Mystery in the outback – The strange story of Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees

Mystery in the outback – The strange story of Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees

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Mystery in the outback - The strange story of Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees

Mystery in the outback – The strange story of Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees

The true story of Peter Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees remains one of the strangest crime events to have taken place in Australia.

Falconio mysteriously disappeared in the Australian outback in July 2001, while the couple travelled around in a Kombi van.

Falconio’s body has never been found and he is now presumed dead.

The events leading up to his disappearance, the investigations and court cases are intresting, but has the truth really been discovered?

The orange Kombi

The orange Kombi

An abduction or murder?

Falconio and Lees were travelling at night along the Stuart Highway near Barrow Creek (between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek) in the Northern Territory on 14 July 2001.

Ms Lees said that at some point shortly after passing through Barrow Creek about 8pm when it was dark, they became aware that another vehicle was following the van.

That vehicle (a white 4-wheel drive utility fitted with a bull bar) pulled alongside the van. Its interior light was switched on.

It was driven by a man wearing a black baseball cap with a motif on it and a long sleeve shirt with what appeared to be a T-shirt under it. He appeared to have a Mexican moustache that drooped down past the sides of his mouth. A dog was also seen to be sitting on the passenger seat of the utility.

Around 11 km’s north of Barrow Creek, at about 8.15pm, the man waves the Kombi over.

He told them that he had noticed that their Kombi had engine trouble.

After Falconio went to the rear of the vehicle with the man to investigate, Lees said she heard a shot fired.

The man then threatened Lees with a small gun, tied her up and covered her head, and pushed her into the back of his ute.

Lees says she escaped while the man was distracted (apparently while moving Falconio’s body).

She hid for five hours in nearby scrub bushes.

Lees and Falconio in the Kombi

Lees and Falconio in the Kombi

The missing body

On 15th July Sunday at about 1 am, Lees emerges from the scrub onto the highway, and out in front of a “Bull’s” road train truck being driven by Vince Millar.

Vince stopped about a kilometre down the road and Joanne ran towards the road train. Vince got out of the truck and spoke to Joanne. He started to help her look for her boyfriend but when she told him her attacker had had a gun, he decided it would be best to go for help. He drove her south to the Barrow Creek roadhouse, where they contacted police.

By 7.00am, the NT police had launched a search for Mr Falconio and the gunman.

Quickly they found a pool of blood covered with dirt beside the Stuart Hwy, (This blood was later DNA matched toPeter Falconio, but strangely his blood had been mixed with animal blood)

The police also later found the Kombi driven well off the road into the scrub.

Falconio’s body however has never been found.

Expert Aboriginal trackers, called from a nearby settlement, could find no sign of tracks of anyone, other than Lees’ in the vicinity.

Photofit of the man

Photofit of the man!

An arrest!

After four years of gruelling investigations, in which over 2500 suspects had been identified, but no real leads, and no body, police tracked down and arrested truck driver Bradley Murdoch.

He was convicted of murder and is still in jail, dispite claiming he did not do it. Many experts on the case agree with him, and evidence of a set up has been reported.

Bradley Murdoch at his arrest

Bradley Murdoch at his arrest

Strange events and mysteries

What happened to Falconio’s body?

This is the greatest remaining mystery and the lynch-pin of Murdoch’s defence. “Show me the body” is his constant challenge to judges and police.

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."


  • GrumpyGuyGrumpyGuy Member
    edited March 2017
    Wait - so they arrested Bradley Murdoch and sentenced him to prison?  Based on what evidence?  His defense lawyer must have been unable to defeat the evidence in court, so it must be pretty compelling (or have seemed so at the time).
  • The woman who nailed Bradley John Murdoch with a hair elastic

    By Judy Adair

    Updated Thu at 4:49pm from ABC.NET.AU

    "I knew this guy was the devil."

    Colleen Gwynne will never forget coming face to face with Bradley John Murdoch for the first time, while investigating the murder of Peter Falconio.

