Killer cop denies lying at murder trial of teenager

Aaron Bunch |

Zachary Rolfe is due to give a third day of evidence at an inquest into the death of a man he shot.
Zachary Rolfe is due to give a third day of evidence at an inquest into the death of a man he shot.

A former Northern Territory policeman acquitted of the shooting murder of an Indigenous teenager during a bungled arrest has denied manufacturing evidence about the incident.

Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted being handcuffed while armed with a scissors in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

An inquiry into the Warlpiri man’s death heard on Wednesday the former constable told his murder trial Mr Walker placed his hand on his police-issued pistol during the scuffle before he was shot.

Mr Rolfe agreed with Counsel Assisting the Coroner Peggy Dwyer it was a serious escalation of the incident and could have led to Mr Walker taking control of the weapon, but he knocked his hand away.

He also agreed the trial was the first time he had provided that version of events but then backtracked and said it was the first time he had been recorded giving the account.

Dr Dwyer quizzed Mr Rolfe about who else he had told about Mr Walker putting his hand on his gun but the former policeman could not recall anyone and said he remembered it “at a later time”.

He agreed with Dr Dwyer he had not recorded it in his police notebook, where he wrote other significant information about the shooting.

Shooting of Kumanjayi Walker.
An image from a body-worn camera before the fatal shooting of Kumanjayi Walker. (HANDOUT/SUPREME COURT OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY)

Mr Rolfe agreed he failed to mention it to a “sympathetic” News Corp journalist, whom he considered a friend, during a series of interviews and text messages in the weeks after Mr Walker died.

Dr Dwyer suggested his evidence at trial about Mr Walker’s hand being on his firearm was a lie.

“It’s definitely not,” Mr Rolfe responded.

“Is it the case that when you were giving evidence at the trial, you were concerned yourself that shots two and three were excessive and you thought you better add that bit in about Kumanjayi’s hand …?” Dr Dwyer said.

“No,” Mr Rolfe said.

The former soldier with the Australian Army also denied his account of Mr Walker’s actions and the shooting that he recorded in his police notebook was written in a way that was favourable for him.

Body-worn camera footage of the shooting recorded Mr Rolfe saying to another policeman “he was stabbing me, he was stabbing you” after Mr Walker was shot.

Dr Dwyer asked Mr Rolfe if he deliberately made the statement to back up a version of events that would find he acted in self-defence when he shot Mr Walker.

“I’m suggesting to you that when you gave evidence at trial you were worried yourself that you had gone too far in your response to Kumanjayi’s actions,” she said.

“Incorrect,” he said.

“That would be an unrealistic expectation of human performance to even think that thought in that moment.”

Mr Rolfe was probed about his actions in the days after the shooting and text messages he sent and received.

He accepted that having “beers with some mates”, including some of the officers present when Mr Walker was killed, two days after the incident was wrong and could have contaminated his evidence.

“We’d all been through an extremely traumatic situation,” he said in defence of his actions.

The inquest heard Mr Rolfe was congratulated by a former defence force colleague and friend after he killed Mr Walker.

“Hey bra, super stoked for you,” the text message said.

Mr Rolfe replied: “My man”.

Dr Dwyer suggested he was being lauded as a “hero” for killing Mr Walker.

But Mr Rolfe said the pair were celebrating his survival.

“It’s completely tragic that a young man lost his life,” he said.

“On the other side of it, a man tried to kill me and my partner and I survived.

“It’s a natural response to staying alive when someone tries to kill you.”

AAP