Undercover Constable Rob Robertson placed himself in certain danger to prevent his colleague being shot and had to think fast to avoid death himself.
It was the 1st June 1977 when Constables Rob Robertson and Rod Porter were working undercover in the Brunswick area. Robertson was driving an unmarked Valiant Charger and Porter was in the passenger seat. They were unarmed.
A call came from D.24 for any unit available to investigate a silent holdup alarm at a bank in Melville Road West Brunswick. Silent alarms were common in banks and were often set off accidentally by staff so there wasn’t any sense of urgency from the initial call.
Undercover Police rarely attend routine calls from D.24 so although Robertson and Porter were nearby, they decided to simply monitor the situation for the time being and be available for backup if needed by the uniform Police.
Unfortunately, there were no uniform units responding to the job, so D.24 directed Rod and Rob to check out the bank from the outside to detect any suspicious activity. The bank was situated on a corner, so Robertson parked the Charger a small distance away from the bank in the side street. He stayed with the car whilst Porter walked to the bank. It was an old Art Deco building with small windows facing the street making it difficult to see inside.
Using his initiative, Porter decided to casually enter the bank posing as a customer. When he opened the door, he saw a woman laying on the floor. Instinctively, he immediately went to her assistance thinking she had fallen. It was then that he heard the words “shoot him, shoot him”. He looked up to see a shotgun pointing at his head by a masked gunman. The man giving the order to shoot was standing on the bank counter, also holding a firearm.
The man holding the shotgun was distracted momentarily which gave Rod a chance to run from the building as fast as possible. As he exited, he turned to see both gunmen following and levelling their firearms at him. This is it he thought, I’m finished.
It was at this exact moment that Rob Robertson’s Valiant Charger came screaming around the corner. Robertson placed himself and the car between Porter and the gunmen allowing Rod to escape over a nearby fence. Unfortunately, Robertson was now in the firing line and the gunmen attempted to take advantage of the situation. As they levelled both guns at Robertson through the windscreen, he jammed the car into reverse and spun the wheels backwards which allowed him to escape from immediate danger. The gunmen then went to a nearby getaway car to make their escape.
As they sped away, Robertson began pursuing the vehicle in the Charger. Although unarmed, he did have radio contact with D.24 and was calling in the locations of the offenders vehicle until help could arrive. He chased them though many Brunswick streets at high speeds; they were aware that they were being followed and attempted many manoeuvres to shake the determined Robertson.
Rob was so close to the getaway car that as it turned a corner, he rammed the rear of the vehicle. The crooks alighted and again pointed their guns at him as he quickly reversed away. They then ran off on foot abandoning their vehicle.
Fortunately, the new Police air wing and other units had responded to his calls and the gunmen were arrested a short time later in a nearby street.
Rob Robertson and Rod Porter went on to have outstanding careers and are now both retired, Rod as a Detective Inspector and Rob as a Senior Sergeant. Neither of the men received any acknowledgement for bravery over this incident; it was just part of the job in those days. They turned up for work the next day and were expected to carry on as normal.
Rob Robertson, however, did receive a Valour Award for another incident in 1978 which will be the subject of a future biography.
Robertson is also a Vietnam veteran and now works as a volunteer for Legacy. Porter and Robertson still get together occasionally with former colleagues and enjoy reminiscing over a few beers. They are well and enjoying life.
Story written by John Stubbs.