Anchorman's tell-all on escaping murderous gang at Rocky
WHEN renowned former anchorman Mike Higgins stepped foot in Rockhampton 48 years ago, he was seeking refuge, on the run from a dangerous Brisbane drug gang.
Then a 26-year-old 7 News reporter, just five years into his stint as one of television's most recognisable faces in news, he was already a household name when he went on the lam.
He was on the road for months, passing through Central Queensland areas like Rockhampton on his way to a reclusive hideaway up north.
The charismatic 71-year-old returned to Rocky last month to promote his new memoir Trouserless under the News Desk.
"When I was working at Channel 7 in my raw youth in about 1970, I was living in a shared house with some female art college students and they were selling a little bit of pot on the side to supplement their studies,” Mr Higgins said.
"One of them got involved with some rather nasty characters who began coming into the house on a frequent basis.
"One day I came home from Channel 7 and sitting on my bed was a guy taking apart and cleaning an automatic weapon with a suitcase of white powder in little packets beside him.”
Mr Higgins discovered that the man's name was John Regan, a "particularly cantankerous” contract killer.
Mr Regan and his associate, a man who disguised himself in priest's garments and hid a gun in the folds, threatened to shoot the frightened news reader if he didn't agree to become a drug mule between Brisbane and Sydney for them.
With his girlfriend in tow, Mr Higgins threw his belongings into his car and high-tailed it, forgetting to inform his boss and leaving a trail of police officers to kick off a search for him.
"I stopped at... Rockhampton and went on eventually to north Queensland,” he said.
"John was shot to death by three different hand guns and a fellow journalist told me he found evidence of the other fellow's burial site in Toowong.
"Ever since, I've had a very sensible life.”
Over 40 years later, Mr Higgins is now retired and living a much slower-paced life.
The region has always had a special place in his heart.
"People are always so rewarding and friendly in a country town,” Mr Higgins said.
"I spent 25 years reading and anchoring the news in Brisbane and occasionally we did state wide promotions and I came to Maryborough, Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns and did bulletins out of all the local stations here.
"It was like a holiday away from the city. When I came up to this area all the locals were very supportive and friendly and I had a really good time.
"All the media did a promotion called The Great Race from Brisbane to Cairns, and Channel 7 hired a steam train and loaded it with champagne.
"We stopped at Rocky along the way and there was a big celebration and the platform opened up to the public with music, a band and dancing.”
Whilst in Rockhampton, the hobby gardener took it upon himself to explore many of Rockhampton's enviable gardens including Kershaw and the Botanic Gardens.
He also stopped in to a number of local book stores to promote the tell-all book.
"I'd love if people going through a tough spot, whether psychological, emotional or physical, can get some inspiration from the book,” he said.
In 2008, Mr Higgins defied the odds by surviving a rare form of blood cancer, cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which primarily affects the skin causing patches, plaques, tumours and lesions, even after given a 16 per cent chance of survival.
It was during his recovery, which involved painful open lesions all over his body, four years of chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, Mr Higgins took pen to paper to begin writing his memoir.
Eight years on, he was back on his feet, with a renewed vigour for life and a love of minimalism, yoga and the power of placebo healing.
The inspiration for his book title came from Mr Higgins grounded approach to life amidst the glamour of presenting.
And perhaps a cheeky nod to his famous disappearing act.
"It was suit from the waist up but underneath the desk was running shorts,” he smiled.
Not just a pretty face
- Mr Higgins was awarded the United Nations Media Peace Prize for a documentary about the military industrial triangle, nuclear disarmament and global conflict resolution.
- Order the book at your local bookstore or online at boolarongpress.com.au