    "I wanted to cry but I wasn't going to let him beat me," said the former policewoman, who is now the Northern Territory Children's Commissioner.

    Fifteen years ago during the initial stages of the Falconio case, Ms Gwynne's first instinct was to distance herself.

    "There was nothing about what the NT police were doing at the time that was actually very flattering or made us look like a group of people who knew what we were doing," she says.

    "So what I did was try to distance myself in a very small town as much as I could from anything to do with what is now known as the Falconio case."

    This all changed when she got a call one night from the police commissioner, who said: "The case is yours."

    From Ms Gwynne's perspective that marked the beginning of the end of her police career.

    She explains that while she realised what an opportunity the investigation presented, she was patently clear about the magnitude and complexity of the case and admits she was not feeling very confident.

    The investigation

    To deal with those anxieties, Ms Gwynne worked day and night and read everything about the case she possibly could. Then she started her planning.

    Initially, she observed the team she was working with and identified three individuals who would be the key players in solving the crime.

    "There was the old-style cop who'd probably lived in Alice Springs his whole life. He was smart he was methodical but he believed something bad had occurred," she said.

    "The second person was a young detective who worked in Alice Springs and she wanted a challenge.

    "The third person, who ended up being best on ground, was an intel officer who was OCD like you wouldn't believe."

    To begin the investigation, Ms Gwynne and her team returned to the scene.

    She got her team to drop her off at the site where Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees hid — a salt bush in the middle of nowhere outside Alice Springs.


    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

  • Interesting.  The evidence certainly seems to point to him.  Is there a compelling argument for his innocence?
  • From statement by Murdoch

    Bradley Murdoch: I did not kill Peter Falconio

    Bradley Murdoch, the man convicted of killing British backpacker Peter Falconio in the Australian outback 10 years ago, has broken his silence for the first time, strongly denying any role in Mr Falconio's disappearance and the abduction of his girlfriend Joanne Lees.

    Bradley Murdoch denies murdering Peter Falconio
    Falconio was murdered after he and his girlfriend, Joanne Lees, were flagged down by Bradley Murdoch Photo: PA

    7:00AM BST 01 Aug 2011


    Despite extensive searches of the area in which Mr Falconio went missing, police have never found his remains.

    In 2005 Murdoch was found guilty of Mr Falconio's 2001 murder based on DNA evidence and Miss Lees' testimony. He is now serving a 28-year sentence.

    Miss Lees identified Murdoch as the man who flagged the pair down on a remote highway before shooting Mr Falconio and attempting to kidnap her.

    "I might be a bit rough around the edges and all that sort of thing, but, you know, I'm (a) pretty straight up sort of person; I've got a heart - I'm a little bit of a gentle giant at times," Murdoch told the Seven News Network in an interview on the anniversary of the murder.

    Murdoch admitted that he was involved in crime and drug smuggling and argued he would not jeopardise his lucrative business by killing someone. He went on to suggest that Miss Lees could have played a role in Mr Falconio's disappearance and even that the Briton could still be alive.

    Read more

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

  • A guy who admits to being a drug dealer who "knocks people around" sometimes, and who has a cocaine-smuggling lawyer (how is he still able to work??), just says he's innocent because he's a soft-hearted brute who would lose too much if his drug operations were ended by an arrest.

    I can see why he's still in jail.

  • Hardly the best defence strategy.

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

  • The remote Australian highways where murderers have hunted their victims

    October 23, 20153:08pm from

    Some of Australia’s most notorious killers have taken advantage of the anonymity of the open road.

    News Corp Australia

    AUSTRALIA seems to have more things that will kill you than anywhere else.

    Our beaches are stalked by razor-fanged sharks, blue-ringed octopuses and box jellyfish.

    Backyards are filled with funnel web spiders and deadly spiders.

    The outback is filled venomous snakes, poisonous plants and crocodile-infested rivers.

    It’s a dangerous country. And isolated Australian roads are no place to break down.

