Peter Marco FALCONIO

Circumstances - On the night of July 14th 2001 Mr Falconio was travelling with his girlfriend Joanne Lees along the Stuart Highway near Barrow Creek, 200 miles north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory when, according to Ms Lees' account, they were stopped by a man who assaulted Ms Lees. When she ran into nearby bushes, she heard a shot but when she returned there was no sign of Mr Falconio. He has not been seen since this time and Police are treating the case as a homicide.

* Bradley John Murdoch has been found guilty of Peter's murder.

Murdoch guilty of murder: now tell us where the body is, says Lees
By Lindsay Murdoch in Darwin - SMH
December 14, 2005

THE drug smuggler Bradley John Murdoch was last night found guilty of murdering the British backpacker Peter Falconio in the Northern Territory outback in 2001. After the verdict Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees, pleaded with Murdoch to say where he had hidden the body.

A Supreme Court jury in Darwin also unanimously found Murdoch, 47, guilty of assaulting Ms Lees and depriving her of her liberty.

Chief Justice Brian Martin sentenced Murdoch to mandatory life imprisonment for the murder. He will serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole.

Ms Lees said: "I am obviously delighted with the verdict of the jury today. The past four years have been very traumatic for myself and the Falconio family, and to see justice done today I would like to thank the judge and jury.

"I want Bradley John Murdoch to seriously consider telling Joan, Luciano and his brothers what he has done with Peter."

Nick Falconio, Peter's brother, said the day was not a celebration. "I have waited over four years for this day," he said. "We are pleased with the verdict but it will not bring Pete back."

The panel of six men and six women gave their verdict at 9pm (10.30 Sydney time). Earlier, they had returned after 4 hours of deliberations to clarify whether they could find Murdoch guilty without a body having been found. Justice Martin told them they could.

Ms Lees collapsed into the arms of Mr Falconio's brother Paul when the verdict was announced several hours later. Murdoch listened to the verdict without showing any emotion.

His lawyer, Grant Algie, told reporters: "Obviously we are very disappointed with the verdict. As I have indicated [in court], we intend to appeal. I have nothing more to say."

After the verdict Justice Martin thanked the jury and said he agreed with their decision.

The Crown alleged that Murdoch shot Mr Falconio in the head at point-blank range after flagging down the orange Kombi van the couple were driving along the Stuart Highway, north of Alice Springs.

The Crown suggested that Murdoch, high on amphetamines, became paranoid about the couple after seeing them several times on the highway while he was on a drug-smuggling run from South Australia to Broome.

Murdoch has strenuously denied the crimes since his arrest in 2002 after a huge manhunt.

At the start of the nine-week trial Ms Lees identified him as the man who attacked her before she managed to escape into bush.

"I'd recognise him anywhere."

Murdoch told the court he was at the same restaurant in Alice Springs as Mr Falconio and Ms Lees the same day as them in 2001. But he said he was 600 kilometres away from the crime scene, driving along the Tanami Track, at the time of the murder.

The Crown's case against Murdoch was based on circumstantial evidence, including that his DNA was found on the back of Ms Lees's T-shirt, on handcuffs that were used to restrain her and on the Kombi's gear stick. The Crown alleged that the blood got on the T-shirt while Murdoch was attacking Ms Lees.

Forensic experts said the DNA was 150 quadrillion times more likely to have come from Murdoch than from anyone else. Murdoch told the court he could not explain how his blood got on the T-shirt.

Ms Lees and Mr Falconio's parents, Luciano and Joan, had sat in court every day of the trial.

Ms Lees wept in the witness box as she told her story. She said she feared she was going to die when Murdoch attacked her after she heard a bang from the back of the Kombi as Mr Falconio talked with Murdoch.

She said she never saw her boyfriend again.

Falconio jury questions lack of body
By Amanda Morgan - ABC

A Darwin jury has sought clarification on whether it can convict Peter Falconio's alleged murderer without a body.

The jury has been considering its verdict since 12:50pm ACST.

The Chief Justice Brian Martin returned to the courtroom to answer the question raised by the 12 jurors.

The judge told the jury the absence of a body was not a bar for a conviction, if the jury was satisfied on the evidence that Mr Falconio was killed by the accused.

He said if the jury were not satisfied that Mr Falconio was killed by the accused, then the Crown had failed to prove its case and he should be acquitted.

Bradley John Murdoch has denied killing Mr Falconio and assaulting Joanne Lees in July 2001.

Falconio DNA test approved

Posted 13 minutes ago - ABC - May 7th 2008

A team of British forensic scientists has given the green light to a controversial DNA testing technique used in the Peter Falconio murder trial.

The procedure had been under a cloud after the collapse of a case in Northern Ireland last year.

The case against an accused bomber collapsed because the judge raised concerns about the reliability of Low Copy Number DNA testing.

The judge raised fears about the high risk of evidence being contaminated under the procedure.

A review by three of the United Kingdom's best forensic scientists has found the technique is fit for use, however they noted police need better training on how to prevent contamination.

The technique was used on a key piece of evidence that helped convict Bradley Murdoch of Mr Falconio's murder in Australia in 2001.

The ABC understands Murdoch's lawyer is still working on a possible appeal.

Falconio Kombi van 'up for sale'

May 27, 2008 - 8:46AM - SMH

The Kombi van at the centre of one of Australia's most infamous crimes, the murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio, is expected to be put up for sale.

Northern Territory police are expected to auction the van in Darwin for Mr Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees, who is now back living in the United Kingdom, the Northern Territory News said.

But police would not confirm the expected sale.

"The Volkswagen Kombi involved in the Peter Falconio investigation was moved from the basement in the Supreme Court to the vehicle compound at the Peter McAulay Centre," a police statement said.

"The vehicle will remain in the compound until advice is received from the rightful owners of their intentions regarding the vehicle."

Mr Falconio and Ms Lees bought the Kombi in a Sydney caryard in May 2001 for their outback adventure.

Bradley John Murdoch has been convicted of the murder of Mr Falconio, who was killed after he and Ms Lees were flagged down by a gunman as they drove along the Stuart Highway on the night of July 14, 2001.

Ms Lees managed to escape and report the attack to police, sparking one of the biggest manhunts in Australian history.

Mr Falconio's body has never been found.


Media Release - NT Police

Tuesday 27-May-2008 (1515 hrs CST)

Kombi Van Statement

As per the policy on the disposal of exhibits after a Court case is completed, the owner, Ms Joanne Lees, has instructed Northern Territory Police to dispose of the vehicle.  
To clarify, Police will facilitate the destruction of the vehicle at a date to be decided.