Kumanjayi Walker and Zachary Rolfe could not have come from more different worlds. So much so, the fact their lives crossed paths at all was inconceivable.
But they did.
The unlikely encounter between these two men in the red dirt community of Yuendumu, around 300km from the nearest city of Alice Springs, lasted only around an hour. But it left one of them dead and the other on trial for murder.
On Friday, a jury of seven men and five women acquitted Rolfe of all charges.
But that verdict does not change the status of these two men as involuntary symbols for either side of one of the longest running struggles in Australian history - between police and Aboriginal people, which has so often ended in tragedy.
Walker and Rolfe are more than just symbols.
Walker was a 19-year-old Warlpiri man. He had a long-term partner, Rakiesha, and an adoptive mother, Leanne, who took him in when he was left orphaned at a young age.
He was described by relatives from the witness stand as "slow" and someone who "didn't talk much". But in a perfect storm of circumstances he grabbed a 10cm pair of semi-rusted scissors and stabbed Rolfe.
Rolfe fired his police gun once, and then a second and third time as his police partner, then-Constable Adam Eberl - an experienced martial arts practitioner - straddled Walker on a mattress, trying to make him submit.
Walker's wounds were so severe he didn't have a chance of making it to Alice Springs hospital for life-saving surgery, and instead died on the floor of the Yuendumu police station, blood filling his chest and breath leaking from his lungs.
His family, who waited for hours outside for information, were not told of his death until the next morning.
As he lay dying on the blood-soaked mattress on the floor he cried out his mother's name.
Walker was a troubled man, with a troubled past - wanted by police for breaching a judge's orders by chopping off his ankle monitor and fleeing residential rehab to come home to Yuendumu for the funeral of a close family member - a ritual of mourning that would go for days.
Just three days before his death he managed to escape an arrest by running at two local police with an axe.
Rolfe, from a prominent Canberra family, found himself in the 800-person town after joining the NT Police force in 2016, following a five-year stint in the defence force that took him to Afghanistan.
He immediately showed promise in his work, receiving a bravery award from then Governor-General Peter Cosgrove for saving two tourists from a flooded river in his first week on the job.
Born and raised in Canberra by well-known business people and philanthropists - Debbie and Richard - Yuendumu was a far cry from home.
From his base station of Alice Springs, Rolfe was policing in what is arguably one of the toughest parts of the country.
Low on resources and experience, he was faced with a situation on the evening of November 2019 that would have challenged even the most experienced of police officers.
The trial was unprecedented in many ways. Set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, both parties had to endure numerous delays before it was finally underway, two years and two months after Walker's death.
Rolfe was also no ordinary accused. Having been granted bail in an "out of session local court hearing" on the night of his arrest, he has never spent a night behind bars.
Since being charged, he has been free to live in his home city of Canberra and stay in close contact with his highly sought-after Adelaide-based silk David Edwardson QC.
Rolfe has benefitted from the fierce backing of the NT's police union. The NT Police Association covered his entire legal bill, with its President, Paul McCue, among those by Rolfe's side in court from the very start.
The recent border opening in the NT meant all of Rolfe's other loyal supporters were able to travel from far and wide to be by his side - including army veteran turned political party founder Heston Russell.
In a V formation, Rolfe led the pack in and out of court each day, undeterred by the waiting cameras. When asked by a journalist how he was feeling as he strode in for the trial's first day, Rolfe said he was "very confident".
The beginning of the trial coincided with the NT's biggest battle with COVID-19 so far. People were dying for the first time in the pandemic and hospitals were making dramatic calls to try and cope with the growing number of infected patients in wards and on ventilators.
Because the majority of the NT's deaths and most serious COVID cases were among residents of remote Aboriginal communities, a decision was made to cut them off from the rest of the Territory in a bid to slow the spread.
This call was made just days before a group of supporters from Yuendumu were set to get in a minibus and make the 16 hour journey to the Darwin Supreme Court for the trial.
Although the group was not as large as initially thought, it was just as fierce.
Warlpiri Elders Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves and Lindsay Japangardi Williams arrived at court on the first day dressed in black with broad strokes of white paint across their foreheads - the symbol of mourning.
Mr Hargraves remained in court every day, wearing an immaculately pressed black shirt and a face mask bearing the Aboriginal flag, sitting in the same spot which provides the easiest access for his wheelchair.
When a warning that footage of Walker being shot was about to be played to the court sent some family members rushing for the door, he sat, like a stone, and watched again.
Even after COVID rule changes meant he could no longer hide his feelings behind his blue face mask, Rolfe always appeared composed in court, sitting straight-backed and rhythmically chewing gum.
He watched impassively as his former colleagues, some of whom described themselves as his close friends, as well as his superiors and some of the top brass of the NT Police, filed one by one into the witness stand.
The first were members of the Immediate Response Team, referred to in court at the IRT. The IRT was a semi-tactical group of generally young and fit cops who applied to be members, with the Officer-In-Charge Lee Bauwens telling the court previous military experience, as is Role's case, was looked upon favourably in the application process.
The role of the IRT was discussed at length throughout the trial, with witnesses being grilled on the difference between "high-risk" and "general support" deployments, and what it meant to be sent out in your "camo" versus your "blues" (everyday police uniform).
The court heard the IRT was deployed for "general support" for the weary local cops in Yuendumu the night of the shooting, but were told to bring the AR-15 assault rifle, tactical uniforms and bean bag shotgun that their IRT status gave them access to, just in case.
Background to the incidents was presented to the court, including evidence of contact between police and members of Yuendumu and another community where Walker sometimes resided prior to the night of the shooting.
Body-worn camera footage was shown to the court of an earlier interaction between officers, who were not there on IRT duties, at Warlpiri Camp, near Alice Springs, in which officers referred to residents in derogatory terms.
However, on the night of the shooting, evidence presented to the court from body-worn camera footage showed Constable Rolfe speaking politely to residents he encountered.
When Edwardson told the court during the fourth week of the trial, without fanfare, that his client would be taking the stand, it shocked the exhausted jurors.
Rolfe spoke softly yet confidently, echoing his manner captured on body worn footage where he politely introduced himself to Yuendumu community members on his quest to track Walker down.
He spoke proudly about his time in the ADF and revealed that he had since travelled to the US to seek training from a private company, on his own dime, in hostage rescues, counter ambush driving and weapons familiarisation.
"I believed my training throughout my life and life experiences have made me a better police officer overall," he told the court during cross-examination.
"I guess the more you learn - actively learn - you become a better learner and a lot of those courses required me to pick up skills fast, so I became a better learner."
By the time what was supposed to be a three-week trial had crawled into its fifth, a juror's son had contracted COVID-19.
He isolated himself from his son for the sake of the trial, but the risk of the virus spreading was too great and an outbreak at that point would have been nothing short of a catastrophe. He had to be cut loose.
By now, the imaginary walls around the NT's remote communities had come down, and the group of supporters from Yuendumu had swelled. On their first day in court, everyone wore black, posing solemnly for a photo for the ever waiting cameras.
An acquittal for Zachary Rolfe basically means this part of the journey is over for him. According to ANU lecturer in law and current sub Dean of Indigenous Studies, Mary Spiers Williams, the only basis for an appeal by the Crown would be about a legal error, and it wouldn't override the acquittal. For all intents and purposes, Rolfe is a free and innocent man.
But with a coronial inquest into Mr Walker's death set to take place later this year, the journey for the dead man's family is only just beginning.
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