    Home to teeth-rattling corrugations, wild flies and punishing weather, these highways are also where unlucky travellers have met their fate.

    Gone Troppo: The monster who killed for pleasure

    Flinders Highway

    Blood-red iron ranges, open plains, dry riverbeds, and spinifex country stand as silent witness to some chilling killings.

    The Flinders Highway that turns into the Barkly Highway is an isolated, remote 800km stretch of bitumen between Townsville and Mount Isa.

    Ex-abattoir worker Andy Albury was named as the prime suspect in a string of unsolved murders on the lonely stretch of road known as the “highway of death”.

    The spectre of a thrill killer hangs over a series of unsolved cold cases on the Flinders Highway — including the 1982 disappearance of hitchhiker Tony Jones.

    Albury, dubbed Australia’s Hannibal Lecter, was jailed after using a broken bottle to murder and mutilate a woman in Darwin in 1983.

    When asked by police why he killed her, he said: “It doesn’t worry me what I kill — they’re all blood and guts inside.”

    He is serving life — never to be released — in a Darwin maximum security prison.

    The entrance to Belanglo State Forest where Ivan Milats victims were found

    The entrance to Belanglo State Forest where Ivan Milat’s victims were found.Source:News Limited

    Hume Highway

    The sign at the entrance to Belanglo State Forest warns visitors to “please be careful”.

    The dense pine forest off the Hume Highway south-west of Sydney became synonymous with murder as the bodies of serial killer Ivan Milat’s seven victims were found between September 1992 and November 1993.

    The young backpackers had been stabbed, shot, probably sexually assaulted and one of them decapitated with a single blow to the back of her neck. Her head was never found.

    There was evidence that some of them had been allowed to try to run so they could be hunted down. Some had been gagged or hogtied. Two were stabbed through the top of the spine, paralysing them before they were killed.

    Milat was jailed for life for the seven murders and for the abduction of an eighth backpacker who got away.

    Murder in the outback

    Stuart Highway

    Peter Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees were just another backpacking couple driving through the vast and empty Australian outback.

    read more:

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

  • Matt_ADMIN_Matt_ADMIN_ Administrator
    Canadian highways have the same problems in some points. We have a "highway of tears" where native women go missing, usually murdered.
    "...Say, 'GOD is sufficient for me.' In Him the trusters shall trust." (Quran 39:38)
  • Rosie_MOD_Rosie_MOD_ Moderator
    edited March 2017

    Paranoid, armed and deadly

    •  from Sydney Morning Herald
    December 15, 2005

    Despite Bradley Murdoch's conviction for murder, mystery remains, writes Lindsay Murdoch.

    'IT HADN'T been a good trip. There'd been a few dramas. He suspected somebody had been following him on that occasion and he had to deal with it."

    Beverley Allan remembered the day in 2001 when "Big Brad" Murdoch returned to Broome after one of his many drug-smuggling trips from South Australia. "He wasn't very happy; he was very strung out, very stressed," she said. "He'd had to come back a different route."

    Allan's memory of her then boyfriend's words four years ago offer the only clue why Murdoch executed British backpacker Peter Falconio and assaulted his girlfriend, Joanne Lees, on a stretch of the Stuart Highway 310 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

    But, despite testimonies from 85 witnesses and more than 300 exhibits at a nine-week trial, what led to and exactly happened that near-freezing night in the middle of nowhere remains a mystery.

    Joan and Luciano Falconio are flying back to England with the agony of not knowing what happened to the body of their son, who was 28 when he disappeared. So too is Lees, who identified Murdoch as her attacker. As well, his DNA was found in a smudge of blood on the back of one of her T-shirts.

    On the evidence presented at Murdoch's Supreme Court trial in Darwin, the murder was out of character for a man who meticulously planned trips to avoid risks when he was carrying large amounts of money and marijuana hidden in a spare fuel tank of his four-wheel-drive utility.

    Was he a crazed gunman?

    No, said prosecutor Rex Wild, QC.

