'Frustrating for our mob': Family of Kumanjayi Walker turned away before Darwin court appeal due to lockdown

Prosecutors are set to return to court on Thursday after Darwin’s current lockdown is scheduled to end, with the hope of appealing the full court's decision.

Yuendumu Elder Ned Hargraves

Yuendumu Elder Ned Hargraves Source: NITV News

Family of a 19-year-old Warlpiri man allegedly murdered by a Northern Territory police officer have vented their frustrations online after a snap COVID-19 lockdown saw community members travelling to Darwin turned back just hours from town.

Constable Zachary Rolfe, 29, is accused of murdering Kumanjayi Walker, 19, who was shot three times in the remote community of Yuendumu in November 2019. 

Yuendumu Elder Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves said they “weren’t happy” they had to turn back.

“Having to go halfway, then turning back we’re not happy,” he said. “It’s all really, really frustrating for our mob.”

The central desert town Yuendumu is located just over 1,600 km south of Darwin.

Kumanjayi Walker’s aunt, Joyce Brown, said that they had made it to Katherine, just three hours south of Darwin.

“We are heading back home because of coronavirus in Katherine,” she said.

“We are a bit sad that we can’t go to Darwin for the court case. Yeah, we are a bit upset and frustrated but we are heading back home, back to Yuendumu now.”

It comes after the murder trial was postponed twice by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trial, set down for Monday, could see further delays after the Crown announced its intention to seek leave from the High Court to appeal a recent legal decision related to Rolfe’s defence.

Prosecutors are set to return to court on Thursday after Darwin’s current lockdown is scheduled to end.

A spokesperson from the Supreme Court said prosecutors hope to appeal the full court’s decision.

“Today, the Crown has indicated that it intends to make an application to the High Court for special leave to appeal the recent decision of the Full Court and for an expedited hearing,” he said.

“The purpose of Thursday's listing is for the Crown to make an application for a stay of the jury trial pending the outcome of the application to the High Court.”

The murder trial was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: Supplied / Facebook

Last week, the full bench of Darwin's Supreme Court confirmed Constable Rolfe could use three separate defences in the trial, including that he should not be held criminally liable because he was acting in "good faith" when performing his job as a police officer.

Rolfe is charged with murder and the alternative counts of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act causing death.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

His trial was previously postponed in July when the Crown's interstate prosecution team were unable to travel to the NT from Sydney. 

It was later rescheduled to Wednesday when prosecutor Philip Strickland SC agreed to fly to Darwin to undertake two weeks quarantine at Howard Springs.

The trial has since been further postponed when parts of the Top End plunged into a three-day lockdown on Monday after an infected US man travelled from Sydney to Darwin.

When the trial goes ahead it is expected to run for three weeks in Darwin’s Supreme Court.

- With AAP

Published 19 August 2021 at 6:20am
By Aneeta Bhole