Chalker met with police executive before detectives told to charge Constable Zach Rolfe with murder

by | Mar 28, 2022 | Cops, News, Special Investigation | 0 comments

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker met with senior police executives 13 minutes before detectives investigating the death of Kumanjayi Walker were ordered to arrest and charge Constable Zach Rolfe with murder, notes from senior police show, despite the top cop saying last week he had never been in a meeting where the charge was discussed, and was not involved in the process to charge.

Early on the Wednesday morning of the arrest, November 13, 2019, the officer in charge of that investigation, Detective Acting Superintendent Kirk Pennuto had also been in a meeting with fellow investigator Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Malagorksi for further planning for the investigation, where they discussed taking a brief of evidence to the Department of Public Prosecutions.

“Intent of the executive appears to be to take a ‘package’ to the DPP,” he wrote in his notes.

Later in the day, about an hour and a half before Constable Rolfe was arrested, Mr Chalker attended a meeting with Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael White and others, after Mr White had returned from handing over a brief of evidence to the DPP.

That brief included details of the shooting of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker on the Saturday night four days earlier, on November 9, 2019, where Mr Walker was shot three times by Constable Rolfe after he stabbed the officer in the shoulder – and allegedly attempted to stab his partner Sergeant Adam Eberl – in an attempted arrest in the remote Aboriginal community of Yuendumu.

Constable Rolfe was earlier this month found not guilty of murder and the alternative charges of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act causing death.

The NT Independent has confirmed Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches will be making a statement on Tuesday about the decision to charge Constable Rolfe with murder, where it is expected he will announce an investigation into the matter, however it remains unclear if that would involve public hearings.

Internal police records show at about 8am on the Monday after Mr Walker’s death, Det Act Supt Pennuto wrote that Crime Acting Commander Martin Dole told him he had spoken with Mr White, and Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich, and said they were of the consensus they needed to offer the DPP a briefing and a chance to look at the body-worn vision.

For reasons unexplained in the investigators’ notes, after a meeting at noon that day where DPP then-director Jack Karczewski watched the body-worn vision and recommended a murder charge without having seen any other evidence, the director said a police brief of evidence needed to be delivered to his office by the close of business on Wednesday, with Constable Rolfe to be interviewed, or offered an interview, by the close of business on Tuesday.

Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Leith Phillips, who was working in the Regional Investigations Division, and had been on the ground investigating the shooting in Yuendumu, made note of investigators’ concerns about how quickly the DPP was involved, and how fast the move towards charges were progressing.

“Leadership group in ASP (PHILLIPS / GRIEVE / WELLS) are collectively not happy that the DPP was engaged so early before ALL evidence was available to make a considered opinion based on ALL evidence given this investigation is still ongoing and information is still being gathered which may or may not be critical in the final outcome of the investigation,” he wrote.

On Tuesday, the deadline on the brief was brought forward to 3pm, and on Wednesday morning, brought forward again to 1pm, but without explanation in the detectives’ notes.

Early on Wednesday morning Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Grieve told Detective Sergeant Kieran Wells, who had also been investigating in Central Australia, a  “mini brief” would be given to the DPP that afternoon and Constable Rolfe was likely to be charged.

“Concerns are that the matter has not been fully investigated and a comprehensive brief has not been produced allowing the DPP to make a completely informed decision,” Dct Sgt Wells wrote in his notes.

“Issues regarding effectiveness of ongoing investigation and witness management should any decision be overly hastened.”

Even as late as a 10am meeting with Mr White, Mr Anticich and Cmdr Dole, Det Supt Pennuto states in his notes that he requested a slow down on thinking about a need to arrest.

“Arresting is premature. Need more time to examine outside of what the BWV (body-worn vision) captured,” he wrote.

Just before 2pm, the brief of evidence was given to the DPP. That brief was being referred to by officers as a ‘short brief’ because they had not finished investigating, and actually had a caveat included with it to highlight that fact.

The meeting with DPP Mr Karczewski and deputy director Matthew Nathan was attended by Det Supt Pennuto, Mr Anticich, and Comdr Dole, who all returned to the police executive headquarters in the city, known as the NAB building.

The detectives’ notes show that Mr Chalker was in a meeting there that began at 3:34pm.

“NAB house – seated in foyer level 6 with A/Commander (Martin) Dole + Supt (Gavin) Kennedy. Private meeting of S/Executive including COP (Commissioner of Police) in DCOP’s office,” Supt Pennuto’s notes state.

His notes show that at 3:47pm he attended another meeting in Mr White’s office, which also included Mr Anticich, Deputy Commissioner Michael Murphy, Supt Kennedy, Cmdr Dole, and police media manager Rob Cross.

It is in this meeting that detectives were told Constable Rolfe is to be arrested, and charged with murder, because Mr White had intelligence Constable Rolfe was planning on flying back to Canberra.

NT Police did not provide a response to the NT Independent at the time of publication, but provided a response to other media.

Mr Cross said the Police Commissioner had no involvement in this process of the charge and decision to arrest.

But he did not address what Mr Chalker discussed at that meeting, and why he told media last week he had no involvement, and in fact was “as shocked as anybody” when he learned of the charge. Journalists at the press conference did not ask when exactly he learned police had decided to charge Constable Rolfe with murder.

The NT Independent reported on Monday that Mr Chalker had referred the matter to the ICAC for “suspected improper conduct” two days before the charge was laid.

Despite his claimed “shock” at the charge on the Wednesday, police left to arrest constable Rolfe about one and a half hours after Mr Chalker’s meeting started, and he was charged about one hour and 45 minutes after being arrested.

When asked last week why Constable Rolfe was charged so quickly, Mr Chalker responded that, “I can’t give you an answer to that because I wasn’t involved in that”.

“I’ve remained at arms-length from the investigation for the whole period of time and that continues to this day,” he said. “The matter to charge (Constable Rolfe) was a matter for the investigation team and the DPP. I was as shocked as anybody.

“I can’t proffer you an opinion on that conversation, there was no meeting that I was involved in and was privy to it.”

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