England : He's been a murderer, a football hooligan and a crackhead. Now GMP's boldest undercover cop has broken his silence - 30/08/2020
Source : https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/Garry Rogers put his life on the line in a series of volatile situations
Manchester United hooligans were packed into the Grey Parrot pub in Hulme.
The huge, and seemingly well organised 'firms' had an infamous reputation.
It was derby day, February 3rd 1990, and they would soon be seeking City fans.
As they boozed before kick off an undercover police unit had them in their sights.
Operation Mars had been set up after Bolton Wanderers thugs had been successfully infiltrated and prosecuted.
Detective Constable Garry Rogers had been selected to to become a United hard case by GMP's then secret Omega Unit.
But one of the targets had a friend who Garry knew from his schooldays. It was too risky to use him in the pack, so Garry got stuck into filming United hooligans on match days.
He was doing just that when they spilt from the Grey Parrot on that derby day.
"We had two covert officers deployed among the troublemakers. They seemed to be well integrated with the hooligan element, known as The Red Army, along with groups such as The Men in Black. They were drinking with them, getting ready to go down to the ground."
Suddenly the pub emptied.
The thugs started pouring out. At the front was a bloke called Tony O'Neill, who was known as 'The General', and has since written books about his time as a football hooligan.
"They made their way 'marching' through estates, and we carried on filming them, but the streets were like a rabbit warren and at times we could not observe them, Garry says.
"Suddenly they all came to a standstill and the shout went up that they had a couple of ‘sweets’ with them - which we later discovered referred to the two undercover officers - and at this point they were attacked. They weren't happy, and both men got a real good hiding."
A GMP police log of the incident written by one of the attacked officers records how a shout went up "They're dibble (police), get them'.
Kicks and punches rained down on both officers who needed hospital treatment.
"Because of the amount of people there it was not immediately realised who was involved in the attack but as they ran away it soon became apparent who was," Garry says.
"Having been excluded from this operation myself as a undercover officer, due to me knowing one of the targets, it hit me hard that it could have been me in that estate, being attacked.
"l can honestly say it frightened me to death and made me seriously question if this was for me."
It was a brutal introduction to his new post as one of six full time undercover officers with Omega, run by an inspiring boss, 'DCI Henri' - not his real name - and based on the top floor of the then Prestwich Police Station on Bury New Road.
But Garry didn't quit, and went on to serve for five years, putting his life on the line as a key member of an elite team who were seen as the last resort when conventional police investigations had failed.
Now the former Salford Grammar School lad has written a book, lifting the lid on his dangerous, and nerve shredding work, which earned him a string of commendations.
After his success with Omega targeting Greater Manchester hooligans Garry was seconded to Operation Atlas, and in June 1990 flew to Sardinia and the World Cup.
His 'legend' - the undercover styling and character he created - hit every stereotype of an England football yob of the era.
He was 17 stone, shaved his head, dressed in an array of shellsuits, and had an earring in each ear.
In a Sardinian bar he was presented by locals with a drinks tray embossed with the face of Telly Savalas, so convincing was his 'Kojak' look.
It meant he was regularly stopped at airports by officials as a menacing looking thug, worth checking out.
Garry was in Italy for four weeks until England lost on penalties in the semi-final against West Germany, and Paul Gascoigne's tears flowed.
He got caught up in running street battles in Rimini between English and Italian fans which triggered brutal intervention by police and saw hundreds of England fans arrested and deported.
"The Carabinieri’s armed riot squads effectively charged the rampaging English fans and due to the mayhem, confusion, and tear gas l became isolated from my group," he says.
"I did not know where to go for the best as any English fan was fair game for the authorities as by this time they had had enough of the way they continually behaved and this was their attempt at regaining control.
"l just stood against a wall whilst all this was going on around me to gather my thoughts and l saw the lad at the side of me get hit in the face by a rock and he fell to the ground.
"I realised l could be next and the Carabinieri were closing in so l just ran and then ended up being attacked by them and forced to lay flat on a garage forecourt where, crazy to say, l then felt safer.
"I'd been arrested,and mistreated by Italian police, simply for being with the English fan group in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"During that time I witnessed and experienced some of the worst outbreaks of premeditated violence I had ever seen.
"Despite those major, but relatively isolated scenes the operation was deemed to be a significant success."
Garry received a commendation from the then-Chief Constable James Anderton on his return, and the MEN reported on July 11th 1990: "Secret Soccer Cops Win The Big Match".
"A team of undercover soccer cops risked their lives to help defeat English hooligans intent on ruining the World Cup.
"Posing as yobs they infiltrated the military style higher ranks of thugs in Italy as they made plans to attack rival fans. Several acts of mayhem were averted because the Omega Squad men tipped off Italian police.
"The remarkable success of the small dedicated squad has helped take English soccer back into Europe next season," we reported.
The following year Garry was arrested again - while undercover in Turkey at an England game.
He was drinking in a bar with fans, secretly gathering intelligence, when the windows went in.
The culprits were Turkish fans throwing tables and chairs, who, when England supporters left the bar, made throat cutting gestures.
Turkish riot squads arrived and he was arrested. "About 40 of us were crammed into a wrought iron holding cell. In one corner there was a hole in the ground, which comprised the 'facilities'.
"It was stifling hot and it stank; a really horrible stench. But it was important that we didn't get released earlier or quicker than anyone else because then people would begin to ask questions.
"Our welfare team talked to Turkish counterparts and we never made it to court. We were back with the English fans later in the day, moaning about how much we'd been fined for the damage like everyone else.
"It worked in our favour, gave us credibility - something we could talk about - even with targets - at other games. It gives you a lot of cachet with hooligans."
Omega's success in football prompted GMP to rethink its approach to undercover work and it became the Covert Operations Department.
It meant Garry was sent on a series of high risk operations - targeting drug dealers, robbery teams - and a killer.
On New Year's Day in 1991 Norman David Clarke, aged 63, was found dead in Princess Road, Moss Side.
It was assumed it had suffered a heart attack. But a post-mortem examination revealed a shocking truth.
He had a hole in his ear, through which some kind of weapon had penetrated his brain.
Garry was given the task of infiltrating a violent gang of travellers from Ancoats and Cheetham Hill to try and discover if one of them was responsible for the murder.
This time Gary, posing as a villain, and armed robber, he worked with a second undercover cop - 'Danny' - who posed as his brother.
In an astonishing twist of fate, as they got acquainted with the target and his associates, there was an appeal on BBC's Crimewatch programme. And the two men whose e-fit images were shown had an uncanny resemblance to the undercover officers.
"It was a very difficult job. We let the target think we were responsible for shooting dead a victim in an armed robbery.
"That gave him an instant bond with us. When we were out and about in pubs he was drawn to us, because like him, we had killed someone.
"He started to talk about the 'angel of death' saying 'every night, when I go to bed, I see the angel of death coming for me. But when I look at you I see the angel of death standing beside me too'.
"He really believed that as murderers we were kindred spirits."Former undercover cop Garry Rogers, now 61Garry Rogers, (centre in white jacket) with England fans being escorted by Italian police during World Cup Italia '90Garry (right) has penned a book about his covert operations with GMPPicture taken by Garry Rogers as Italian police round up England fans at the 1990 World Cup