COVID-19 could significantly delay the Darwin trial of Canberra man Zachary Rolfe, who stands accused of murdering Kumanjayi Walker, 19, in the Northern Territory community of Yuendumu.
It’s alleged that Constable Rolfe, a Northern Territory policeman, shot the Warlpiri man three times in the course of an altercation in November 2019.
Constable Rolfe and members of the Alice Springs-based Immediate Response Team had been called to Yuendumu to assist with Mr Walker’s arrest.
Rolfe, the son of prominent Canberra business owners and philanthropists Richard and Debbie Rolfe, faced a three-day committal hearing via video link in Canberra in September. He indicated that he will plead not guilty to the charges.
The committal hearing was told that three shots were fired on the night Mr Walker was killed. Constable Rolfe had been stabbed with scissors by Mr Walker before the first shot was fired at point-blank range. Body-camera footage of the attempted arrest was shown during the committal hearing.
Constable Rolfe, who joined the Northern Territory Police and served as an officer in the Australian Army, was suspended on full pay and granted bail to live in Canberra.
The trial was set to begin next Monday (26 July), and while a week-long pre-trial hearing will be held via video link, it’s believed that many of the prosecution team will be unable to enter the Northern Territory due to quarantine requirements.
AAP is reporting that many of the prosecution team are based in NSW, where Greater Sydney remains in lockdown as the state struggles to contain the spread of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Prosecutor Philip Strickland SC told the NT Supreme Court that he had applied for an exemption to travel to Darwin, but there has been no confirmation that it was granted. Sophie Callan SC will also appear for the prosecution.
The pre-trial hearing before Acting Justice Dean Mildren has been closed to the public and media, and to date, there’s been no news when the trial will proceed.
The trial was moved from Alice Springs to Darwin late last year and the Supreme Court had intended to stream the proceedings into Yuendumu, but at the request of some community members, that will not now take place.
The trial has been set down for a month and is likely to include evidence via video link from a number of internationally based expert witnesses.