You may not know it looking at him today, but it is no understatement to suggest Alan Rosendale (pictured) is very fortunate to be with us. Now aged 56 and living in Newtown, Rosendale was viciously attacked by a gang of club-wielding “skinhead” thugs on a cold autumn’s night in May 1989 while walking through Moore Park on his way to his Surry Hills home after a night out with friends.
“They said something like: ‘There’s one – get him!’. I just ran. I think I actually fell, they didn’t push me into the gutter, and then they attacked me,” Rosendale told the Star Observer this week.
“I got a broken nose, I needed teeth work done and I was in hospital until the following Friday. I wasn’t in a good way and I was off work for about three weeks.”
Rosendale was only saved when a local gay man – Paul Simes – who happened to be driving on South Dowling Street flashed his headlights at the assailants and slowly drove past before taking down the registration of a car he had seen them leap out of. Simes quickly called the police from a nearby payphone on Cleveland Street and upon returning to the scene found the attackers had disappeared and Rosendale, who had been taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, was nowhere to be seen. Up until this month, Simes believed Rosendale may have been killed – another victim of Sydney’s gay hate epidemic that had been silently culling members of the city’s burgeoning gay community.
For a quarter of a century, Rosendale lived with the belief he was lucky to escape with a savage beating after being randomly picked on by a group of youths who had gone “poofter bashing” – an activity which a series of recent articles in the Star Observer, as well as the Sydney Morning Herald, have suggested was rife across Sydney from the 1970s to the 90s and led to the deaths of about 80 gay men in the space of a few decades.
“It was at a gay beat and it was at about one o’clock at night,” Rosendale recalls matter-of-factly. “I had just left the Taxi Club and I was probably half-pissed to be honest. I lived in Surry Hills – and it was on the way home – so I just popped in to see what was going on, and that [gay bashing] was what was going on.”
Then a 32-year old hospitality worker employed as a front-of-desk staffer at the Waldorf Apartments on Liverpool Street, Rosendale told the Star Observer he has been in a state of shock for the past week after happening across Simes’s account of the attack in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month.
“I’ve walked around for 24 years thinking that I was bashed by thugs, and then you find out one Saturday morning you weren’t bashed by thugs but by cops,” he says. “It’s amazing.”
The licence plate number Simes had noted down and given police matched the registration of an unmarked police vehicle. Simes was called in for a meeting with senior police weeks after the incident and told his report would be properly investigated, but was informed soon after that the officers from the ‘unassigned response unit’ allegedly responsible for the attack had been disbanded.
“The information that came out is that I was never interviewed and the only time I had contact with police was when I was being admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital,” Rosendale tells the Star Observer. “It was uniformed police and according to the incident report they put down that I had been bashed by a gang of skinheads. End of conversation.
“I gave my statement for what happened in 1989 on Tuesday of last week because no police ever interviewed me before then.”
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich told the Star Observer he has called on the Police Minister and State Ombudsman for a “proper investigation” into Rosendale’s case and that of other historical violent crimes against gay men across the city’s parks and beachside clifftops.
“While it will be difficult to do this so far after the events occurred, the community rightly expects that NSW Police act within the law and protect vulnerable people,” Greenwich said.
“Ongoing and widespread cultural change is required to ensure that no one thinks it’s okay to assault or abuse others on the basis of their gender or sexuality. I am working with the families of some of the victims towards justice.”
At the opening of the new Surry Hills police cell complex last Friday, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told the Star Observer that police were taking seriously revelations of links between gay-hate gangs and serving officers in decades past.
“We have full-time officers who work in those [LGBTI] communities and we have commanders from this area here today that police this area, and I know they would welcome anyone coming forward to give us information that might assist us in an inquiry that you might be wanting us to consider,” Scipione said.
Reflecting on his near-death experience at the hands of police, Rosendale says what worries him the most is that the officers involved in the assault upon him may still be in the force, and their superiors who failed to investigate may still be even higher in police ranks.
“Thinking about it now, I honestly believe I wasn’t the only one. They targeted me but I think they would have targeted others.
“After all this time to think that I was bashed by people who are there to protect me, it makes me feel disgusted,” Rosendale said.
“I thought things had changed since 1989. I thought things had changed a lot for the better but maybe they haven’t. I was very shocked when that guy was bashed at this year’s Mardi Gras.
“I really thought that when I was in the gutter and they were hitting me with their batons that I was going to die.”