Gao's body floating in the water off Cronulla in Sydney's south.
It was weighed down with a thick chain, which was later passed around to the jury during the trial.
Gao's white Lacoste shoes were poking out of the surfboard bag and blue tarpaulin in which he had been wrapped.
A single latex glove remained on his hand.
4. The CCTV footage
Wearing a hoodie, baseball cap and dark sunglasses, McNamara parked his car in a way that shielded Gao from CCTV as he entered the Padstow storage unit on the day of the alleged bungled drug deal.
Rogerson, who is now heading for his fourth and final stint in the slammer after serving time for conspiring to pervert the course of justice, entered the shed three minutes and 19 seconds later.
The convicted killers were then seen lugging a silver Ocean & Earth surfboard bag into the boot of a car.
5. The boat
McNamara removed his Quintrex aluminium tinny from storage the day before Gao's death and returned it the day after.
He told the court Rogerson, who was his drinking buddy and fishing partner, threatened to kill him and his daughters if he didn't help dispose of the body.
The friends went to Kennards Hire to rent a block and tackle to put a catching chain around the body, and after the "fishing trip" they shared a six pack, the court heard.
6. The testimonies
The court heard from dozens of witnesses including police officers and business associates of the two accused men.
A forensic expert testified the clothes Rogerson was wearing at the time of the shooting contained traces of gunshot residue but the clothes of his co-accused Glen McNamara came back clean.
Gao's friends told the jury the University of Technology Sydney student was trying to climb the ranks of an Asian triad and had boasted about an upcoming "massive" deal with someone called "Glen".
McNamara's 25-year-old daughter Jessica testified that the two men came home on the day of the shooting and her father was white faced and scared.
"He was playing with cutlery and not eating," she told the court.
Rogerson began threateningly "tapping" a dark coloured lump in his pocket, which she thought was a gun, she testified.
7. The paper trail
A receipt tendered in court showed McNamara went to Kmart after the killing to buy a pair of pillow cases, a measuring jug and a cooking spoon with cash.
Rogerson and McNamara shared a cell in Silverwater jail and passed notes to each other.
One of the handwritten notes was titled "knowledge of Gao", another "reasonable doubt" and the other "questions".
It isn't the first time Rogerson has taken to the stand after shooting someone; in 1981 he shot and killed heroin dealer Warren Lanfranchi in "self-defence", a jury found.
The pair will be sentenced by Justice Geoffrey Bellew on August 25.
McNamara has already indicated he will appeal against his conviction.
"It won't change the fact that Jamie remains absent from the lives of our family, the people who love him, and we miss him every single day," the Gao family said in a statement.