Rolfe trial would not be the ‘first’ that is widely contended

“The Northern Territory court decision this week to commit Police Constable Zachary Rolfe to stand trial for the shooting death of 19-year-old Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker marks a historic moment in accountability for First Nations deaths in custody.

It is the first time a police officer will face a murder trial in a First Nations death in custody case in the Northern Territory in modern history.”

So begins an article published this week in The Conversation, an online journal in which academics collaborate with journalists to produce research-based news and analysis.

The article, headlined “Kumanjayi Walker murder trial will be a first in NT for an Indigenous death in custody. Why has it taken so long?” has since been reproduced on the ABC’s site.

This contention of an historic first has also been made this week in the Sydney Morning Herald and the National Indigenous Times, possibly among others.

Local historian ALEX NELSON however points out that a police officer has previously been charged with the murder of an Aboriginal man and tried here in Alice Springs.

The Conversation’s article has been updated to include a reference to this case, but the headline and introduction making the claim of an historic first remain unchanged. The ABC’s version has not been updated.

Mr Nelson’s article follows:-

Exactly 39 years ago this week a murder trial in the Alice Springs Supreme Court concluded with the unanimous jury verdict of not guilty for First Class Constable Lawrence Clifford for the shooting death of Johnny Ross Jabanardi at Ti Tree, 180 km north of Alice Springs, on July 20, 1980.

This event involved a violent altercation between two NT police officers and a group of Aboriginal men, when police stopped the car in which the men were travelling. This culminated in beatings of the officers and the killing and wounding of two Aboriginal men respectively with a firearm. (This incident, by the way, occurred within a month of the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru on August 17 that year).

Two court cases arose out of the Ti Tree shooting. The first involved five Aboriginal men charged with assault and resisting arrest. There was considerable anger and outrage generated by this case, including protests at the entrance to the then new Alice Springs courthouse, now the Local Court.

The court hearings were relocated to Darwin where, on March 26, 1981, the NT Supreme Court found three of the five men guilty. One was sentenced to gaol for three months (reduced to one month and a $1000 12-month good behaviour bond), and the other two received $500 12-month good behaviour bonds.

The second case was triggered on August 14, 1981, when the Alice Springs Coroner’s Court’s adverse findings led to charges being laid against Constable Lawrence Clifford for the murder of Mr Jabanardi and the malicious wounding of Geoffrey Pepperill.

The Supreme Court trial commenced on October 10, 1981 in Alice Springs; and it’s of interest to note the Crown Prosecutor was Ian Barker QC, later to become prominent in the prosecution of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. However, unlike the Chamberlains, the jury in this case determined on October 30, 1981, that Constable Clifford was not guilty.

The Ti Tree shooting incident was one of five cases in Central Australia considered by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody during hearings in Alice Springs held in the first week of October 1988. There had been some controversy over the inclusion of this case for consideration by the Royal Commission. [ED – This turned on whether it could be considered a “death in custody”. The commissioner took the view that it could be, that the deceased reasonably would have seen himself as held by police and not free to leave. The commission’s detailed discussion of the case can been seen here.]

It’s quite extraordinary, in my view, that such a significant legal case in the Northern Territory is apparently all but forgotten.


Images: Centralian Advocate reports of the trial and verdict, dated October 18 and November 4, 1981. Courtesy Alex Nelson. Unrelated to the case, the girl in the feature photo of October 18 is named as Christeen Kopp, aged 11, practising for a “Sing Out” at Alice Springs High School.


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Zachary Rolfe will stand trial for murder

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Ben Cousins stalking trial: ex-partner in fiery testimony about drugs, money

The ex-partner of fallen AFL champion Ben Cousins says she has no animosity towards him despite living in fear at times, and has claimed during her heated testimony that she feels like the one on trial.

Cousins, who has been behind bars in WA’s Hakea Prison since his bail bid was rejected in April, is on trial in Armadale Magistrates Court charged with aggravated stalking and multiple counts of breaching a violence restraining order between April 2 and 15.

The former West Coast Eagles captain was in a relationship with Maylea Tinecheff from 2008 to 2013 and they share two children, aged seven and nine.

During fiery cross-examination on Thursday, Ms Tinecheff was grilled by Melbourne-based QC Julie Condon, with the magistrate repeatedly interjecting to keep the testimony on track.

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“I’m not on trial here,” Ms Tinecheff said.

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Five men on trial over alleged murder of inmate in WA’s Hakea Prison

Five men are on trial in the WA Supreme Court for murdering a man in Hakea Prison, in an attack alleged to have been ordered by bikies.

It is alleged Alf Eades died after being assaulted by six men in his cell on February 26, 2019.

The five men on trial are Brandon Taylor, Clinton Penny, Cooper Clay, Liam McGlade and Shaun Kapene.

It is alleged they punched and kicked Mr Eades, who received massive head injuries.

