Has body of murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio finally been found in the Australian Outback?
Police hunting for the remains of British backpacker Peter Falconio have found bones in the Australian Outback – almost 22 years after he was murdered by a drug-runner who also tried to abduct his girlfriend.
Mr Falconio, from Hepworth, Huddersfield, was shot dead by Bradley Murdoch in July 2001. The convicted killer has refused to admit responsibility or reveal where Peter’s body was left.
But today it has emerged that bone fragments have been found near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory – a few hundred miles from where he was murdered while crossing the country with girlfriend Joanne Lees in a Volkswagen campervan.
The remains are in a location where detectives always believed his body was left by Murdoch and will now be tested to see if they are from Mr Falconio. Remains were discovered in 2003, 2004 and 2007 but were not the 28-year-old’s.
‘We have been down this track before so we are not jumping to any conclusions,’ one Northern Territory detective said.
But a source has said the age and location of the bones found this week are considered a close match to Mr Falconio and the case that has captivated the UK and Australia for decades.
Murdoch is serving 28 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 10 years – but will not walk free without revealing the location of Peter’s remains under the Northern Territory’s ‘no body no release’ laws.
The remains of backpacker Peter Falconio (pictured, with his girlfriend Joanne Lees) may have been discovered near the last place he was seen alive.
Northern Territory police have done multiple searches for the British tourist’s body over the years and remained hopeful of finding his remains (pictured, Mr Falconio and Ms Lees). Joanne Lees (right) would escape Murdoch and hide before raising the alarm
Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan when they were pulled over by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch (pictured right) who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees
Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan driving along the remote Stuart Highway (pictured) between Alice Springs and Darwin on July 14, 2001
It is not known what led police to the scene – but last year it emerged that Peter’s family were given a new tip-off just hours after a $1million reward for information was offered. Reports at the time suggested a new potential witness was found, raising hopes of a breakthrough for his heartbroken parents Joan and Luciano – and Joanne.
Murdoch is eligible for parole in 10 years – but will not walk free without revealing the location of Peter Falconio’s body under the NT’s ‘no body no release’ laws.
Police said the age and location of the bones found this week are a close match to Mr Falconio’s case.
Forensic experts will find out if they belong to the backpacker using DNA and dental records.
Murdoch has refused to tell police where the body is located and has maintained his innocence.
Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan driving along the remote Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin on July 14, 2001.
They were pulled over by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees.
She managed to escape, hiding in the bush for hours until she flagged down a truck and raised the alarm – but no trace of her boyfriend’s body has ever been found.
Bradley Murdoch grabbed Joanne Lees, tied her up with cable ties and bundled her into the back of his ute. She would later re-enact it in the hope somebody would help find Peter
Bradley Murdoch is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia
Joan Falconio (pictured with Peter’s father Luciano) is still tormented by the loss of her son 21 years ago on a remote stretch of road between Alice Springs and Darwin
Last September Joan Falconio, 75, broke her long silence to beg for information about the location of her son’s body on what would have been his 50th birthday.
His mother pleaded for ‘anyone with a conscience’ to help locate his remains.
Bradley Murdoch is eligible for parole in 10 years – but will not walk free without revealing the location of Peter Falconio’s body under the NT’s ‘no body no release’ laws
It led to a new witness coming forward to reveal he spotted a ute – just like the killer’s – parked ‘in an odd place’ by a culvert and a bridge 24 hours after the murder.
Former girlfriend Joanne Lees is now 48 and living in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in the UK, and still remains in contact with Peter’s parents.
The couple were on a trip around Australia in 2001 when Murdoch drew alongside and signalled them to pull over, claiming there were flames coming out the back of their van.
When Mr Falconio went round the rear to inspect it with Murdoch, he was shot dead.
Murdoch then grabbed Ms Lees, tied her up with cable ties and bundled her into the back of his ute.
She managed to wriggle free as he disposed of Mr Falconio’s body and their van, and hid in the bush to avoid Murdoch’s dog while he searched for her.
Murdoch eventually gave up and drove off with Mr Falconio’s body before Ms Lees then flagged down a truck and was taken to a nearby roadhouse in Barrow Creek.
The police hunt for Mr Falconio and his killer then began 21 years ago and finally led to the arrest of Murdoch after DNA from Ms Lees’ t-shirt matched his.
Joanne Lees managed to wriggle free as he disposed of Mr Falconio’s body and their van, and hid in the bush to avoid Murdoch’s dog while he searched for her
He is now serving life in Darwin Correctional Centre after being convicted of the murder – but he has refused to give up where he dumped Mr Falconio’s body.
Murdoch is eligible for parole in 10 years but will never walk free without revealing the location under the NT’s ‘no body no release’ laws.
He is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal police emptied an outback well in 2019 where Mr Falconio’s body was feared dumped – but failed to find any trace of him.
Detectives were led to the location at Neutral Junction cattle station about 1km from where Mr Falconio was shot after an eyewitness came forward to say he saw a ute there like Murdoch’s on the night of the attack.
A TV crew led by Today Tonight reporter Frank Pangallo – now a South Australian state politician for SA BEST Party – first explored the site in 2014 but the well contained 15m of water and was inaccessible.
But police returned to the site in 2019 after a personal plea from Mr Falconio’s mother and conducted a full investigation… but turned up nothing.
‘Mrs Falconio contacted me and asked if I could convince NT Police to undertake a full search of the well to eliminate the clue,’ Mr Pangallo told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I then arranged an affidavit from the eyewitness, a truck driver who had been contracted by the cattle station and sent it to senior NT Police.
‘NT Police found him to be credible and emptied the well in a five-day operation in 2019 but unfortunately found nothing.
‘It was the right thing for them to do and I can only praise their efforts.’