News / Featured / 19th August 2021
Operation Jungle - born under Coonabarabran skies
John Shobbrook, the man who back in 1996 championed promoting Coonabarabran as ‘The Astronomy Capital of Australia’ has written what has been described by one of Australia’s top publishers and editors as ‘a narrative which makes compelling reading’ - and it is not about astronomy!
Mr Shobbrook, a former Supervising Investigator with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, moved with his family from Brisbane to Coonabarabran in 1994 to get away from constant reminders of the turmoil that his life had been put through and the police and judicial corruption that he had uncovered during his final investigation with the Bureau.
The move to Coonabarabran worked - Mr Shobbrook left his past behind him and commenced a new career in astronomy, eventually becoming the site manager for the 2.0 metre Faulkes Telescope South at Siding Spring Observatory.
Along the way John became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a member of the Astronomical Society of Australia. In February 1995 he was the co- discoverer of Supernovae SN1995G, discovered in the galaxy NGC 1643, for which he received a ‘Nova Award’ from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).
In 2001, Asteroid Shobbrook 148604 (2001 RO63), which orbits the Sun every 4.32 years with an absolute magnitude of 15.9, was named in honour of his role in astronomy education, and in October 2005 Mr Shobbrook’s push to build the World’s Largest Virtual Solar System Drive centering on Coonabarabran commenced construction.
It was during his nights up at Siding Spring Observatory that Mr Shobbrook decided that the full, previously-hidden story of the official corruption that he had uncovered and the disbanding of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in order to hide that corruption, needed to be told, and the night- time tranquility of Siding Spring provided the perfect environment in which to start typing.
Forty-nine thousand words later, he had written what award-winning author Matthew Condon (Three Crooked Kings, Jacks and Jokers, and All Fall Down) would describe as “a story probably without precedent in the history of Australian law enforcement.”
‘Operation Jungle’ tells the story of how in the late 1970s, former Queensland ‘Ace Detective’ Glen Hallahan and associate John Milligan conspired with others to import in excess of eight million dollars worth of heroin into Far North Queensland via a remote mountain top airdrop.
In a story that is stranger than fiction, it took them three trips through dense jungle to locate the heroin, but they only recovered one of the two packages dropped.
When narcotics agent John Shobbrook took on the investigation of this audacious crime, code named ‘Operation Jungle’, his career was on the rise within the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. What he discovered unwittingly set in motion a chain of events that not only destroyed his own career, but led to the disbanding of the Narcotics Bureau by a corrupt Supreme Court Judge and a barrister who served twice as president of the Queensland Bar Association. They took their secrets to the grave. ‘Operation Jungle’, with contributions by Matthew Condon and Quentin Dempster, is a gripping true story about the high cost of truth and the far-reaching tentacles of greed and corruption that cross state borders and legal jurisdictions.
‘Operation Jungle’ brought Shobbrook to the attention of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs, which negated his claims of corruption by dismissing him from the newly-formed Australian Federal Police.
Queensland Premier Mike Ahern summarised Shobbrook’s stance in these terms: “John, it is important that you realise that in your professional career you did your job well. You did not flinch when you ran into the “heinous mob”. That was a tough call, but you did your job courageously and well. Your effort, joined with others, led to a better policing outcome for Australians. Well done!”
The full story is told in ‘Operation Jungle’, published by the University of Queensland Press. The book is available in both paperback and audio MP3 and CD versions online and in bookshops around Australia.
John Shobbrook’s book, “Operation Jungle” recounts the story of his investigation with the Australian Narcotics Bureau that led to a Royal Commission.