The court has heard at least one of the men allegedly jumped on his head.

Mr Eades suffered severe head injuries and he passed away in hospital on March 11.

Prosecutor James Mactaggart told the court the victim was in his 40s, while his attackers were all young men.

He said a witness would give details of the assault to the court that he believed it happened on the orders of a bikie gang member, as he was told he would have to “answer to the Comancheros” if he did not participate.

The prosecutor said the “level of violence escalated” soon after the men entered Mr Eades’s cell, saying the blows were “focused, concentrated and powerful”.

Mr Mactaggart said the assault lasted several minutes and first responders faced a “truly horrific” scene, having to mop up blood using towels.

Attacker ‘did not intend to kill’, lawyer says

Michael Tudori, representing Mr Taylor, said he denied intending to kill Mr Eades.

He told the court that while his client “was in the cell”, his intention was to commit an assault.

Mr Tudori said Mr Taylor “was there to touch him up and that was it”.

He told the jury it was “very important you keep an open mind”.

A second defence lawyer, Jonathan Davies, told the court the other prisoners were lying about the involvement of his client, Mr Penny.

“Ask yourselves, who is lying and why,” he said.

Mr Davies also said there was “surprisingly” no CCTV footage available.

“Where were the prison officers?” he asked.

“We’re not sure but we’ll be asking questions about that”.

Mr Davies asked the jury to focus on whether the forensics were reliable.

Simon Freitag, representing Mr McGlade, said the case against his client — that he “punched and kicked” Mr Eades — “principally” relied on one witness.

Mr Freitag told the court Mr McGlade had “nothing to fear from the DNA evidence” because the state would not be bringing any such evidence against his client.

Paul Bevilacqua, for Mr Clay, simply said an allegation had been made and his client denied it.

Graeme Allen, appearing for Mr Kapene, chose not to give an opening address.

The trial is set down for 30 days.

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Ben Cousins trial: ex-partner describes him as a ‘gross human being’

Fallen AFL champion Ben Cousins was prevented from seeing his children over Easter because his drug use was “totally out of control” and his ex-partner had even moved house without telling him, a Perth court has heard.

Cousins, who has been locked up in WA’s Hakea Prison since his bail bid was rejected in April, is on trial in the Armadale Magistrates Court charged with multiple counts of breaching a violence restraining order and one count of aggravated stalking.

The court has previously heard the charges relate to Cousins’ ex-partner Maylea Tinecheff, whom he allegedly tried to contact via phone calls and text messages more than 100 times between April 2 and 15.

Ben Cousins’ ex-partner Maylea Tinecheff arrives at court on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tony McDonoughSource: NCA NewsWire
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Ms Tinecheff testified on Wednesday she was in a relationship with Cousins, 42, from 2008 to 2013, then they continued to have contact afterwards because they share two children, aged seven and nine.

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A Current Affair vs John Hewson defamation case to go to trial

The defamation stoush between former Liberal leader John Hewson and Nine’s A Current Affair will head to trial after mediation talks failed. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

The defamation stoush between former Liberal leader John Hewson and Nine’s A Current Affair will head to trial after mediation talks failed.

Mr Hewson is suing over an episode of the program in May he claims falsely painted him as the chairman of an insurance company that refused to pay out a claim to a couple who had goods damaged in a thunderstorm.

The Federal Court heard on Wednesday morning the two parties had been unable to settle the case.

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“The mediation was unsuccessful, unfortunately,” Mr Hewson’s lawyer Paul Svilans told Justice Michael Wigney.

The defamation stoush between former Liberal leader John Hewson and Nine’s A Current Affair will head to trial after mediation talks failed. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
The defamation stoush between former Liberal leader John Hewson and Nine’s A Current Affair will head to trial after mediation talks failed. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Justice Wigney said the “sad reality” was the case could not be heard until 2021 due to a packed court diary.

Mr Hewson claims A Current Affair defamed him by suggesting he failed to direct a payout to Adrian and Nicole Dolahenty in his role as chairman of GSA Insurance.

According to court documents filed by Mr Hewson, the Dolahentys’ goods were damaged by flooding not covered in their policy, and in any event Mr Hewson was the chairman of the insurance broker, not the insurer, and did not decide on the claim.

He alleges A Current Affair had this information before going to air.

ACA host Tracy Grimshaw has been named in the defamation suit.
ACA host Tracy Grimshaw has been named in the defamation suit.

Mr Svilans said he was “perplexed” about why Nine was trying to file an expert report into what happened at North Parramatta Storage King when the issue was about Mr Hewson’s role.

“It’s a furphy,” Mr Svilans said. “He’s branded as being somehow at fault for this claim being denied but he’s chairman of the broker, not the insurance company.”

Nine’s barrister Lyndelle Barnett said the report was relevant to Mr Dolahenty’s state of mind.

