“Keep quiet or I’ll shoot you”
This is another case of a murder where no body has ever been found. In 2001 Peter Marco Falconio (born Harrogate, North Yorkshire 20 September 1972) and girlfriend Joanne Lees (born 25 September 1973) decided to travel around Australia and bought an orange Volkswagen Kombi van for AUS$1,200 in which to travel.
On 14 July 2001 they were on a road north of Alice Springs when a truck driver flagged them down. As they stopped, Mr Falconio got out of their vehicle to see what the problem was and Miss Lees heard a gunshot. The truck driver opened her door and dragged her out, handcuffing her. He told her, “Keep quiet or I’ll shoot you”. When Miss Lees asked he denied shooting Mr Falconio. Miss Lees managed to escape and hid in the bush for two hours until the man got tired of looking for her and drove off.
Mr Falconio’s corpse has never been found, despite a thorough search by the police and expert Aborigine trackers. The police were no nearer to identifying the attacker until they arrested James Hepi, a 35-year-old Maori, on a drugs charge and, in exchange for a lighter sentence, he named Bradley John Murdoch (born 6 October 1958). Murdoch had been in trouble with the police before, beginning in 1980 when he received a suspended sentence following a conviction for causing death by dangerous driving. He was arrested in August 2002. Joanne Lees identified him as her attacker (although she has admitted that she had seen a photograph of Murdoch and an article linking him to the crime before the police interviewed her) and he was arraigned for trial. He was further linked to Miss Lees via DNA in blood found on her t-shirt.
Stuart Highway, near Barrow Creek,Northern Territory, Australia
Saturday 14 July 2001
Murdoch’s murder trial began on 18 October 2005 before Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin, QC, at the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in Darwin. During the trial Miss Lees admitted that she had had sex with a man named Nick Riley in Sydney, without Mr Falconio’s knowledge.
Several authors have attacked her credibility especially after she confessed to using ecstasy and marijuana and taking large sums of money for media interviews. However, the jury believed her and on 13 December after deliberating for eight hours they returned a verdict of guilty. Murdoch was sentenced to life imprisonment and will not be eligible for parole until 2032. On 21 June 2007 the High Court refused Murdoch special leave to appeal. He has consistently maintained his innocence.