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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Lees admits she had second lover
Joanne Lees (hidden under blanket) arriving at court
Joanne Lees (hidden from view under a blanket) arriving at court
The girlfriend of missing Briton Peter Falconio has admitted having a sexual relationship with another man in Sydney before the 28-year-old disappeared.

Earlier, Joanne Lees, 30, told a court in Darwin that she used a second e-mail account to correspond with the man.

Ms Lees has finished giving evidence in a hearing of the man accused of murdering her boyfriend in July 2001.

Bradley Murdoch, 45, denies shooting Mr Falconio in an ambush in the outback. Mr Falconio's body has never been found.

The ex-mechanic also denies abducting, assaulting and tying up Ms Lees, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

The committal hearing will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go before a jury.

If there is, Ms Lees, who is on her way back to Britain, will be expected to return to Australia as the key prosecution witness.

Credibility

The defence counsel Grant Algie told the court in Northern Australia that the relationship between Ms Lees and a man in Sydney called Nick struck at the heart of her credibility as a witness.

Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio
Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio were backpacking around Australia

The revelation by Ms Lees came at the end of two days of cross examination.

Sitting a few feet away from the man accused of murdering her boyfriend, she was asked by Mr Algie whether she had a sexual relationship with another man over a period of weeks.

"I'm going to answer yes, although I wouldn't classify it as an affair or a relationship," Ms Lees told the court.

Mr Algie also asked Ms Lees whether she had planned to meet up with Nick in Berlin, to which she replied: "I made a suggestion."

The defence said the picture painted by the prosecution of Ms Lees and Mr Falconio enjoying a harmonious and loving relationship was not necessarily the case.

'Secret e-mails'

On Wednesday, Ms Lees was asked by the defence counsel whether, when she was in Alice Springs after the alleged attack, she had told a police officer she needed to delete messages from a "secret e-mail account".

Ms Lees admitted she had a second account but not that it was secret.

Under cross examination she also revealed that she had been paid 50,000 (A$128,000) for an interview with UK television channel Granada.

The prosecution objected to the line of questioning but Mr Algie said it was relevant "because motive to perpetuate this story is relevant".

Ms Lees gave a detailed description to the court of the man, who she says flagged down the camper van she and Mr Falconio were travelling in on a deserted highway near Alice Springs.

He pushed me in the front and sat 20 or 30cm away...He was tall, over six foot, hunched, kind of stooping
Joanne Lees

Ms Lees described hearing a shot when Mr Falconio left their campervan before she was grabbed by the assailant at gunpoint and forced into his truck.

"He pushed me in the front and sat 20 or 30cm away. He was tall, over six foot, hunched, kind of stooping," Ms Lees told the court.

Vincent Miller, the truck driver who found Ms Lees, was also giving evidence.

He said he almost ran Miss Lees over when she leapt into the road and that she was screaming, shocked and disturbed.

The body of Mr Falconio, of Hepworth, West Yorkshire, has never been found but prosecutors claim there is evidence that he was murdered.

The six-week hearing to determine whether Mr Murdoch will face a full trial is being held over two three-week periods - with the second due in August.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"Joanne Lees hid as usual as she left the court"



SEE ALSO:
Falconio case delay 'frustrating'
20 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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