The media outlet has filed a defence of honest opinion.

A Current Affair presenter Tracy Grimshaw and journalist Danielle Post are also named in the lawsuit.

The matter was set down for a four-day trial beginning on April 12, 2021.

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Third phase human trial of COVAXIN to commence in Bhubaneswar

Dr Rao, head of PTCTU, said during this phase the age limit and eligibility/ screening criteria would be relaxed

Bhubaneswar: The third phase of the human trial of the indigenous vaccine against COVID-19, COVAXIN, will commence at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar soon, an official said.

The search for a suitable vaccine for COVID-19 has almost come to the final stage, Dr E Venkata Rao, Principal Investigator in the COVAXIN human trial and Professor in the department of Community Medicine at the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital in Bhubaneswar said on Sunday.


IMS and SUM Hospital is among the 21 medical institutes selected across the country by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) where the third phase trial would be conducted.

The indigenous vaccine, being developed by ICMR and Bharat Biotech has received the approval of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) for initiating the third phase trial. After completion of the first and second phase of the trial with demonstrable safety profile and immunogenicity, the large-scale efficacy trial involving thousands of volunteers has been planned now, Dr Rao said.

Dr Rao, who is the head of the Preventive and Therapeutic Clinical Trial Unit (PTCTU), said during this phase the age limit and eligibility/ screening criteria would be relaxed and several volunteers who are otherwise apparently healthy would be recruited for the trial.


Like the previous phases, half of the volunteers would receive placebo and the remaining half would be administered COVAXIN in this phase. Even health care workers would be recruited for the trial. The volunteers would be followed up over a considerable period of time to look at the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing the development of the Corona disease, he said.

Rao said there had been a huge response and enthusiasm among people who had offered themselves to be volunteers for the trial. He said persons above 18 years will be taken for the human trial.

The interested volunteers for the project could enroll themselves for the trial by registering online at under the section register for clinical trials, he said.


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Caroline Nilsson murder trial returns hung jury over death of mother-in-law captured on an Apple Watch

After deliberating for five days, a South Australian Supreme Court jury has failed to reach a verdict in the murder trial of Caroline Nilsson, who was accused of faking a home invasion to cover up a murder that was documented on a smartwatch.

The jury spent almost 40 hours over five days trying to decide whether the 29-year-old was guilty of murdering her mother-in-law Myrna Nilsson before staging a home invasion at their Valley View home.

Justice Chris Bleby this evening discharged the jury after eight weeks of evidence, telling jurors it was a complex case.

Ms Nilsson will face trial again and her lawyers have flagged a possible bail application.

Ms Nilsson was found in a state of hysteria with her hands and feet bound in September 2016 and told police that she and her 57-year-old mother-in-law had been the victims of a violent home invasion.

But police accused her of murdering Myrna Nilsson at the home.

Smartwatch evidence

During the trial, jurors were told that Ms Nilsson’s home invasion story was contradicted by evidence from the victim’s smartwatch, which had documented her death.

Prosecutor Emily Telfer SC told the jury that Ms Nilsson “fabricated” a story to police that she and her mother-in-law had been the victims of a home invasion.

She said the accused told police that she was attacked, bound and gagged by two or three men “who looked like tradies”, before escaping from the family home about three hours later and being found distressed by neighbours.

“None of the versions that Caroline Nilsson told police were true,” she said.

Ms Telfer said the victim was wearing an Apple Watch which tracked her last movements, recording a “flurry” of 65 movements in 39 seconds before her heart rate stopped at 6:41pm on that day.

“The Apple Watch that Myrna Nilsson was wearing when she was attacked and passed away recorded her pulse, her step count and her energy expenditure.”

Caroline Nilsson told police Myrna Nilsson died during a home invasion in 2016.(Supplied: Facebook)

The court also heard that the accused’s three children — then aged 1, 3 and 5 — were at home at the time and the three hours that followed.

“How three children were kept quiet, contained and distracted while these events unfolded will no doubt be a question that occupies you,” she said.

She said hair samples taken from the children were tested and the two older children returned positive results for Tramadol — a pain relief drug that causes sedation and reduces emotional reactions.

Apple smart-watch
Data collected by Myrna Nilsson’s Apple Watch was used as evidence throughout the trial into her murder.(Supplied: Supreme Court SA)

In his closing address to the jury, Heath Barklay SC, for Ms Nilsson, said his client was a loving mother who had a good relationship with her mother-in-law and there was no evidence of animosity between them.

“It just seems so inherently unlikely that this nice, loving mother is just going to turn into some sort of psychopath — kills her mother the moment she gets home, drugs her kids, searches the internet for a while, changes her bloody clothes and then presents as a victim.

“She is in love with her husband, she’s sending him nice text messages. This is minutes before she’s meant to turn into a cold-blooded killer.”