    Murdoch was a cunning, alert, meticulous person, Wild said. The killing was premeditated, he said, because Murdoch had taken the time to make handcuffs from cable ties that he used to restrain Lees.

    Wild also pointed out that Murdoch cunningly executed his escape, driving 1800 kilometres in about 18 hours across the mostly unsealed Tanami Track to avoid police roadblocks.

    Wild suggested that Murdoch - high on amphetamines that he sipped from cups of hot tea and sugar - became paranoid about a couple in an orange Kombi van that he had seen two or three times during his marathon drive.

    At about 8pm on July 14, 2001, Murdoch pulled alongside and then flagged down the Kombi that was being driven by Falconio. He shot Falconio in the head from point-blank range then pushed a pistol into Lees's face, punched her, tried to bind her hands and feet, and placed a sack over her head. Her hands were manacled behind her back with the cable ties made of unbreakable industrial plastic.

    She was bundled into the back of Murdoch's vehicle before managing to escape into bush, where she hid for five terrifying hours. Murdoch searched for her for a while with a torch and his dalmatian dog, Jack, it is claimed. Eventually she staggered onto the highway and was picked up by two road-train drivers. The handcuffs had to be cut off with bolt cutters.

    Some details of Lees's story have changed since she first made statements to police. Maybe she was mistaken, Lees told Murdoch's trial, when she said her attacker pulled her from the front cabin of his utility into the back (there was no window that could allow this to happen).

    Wild said that if there were discrepancies in her story it was because she was traumatised by the events of that night. "She wasn't taking notes," he said.

    But how could Murdoch have become paranoid about a fun-loving couple from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in their late 20s on the backpacking trip of a lifetime? How could a hulking man, 191 centimetres tall and weighing 105 kilograms, who always travelled with a gun - in the end it was an arsenal - have seen them as any threat?

    Murdoch testified that he bought chicken at the same Red Rooster restaurant in Alice Springs which Falconio and Lees visited the day of the murder (an excuse for how his blood got on the T-shirt). But the couple did not have any previous contact or dealings with Murdoch. This was no drug deal gone wrong, one of many unsubstantiated and cruel rumours that have been swirling about this unusual case that generated worldwide fascination with the outback.

    Falconio and Lees were minding their own business driving through the outback; a couple of hours before the killing they had shared a marijuana joint as they watched a spectacular sunset at a place called Ti Tree. They were cruising up the highway in their 30-year-old Kombi, happy to stop for a sleep when they got tired with driving the vast distances between settlements along the highway to Darwin.

    Murdoch, the drug smuggler who had for years avoided police capture, inexplicably took the risk of shooting a stranger beside the highway in the hope that no other vehicles came along before he could hide the body. He also had the problem of restraining Lees, who said she would rather die than be raped and who fought back violently.

    What the jury in Darwin did not hear in case it prejudiced their deliberations, however, was that Murdoch had been accused before of committing terrifying crimes against defenceless people.

    "Brad is a dangerous animal and he is capable of anything," said Murdoch's former friend and landlord in South Australia, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He was obsessed with drugs, guns and other weapons such as a cattle prod, she said. In August 2002, a year after the attack in the Northern Territory, Murdoch was said to be highly agitated about the hunt for Falconio's killer and spent much of his time sipping his amphetamine-laced tea and smoking marijuana.

    He had befriended the partner of the South Australian woman 18 months earlier and was staying in his guesthouse on their country property. The woman and her 12-year-old daughter were alone in a house nearby; her partner was in hospital suffering from cancer.

    "If I had my hands on a gun I would shoot him [Murdoch] in the head right now," the man, who has since died, told an Adelaide District Court jury which later acquitted Murdoch of raping the girl and abducting her and her mother.

    "I want to see Brad put in jail because he's raped my daughter and molested my wife," the man said.

    The woman - who still sleeps with a knife under her pillow in case Murdoch escapes - and police insist there is no doubt that Murdoch committed the offences.

    read more:

    "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."

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