18 February 2022

Officer tells murder trial Zachary Rolfe held gun 'very close' to Kumanjayi Walker in fatal shooting

| Albert McKnight
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Constable Zachary Rolfe just before the shooting. The footage has been tendered to the court. Image: Supplied.

Readers are advised this article contains content some may find distressing.

A police officer has told a murder trial he saw Constable Zachary Rolfe hold his gun “very close” to Kumanjayi Walker before he was shot.

Constable Zachary Rolfe, 30, is currently facing a jury trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court. He is accused of murdering 19-year-old Mr Walker in the small desert community of Yuendumu, outside Alice Springs, on 9 November 2019.

On Thursday (17 February), jurors heard from Senior Constable Anthony Hawkings, a fellow member of the immediate response team (IRT) with Mr Rolfe, who was called to the community to arrest Mr Walker for breaching a court order.

The IRT arrived at the house where Mr Walker was shot that night. After footage of the scene was played to the jury, Senior Constable Hawkings told them he looked inside the doorway and saw “a struggle going on between three people”.

“[Mr Rolfe] was struggling with a male, who was on a mattress with Constable [Adam] Eberl,” he said.

He saw Mr Rolfe pointing a gun at Mr Walker, who was “on the ground, struggling”.

Crown Prosecutor Philip Strickland SC asked how far he was holding the gun from Mr Walker, to which he replied, “it was very close”.

“From my point of view, I couldn’t gauge the distance. However, I knew that the proximity would have been extremely close. Within a foot,” Senior Constable Hawkings said.

READ MORE Zachary Rolfe murder trial: Kumanjayi Walker’s uncle learnt of shooting after funeral

Mr Strickland asked what position Mr Walker was in. He was “on a more of a side angle”, he replied, but there was movement as it was a struggle.

Senior Constable Hawkings said he saw the two final shots fired. He was keeping people back from what was happening inside the house.

Mr Strickland asked him if he saw Mr Walker holding scissors at any point, to which he replied, “I can’t recall seeing too much what was happening”.

Senior Constable Hawkings was also asked whether the officer in charge of the police station at Yuendumu, Sergeant Julie Frost, gave him and the other IRT members a briefing when they first arrived in the community on the evening of 9 November 2019.

“I don’t recall any formal briefing … it was very, very minimal,” he said.

He also said he did not recall seeing an email from Sergeant Frost that contained a plan to arrest Mr Walker at 5 am on 10 November.

Warlpiri man Eddy Jampijinpa Robertson, who helped establish the Yuendumu community and is an NT Senior Australian of the Year, had spoken to the jury on Wednesday (16 February).

He is the grandfather of Mr Walker’s long-term partner and described him as “a really happy man”.

“I didn’t have any problem with him,” he said.

He said after the so-called “axe incident”, where Mr Walker brandished an axe at two policemen on 6 November 2019, footage of which has already been tendered to the court, Sergeant Frost had come to see him and tell him Mr Walker’s actions were unacceptable.

Police arranged to arrest Mr Walker the day after a funeral for his grandfather, Mr Robertson said.

He said when he saw Mr Walker later on 6 November, he asked him to go with him to the police after the funeral and he nodded.

READ MORE Zachary Rolfe was justified in shooting Kumanjayi Walker after being stabbed, murder trial told

Constable James Kirstenfeldt, a former army member who was also in the IRT, began his testimony on Tuesday (15 February) and was asked what he and Mr Rolfe discussed with Sergeant Frost when they arrived at the Yuendumu station on 9 November.

“Well, we were trying to get information out of her. What we were doing and where he was. What houses he’s likely to be at,” he said.

He claimed she told him, “If you come across [Mr Walker], grab him”.

On Tuesday, jurors also heard from Senior Constable Adam Donaldson, a dog handler who went to Yuendumu to support the IRT.

He said he read an email from Sergeant Frost when he arrived at the community’s police station outlining what they would do in the following days. He was asked what his understanding of those plans was.

“Well, I was to be assisting with the unlawful entries at the nurses’ quarters to start with. And then the following day, I would be looking for the arrest target,” he said.

READ MORE Zachary Rolfe murder trial hears allegations he shot Kumanjayi Walker in ‘double-tap’

Senior Constable Donaldson said when he and the IRT left the station, it was his understanding they were going to look for where Mr Walker might be “because there wasn’t any firm intelligence on where he might be at that time”.

But he said if they found him, the aim was to arrest him.

Mr Rolfe has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder, as well as alternative charges of manslaughter and committing a violent act causing death.

His barrister, David Edwardson QC, has previously said “on each and every occasion” Mr Rolfe shot Mr Walker, he was acting in good faith, in the reasonable performance of his duties and in self-defence.

The trial continues before Justice John Burns.

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