Colin McLaren’s biography, net worth, fact, career, awards and life story

Intro Australian writer
Is Writer 
From Australia 
Type Literature 
Gender male

Colin McLaren is an Australian documentary film maker, crime writer and former police detective sergeant and task force team leader. A feature length telemovie about his life by Underbelly Productions, starring Sullivan Stapleton in the title role, aired in 2011 in Australia and other territories.

Police career

The major phase of McLaren’s real life police career took place during the 1980s and 1990s. McLaren rose through the police ranks rapidly and when asked to join an elite covert surveillance unit, he began spying on drug importers and the ringleaders of organised crime, before going undercover and organising covert stings. As a member of some of the most high-profile task forces in Australia, McLaren, as a suit and tie detective, worked on the Walsh Street murders of police constables Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre, the Mr Cruel child rapes and the murder of thirteen-year-old Karmein Chan, and the bombing of the Adelaide NCA police headquarters where he was task force leader. McLaren then went undercover, where for two years he infiltrated Australia’s mafia in the guise of a money laundering art dealer, in what is still the largest undercover sting in Australian history. Eleven Mafia bosses received sentences of up to 13 years each for major drug trafficking and racketeering. He also went undercover for another year to gain evidence on the Mafia responsible for the NCA bombing. Six mafia were jailed. He ended his police career as a permanent lecturer at the detective training school, his subject was ‘crime scene management’ and ‘field investigations’.

After leaving police work, he developed his interest in Italian style gourmet food and wine, designing the Italian villa ‘Villa Gusto’ in the countryside in north-east Victoria, Australia.

Writing career

It was during 2005 that Colin discovered that he could write. He commenced on his first, (best selling) book straight away. He has now penned 5 books to date. McLaren’s first book, Infiltration, is the true story of his efforts as a suit and tie detective and the undercover agent who infiltrated the Mafia. McLaren followed this up with On the Run, a novel that details the exploits of Cole Goodwin, McLaren’s real-life Mafia alias, which has been adapted to a screenplay. The story picks up with the Mafia sending a hit-man after Cole and his undercover girlfriend, Jude. Cole escapes a hit and goes ‘on the run’ with the assassin in pursuit; through South America, New York and eventually throughout Italy. The plot follows a massive drug importation as well and culminates with a face-off between the assassin and Cole, in the Mafia-controlled mountains of southern Italy.

McLaren’s third book, Sunflower, is a historical work graphically depicting the real life experiences of his own grandfather, one of Australia’s longest-serving foot soldiers from the First World War. McLaren is currently working on further manuscripts and screenplays. These include a mini series likened to Deadwood. McLaren co-wrote the fourth Underbelly book with famous Australian authors Andrew Rule and John Silvester, and published his fifth book, JFK: The Smoking Gun, concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in November 2013, which was released in conjunction with a 90-minute TV documentary of the same name.

McLaren’s police career has been the focus of various television documentaries, and the Underbelly Files: Infiltration telemovie series screened on Channel 9.

McLaren is the owner of Scuttlebutt Media, a company specialising in offering assistance to film projects. He has been a guest speaker at Australian literary events as well as corporate events as a key note speaker. McLaren has been the technical advisor for many TV series and films in the crime genre, among them the Screentime Films trilogy of Tell them Lucifer was Here, The Man that Got Away and Infiltration. Also the TV series Squizzy about Squizzy Taylor, a gangster from the 1920s, for which McLaren wrote storyline material. McLaren also contributed to Killing Time, the television mini-series based on once corrupt lawyer Andrew Fraser’s life, produced by FremantleMedia, TV1 and Film Victoria. McLaren was also Producer of a one-hour debate show made in Hollywood titled ‘JFK:Inside the Evidence’. He also headed up a panel of experts on the show which was anchored by America’s most known anchorman Bill Kurtis. It aired on Reelz TV channel in late 2013 across USA.

JFK: The Smoking Gun

Inspired by Bonar Menninger’s Mortal Error, McLaren decided to approach the assassination of Kennedy as a cold case investigation, and treating Howard Donahue’s expert testimony as that of just one witness of many. After more than four years of work, made far quicker and easier by the availability of documents such as the Warren Commission report and testimony as searchable files, he published a 90-minute documentary and book, both titled JFK: The Smoking Gun.

JFK: The Smoking Gun (documentary)

The documentary aired on Australian and American television on November 3, 2013.

Written by Steve Lucas and directed by Malcolm Mcdonald, it features re-enactments, archival footage, and also new interviews with Menninger, with Donahue’s daughter Colleen, and with witnesses to the shooting. A one-hour abridged version of this documentary aired in the United Kingdom on November 13, 2013, entitled JFK’s Secret Killer: The Evidence.

