Rolfe trying to pervert course of justice, lawyers say

Zach Rolfe will give evidence to an inquest into the death of an Indigenous teen he shot dead.

Zach Rolfe will give evidence to an inquest into the death of an Indigenous teen he shot dead. Photo: AAP

An open letter from the police offer who shot an Indigenous teenager has been condemned by NT police lawyers as a blatant attempt to pervert the course of justice.

An inquest into the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker resumed on Monday, days after Constable Zachary Rolfe left the country having written a lengthy letter critical of the coroner and NT Police.

Const Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

Const Rolfe said the NT Police Force had wasted millions of dollars on disciplining him rather than giving him a medal.

“Despite this, the coronial focus is still on me rather than on areas that could improve the circumstances of the NT,” he wrote last week.

Ian Freckelton, representing the NT Police Force, questioned the motive of Const Rolfe’s letter and if it was an attempt to intimidate senior leaders of the police force.

“We don’t know whether the motive of Mr Rolfe is to try to intimidate the two members of the executive who are going to be giving evidence before this week,” Dr Freckelton  said.

“It is an attempt to pervert the course of justice. It is a gross and blatant attempt to interfere with your inquest.

“As best we read it, that seems to be the aspiration of Mr Rolfe.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Murray Smalpage is one of more than a dozen witnesses scheduled to give evidence at the inquest in the next fortnight.

More police officers, Territory Families and other departmental witnesses are also due to give evidence.

Const Rolfe has previously refused to answer questions as part of the inquest.

He appealed  a NT Supreme Court ruling that would compel him to answer uncomfortable questions at the inquest.

The appeal is scheduled for April 11.

He was acquitted last March by a jury after a high-profile five-week trial.

The inquest was established in early September to hear voices from his community, and to examine the wider circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Two Warlpiri elders from a different community near Yuendumu told the inquest the community’s relationship with police officers had improved in recent decades, thanks to police efforts to work and build relationships with elders.

The inquest has heard from more than 50 witnesses so far.

Experts have told the inquest Const Rolfe’s decision to forcefully enter and militarily clear the house where they found the Warlpiri man was risky and against orders.

The coroner has also heard Const Rolfe sent and received racist, sexist and homophobic text messages during conversations with other officers, which he claims have been cherrypicked to paint him in a certain way.

Const Rolfe defended the terms used in these messages as playground language in the letter.


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