Victim of historic gay hate crime seeks closure from Surry Hills police station

Surry Hills Police Station. File photo.

Following re-investigations of Sydney’s historic gay hate crimes, Alan Rosendale is still trying to solve his 31-year-old cold case, reports Mike Hitch.

Alan Rosendale was brutally beaten by four men in 1989 while walking home from Sydney’s Oxford Street. He was visiting Moore Park, a well-known beat where gay men would meet up for sex.

Rosendale believes he was assaulted at the hands of the ‘Hoodlum Squad’, a group of undercover NSW police officers who were known for terrorising gay men at beats.

Now, with the help of Eastside FM’s Queer For Your Ears presenter Gavin Vance, as well as a witness to Alan’s attack, Paul Simes, Alan is hoping to uncover the truth of what happened more than 30 years ago.

Last Thursday, the group staged a walk-in protest into Surry Hills Police Station to ask in person for the archived charge sheets and charge books which could lead to the truth of Alan’s assault – as well as the assaults of countless other innocent men.

“I’m doing this because I want closure, if it’s possible.”

– Alan Rosendale

Speaking to the Sentinel, Rosendale recalled his movements on Friday, 5 May, 1989 in the lead-up to his assault and hospitalisation.

“I went over there (Moore Park) and I couldn’t see anybody, and I just thought of getting out,” Rosendale told the Sentinel as he, Simes, Gavin Vance and his Queer For Your Ears co-host Jackie Vance gathered for drinks before staging the walk-in.

“Then I heard someone say, ‘There’s one, get him!’ So, I bolted. I was winning and getting away from them. But I tripped and fell in the gutter outside the Lincoln Centre. They proceeded to attack me with what I thought at the time were wooden planks.”

Alan awoke in St Vincent’s Hospital with a broken nose and several other injuries.

“The last thing I remember was seeing headlights coming towards me,” he said.

“And I thought, ‘Thank God, I’m saved. Someone’s here to stop it.’ The next thing I woke up Saturday afternoon.”

More than 30 years later, justice is yet to be served.

“I’m doing this because I want closure, if it’s possible,” he said.

Following NSW Police’s arrest of Scott Phillip White, the man who allegedly murdered 27-year-old Scott Johnson in 1988, the state has seen a revival of interest in solving historic gay hate crimes.

Johnson’s body was found on the morning of Saturday, 10 December, 1988, at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. 

Many gay men in Sydney faced similar threats to safety during a period of rampant homophobia in the ’80s, and NSW Police officers who were unwilling to help – and in some cases, willing to hurt.

“These guys were on top of him beating and beating him. I thought, I’m looking at a murder here.”

– Paul Simes

Paul Simes told the Sentinel that at the time of witnessing Alan’s assault, he believed he was seeing a murder in the making.

“These guys were on top of him beating and beating him. And I thought, you know, I’m looking at a murder here or something, you know? I mean, [it was] just so vicious,” he said.

“I shone my headlights, and I can remember shining on something metallic … I was totally of the view at that moment that it was wood and batons.”

Simes tried to call an ambulance at a working payphone, but when he returned, Rosendale was gone. 

At the time, police reported that Alan had been assaulted by “skinheads”, but Rosendale recalls a visit to the police shortly afterwards, where police admitted that the number plate from the car belonged to undercover police, assumed to be the Hoodlum Squad.

Now, with the help of Gavin and Jackie Vance, Rosendale and Simes are looking for answers in the hope of gaining closure.

After the police station walk-in, Gavin Vance described its success as “something in-between”; while police were generally helpful, they were  unable to turn over the necessary documentation. 

“An officer brought an application form for us to use as a request to NSW Police for information,” Vance told the Sentinel.

“We were told that it is not possible for police in the moment to find and print off the documents here and now. It could take up to a few weeks.

“But, the police we met were kind, patient, polite and helpful. We never expected to be handed the documents then and there. The worst outcome would have been officers angrily blocking us, demanding ID, or telling us to go away.”

Vance expressed hope that uncovering those involved in the Hoodlum Squad would allow other victims of these historical crimes to gain closure.

“Our intention was simply to give the case a human face. It was heartening to hear Alan – who in our chat before the walk-in was saying ‘I’m over it!’ – say that he was pleasantly surprised to see how seriously they were taking our requests,” he said.

“So, we have hope that we may yet win access to these documents being asked for now.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise a reward for information that leads to an arrest. 

Anyone who has any information, or knew undercover officers who worked during the ’80s, is urged to come forward in the hope of providing justice for Rosendale and others who’ve suffered the same violence. 

Paul Simes, Gavin Vance and Alan Rosendale outside Surry Hills Police Station. Photo: Jackie Vance/supplied.

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