A highlight of the program is when McLaren demonstrates one of Donahue’s ballistics tests as described in Mortal Error, using a plaster skull to trace the trajectory of the head shot, and showing how this indicated to Donahue that the shot that struck Kennedy in the head came from exactly where Agent Hickey was positioned. As further evidence for there being a second shooter, he notes Donahue’s conclusion that the calibre of the bullet that made the 6mm entry wound in Kennedy’s head was incompatible with Oswald’s 6.5mm calibre Mannlicher–Carcano rifle but compatible with a 5.56mm bullet from an AR-15, and that the 30-40 bullet fragments found inside Kennedy’s skull demonstrated that it was a different type of ammunition to the bullet which travelled straight through the President and into Governor Connally, and again that while this shot behaved exactly like a full-jacket Mannlicher–Carcano round, the head shot appears to behave exactly like an AR-15 round. He then produces the photograph of Agent Hickey holding up an AR-15 while standing inside the Secret Service follow-up car as it speeds behind the Presidential limousine with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill on its rear, the same photograph which was crucial to Donahue’s decision to publish his work and which was used on the front cover of Menninger’s book.

Also investigating the leadup to the shooting, McLaren discusses the pressure the Secret Service agents were under at the time of Kennedy’s Texas trip, stating they “…had been working double-shifts” and “…the previous three days (to the assassination) had been brutal with no end in sight”. He adds that several Secret Service agents spent the early hours of November 22 drinking until 5am, suggesting this would have made them “…hungover from the alcohol and not at their best performance” and probably why Hickey, who hadn’t been out drinking, an agent of only four months service at the time and normally just a driver, was given the job of commanding the AR-15, “a role foreign to him”, McLaren comments.

Moving to events after the shooting, the documentary reconstructs scenes where eyewitnesses gave statements to the Dallas police, with one saying he saw “a flash of pink” from the Presidential motorcade, and how another, Jean Hill, saw “…the president grab his chest”, then “…a few men in plain clothes shooting back”. McLaren suggests the pink flash could have been “a muzzle blast or the gunpowder itself” and asks why Hill’s testimony wasn’t followed up. Further reference is made to ten witnesses in Dealey Plaza who smelled gunpowder, with a 15 mph breeze from the south-west, heading towards Oswald, making it unlikely the gunpowder had originated from the Texas School Book Depository.

Other evidence of a cover-up put forward by McLaren states how an evasive Secret Service chief James Rowley admitted, at the Warren Commission, that AR-15s were no longer used by his organization inside protection vehicles since the assassination, and also that classified Secret Service documents on the assassination were destroyed just one week prior to being handed over to the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995. McLaren suggests the chaos of the aftermath of the assassination, including threatening and interfering behaviour by Secret Service agents towards Parkland Memorial Hospital staff, involving the removal of Kennedy’s body without an autopsy having taken place, was “…evidence they knew one of their agents had shot JFK” and pointed to a cover-up. He further suggests that Kennedy’s eventual autopsy with its “…overcrowding in the room, the Secret Service’s constant interference, the pressure cooker autopsy, lost photographs, falsified x-rays…all point to conspiracy”. Several scenes are dramatically reconstructed, including the removal of the body from the Dallas hospital.

JFK: The Smoking Gun (book)

McLaren’s book JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013) is dedicated to Howard Donahue but has a very different focus to both his documentary and to Menninger’s book. Donahue’s ballistics tests are not here repeated, but are simply cited as evidence, and McLaren then describes going to the scene in Dallas to see with his own eyes whether they seemed convincing in that context.

As an investigator, McLaren focuses on the existing witness testimony, rather than on his own ballistics or similar tests. Rather than just dismiss the ballistics tests carried out for the Warren Commission as inexpert, their testimony to the commission, including their qualifications, is quoted and critiqued, and also any cross-examination.

He quotes many more witnesses than Donahue or Menninger as having believed that shots were fired at ground level, and observes a pattern of concealment of evidence. His conclusion, like those of Reppert and of Menninger, is that Donahue is correct in both the broad theory and the details.

McLaren started his research in January 2009.

Princess Diana’s Death – Mystery Solved

Throughout 2016 McLaren, in conjunction with Bedlam Productions of London, produced the 2-hour documentary ‘Princess Diana’s Death – Mystery Solved’. This factually based TV special was aired throughout America on Reelz TV on 10 July 2016. The special is to be shown in other territories throughout August. The documentary relies on forensic evidence gathered by McLaren when he visited the original crime scene in Paris back on 31 August, 1997. He was the only independent detective at the crime scene. At that time McLaren had been a lecturer at the Australian-based Detective Training School specializing in Crime Scene management and procedures. McLaren’s documentary indicates that both the French and English investigations into the death of Diana were flawed. McLaren interviews many of those involved in the investigation, French Police and Paparazzi included, as well as crucial witnesses, and concludes that a cover-up existed.


  • (2009) Infiltration, Victory Books ISBN 978-0-522-85679-8
  • (2010) On the Run, Victory Books ISBN 978-0-522-85703-0
  • (2010) Sunflower, Victory Books ISBN 978-0-522-85762-7
  • (2013) JFK: The Smoking Gun