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Over 42k people enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial

Pfizer to help supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine under a $1.95 billion deal. (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 3:49 PM PT – Monday, October 26, 2020

American pharmaceutical giant ‘Pfizer‘ has enrolled more than 42,000 people in its phase two trial of its potential COVID-19 vaccine. The company has also said over 35,000 participants have received a second dose of the vaccination.

The pharmaceutical company has been one of the front-runners in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. Additionally, President Trump mentioned the company during the final presidential debate.

“Pfizer is doing very well, and we have numerous others,” the President stated. “And then we also have others that we’re working on very closely with other countries, in particular Europe.”

Researchers hope the trial results will be in by November, and if so, they’ll be sent to the FDA for a review process which could take up to four weeks.

MORE NEWS: Officials Arrest 39-Year-Old For Boston, Mass. Ballot Drop Box Arson

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NT police officer Zachary Rolfe to stand trial for shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker

The Northern Territory police officer charged over the shooting death of teenager Kumanjayi Walker last year has been committed to stand trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

Constable Zachary Rolfe was charged with murder after the teen was fatally shot during an arrest attempt in the remote community of Yuendumu in November 2019.

Alice Springs Local Court Judge John Birch handed down his decision on Monday after a three-day committal hearing last month.

He also issued a suppression order preventing publication of his reasons for committing the case to trial.

During the three-day committal hearing, the court heard Mr Walker was shot three times on the night he died.

The fatal shooting followed an earlier attempt to arrest Mr Walker, the court heard.

Officers from the Immediate Response Team (IRT), which included Constable Rolfe, were later sent to Yuendumu to arrest the 19-year-old.

According to evidence heard during the committal, Mr Walker stabbed Constable Rolfe with a pair of scissors during the November 9 arrest attempt.

A criminologist gave evidence that two of the three shots Constable Rolfe then fired at Mr Walker were “excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary”.

The court was told the 19-year-old was shot three times on the night of the incident.(Supplied: Facebook)

In a final attempt to have the case thrown out last month, lawyers for Mr Rolfe argued the police officer was acting in self-defence when he fired the three shots.

“There is not a single piece of evidence the prosecution have produced in this case that suggests that Zachary Rolfe did anything other than comply wholeheartedly with the very training the NT police gave him,” defence barrister David Edwardson QC told the hearing.

But prosecutors argued the IRT had “disregarded” an arrest plan by Sergeant Julie Frost from the Yuendumu police station.

“There was a careful plan put in place by Julie Frost which involved the deceased being arrested whilst he was asleep at five in the morning,” prosecutor Philip Strickland SC told the hearing.

“All those things were planned to control the environment better.

“[But] he has put himself in the position where his tactical options were limited, because of a failure to follow that plan.”

A small crowd made up of Mr Walker’s family and Yuendumu community members gathered outside the Alice Springs Local Court ahead of Monday’s ruling.

Community members gave speeches, with one person telling the crowd: “This is what we needed.”

Cheers and cries of “justice for Walker” could be heard as the decision was handed down.

Supporters of Kumanjayi Walker gather outside the Alice Springs Local Court as a decision to send the case to trial comes down.
Kumanjayi Walker’s supporters gathered outside the court as the decision was handed down.(ABC News: Mitchell Abram)

Constable Rolfe appeared in court via video link from Canberra, where he is on bail.

He has been suspended from the police force with pay.

His bail has been extended until his next court appearance on November 25, when he will face the Supreme Court for the first time.

It is expected he will appear from Canberra on that date.

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Zachary Rolfe will stand trial for murder


Northern Territory police constable Zachary Rolfe has been committed to stand trial for the murder of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu on 9 November last year.

Judge John Birch announced his decision – that there is sufficient evidence for the matter to go to trial –  this afternoon in the Alice Springs Local Court.

Publication of the reasons for decision has been suppressed.

Today’s session followed a three-day preliminary hearing of evidence in August.

Mr Rolfe’s lawyer argued at that hearing that his client had no case to answer: that the shooting – three times at close range – was “justifiable defensive conduct”.

The prosecution, however, contended, on the basis of expert evidence, that the lapse of 2.6 seconds from the first shot to the next was sufficient to allow Mr Rolfe to reassess his options and choose a less lethal means of responding to the situation.

The shooting occurred during an attempted arrest, after Mr Walker had threatened other police officers with an axe during an earlier arrest attempt.

Publication of significant parts of the evidence presented at committal – the body-worn video footage of Mr Rolfe and the other members of the Immediate Response Team in Yuendumu on the fateful night – continues to be suppressed.

Mr Rolfe has not formally entered a plea but has indicated that he will plead not guilty.

The legal process now passes to the Northern Territory Supreme Court, where his matter has been listed for the criminal call-over on 25 November.

Mr Rolfe remains on bail in the ACT.


– Kieran Finnane


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