NT cops stop inquest amid tough evidence

The inquest into Kumanjayi Walker's death has been been halted temporarily after damning evidence.

The inquest into Kumanjayi Walker's death has been been halted temporarily after damning evidence. Photo: AAP

The Northern Territory Police Force has had the inquest into the death of an Indigenous teenager shot dead during a botched outback arrest adjourned after a senior officer gave damning evidence.

Kumanjayi Walker, 19, died after Constable Zachary Rolfe shot him three times while trying to take him into custody in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs on November 9, 2019.

The inquest into his death was on Wednesday temporarily halted at the request of the NT Police Force’s barrister, Ian Freckelton KC.

Mr Freckelton told coroner Elisabeth Armitage he needed to confer with the police executive as some of the evidence given by Superintendent Jody Nobbs, who deployed Const Rolfe to Yuendumu, was unexpected.

“Various things that were said yesterday and issues that arose yesterday had been previously unanticipated by us,” he said.

“It would require us to ask of you that (Supt Nobbs) be stood down for the present while we take instructions from various of our clients in relation to the ramifications of what we heard yesterday.”

Supt Nobbs spent the entire day in the Alice Springs courtroom witness box on Tuesday.

His wide-ranging evidence shed light on the police response to the shooting, including the plan to deceive Indigenous community about the Warlpiri man’s death.

Supt Nobbs was also highly critical of Const Rolfe and his team for taking high-powered assault weapons into the community of about 800 and ignoring his orders.

He also expressed his disappointment and frustration with police officers in Alice Springs who were found during the shooting investigation to have been sharing racist text messages with each other in the months before Mr Walker was killed.

“It’s completely unacceptable, offensive and hurtful and there is no place for it,” he told the inquest, now in its fourth week.

The messages variously described Aboriginal people as Neanderthals, “grubby f——,” “n——” and “bush c—-“.

The men also used derogatory language to refer to Indigenous colleagues and talked about “towelling up the locals” in another remote community.

Asked if he would have sent the men to the community had he known they were expressing the beliefs detailed in the messages, Supt Nobbs said: “No, certainly not”.

“If the starting point is an ill-disciplined workforce and a broad contempt … for the community in which they are operating in … there’s no foundation for the plan,” he said.

“Anything that will flow from that is destined to fail.”

The inquest is due to resume at 1pm ACST on Wednesday.


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