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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 12:25 GMT
Timeline: Falconio murder trial

Joanne Lees
Joanne Lees spent four days giving evidence in the trial

In a case that has gripped Australia, mechanic Bradley Murdoch has been convicted of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio and attacking his girlfriend Joanne Lees on a deserted outback road in July 2001.

Miss Lees, 32, from Brighton, told the court how she escaped from her boyfriend's killer by jumping out of his vehicle and hiding in a bush. The body of Mr Falconio, 28, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has never been found.

Mr Murdoch, 47, denied all the charges against him, but was convicted by a jury in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Here is a summary of the evidence in the trial:


After a nine-week trial, Judge Brian Martin sends the jury of six men and six women out to consider its verdict.

He tells jurors in Darwin to put emotions aside, reject flamboyant suggestions from counsel, and concentrate on the evidence.

The judge tells the jury the absence of Falconio's body does not prevent a guilty verdict after he is asked to clarify the point.


Judge Brian Martin tells jurors that allegations Mr Murdoch is a drug runner do not make him guilty of murder.

The judge also asks the jurors to re-consider Miss Lees' evidence about how she was moved from the front of Mr Murdoch's truck to the back during the alleged attack.

He said Miss Lees had changed her account after she was told the truck did not have front-to-rear access; but he said she had accurately described the unusual seats in the vehicle.


The judge urges jurors to put emotions aside when they consider their verdict.

Judge Martin says the evidence is very distressing, but jurors must assess it objectively.

He says they must decide whether to accept Joanne Lees' evidence beyond reasonable doubt, in the absence of a body.

The reliability of some evidence must also be considered, he says.

The case is adjourned until 12 December.


Prosecutor Rex Wild QC says Mr Murdoch had the chance to "tailor his story" to the evidence because he heard the prosecution case before taking the stand.

He tells the jury to "bear that in mind" when they are considering the evidence.

The judge begins his summing up. He warns the jury that witnesses are not robots and human beings suffer frailties of observation and recall.


The parents of British backpacker Peter Falconio weep in court as the prosecutor says one day their son's body would be found.

Rex Wild, summing up for the prosecution, rejects suggestions from the defence that Mr Falconio faked his own death.

Instead he says Mr Falconio was "disappeared by Bradley Murdoch".


In his closing arguments, the lawyer for murder suspect Bradley Murdoch suggests that police investigating Mr Falconio's murder may have "set up" his client.

Barrister Grant Algie says a number of factors "don't quite add up" - such as the fact that no blood was found in Mr Falconio's camper van.

He suggests Mr Murdoch's DNA was found on a set of makeshift handcuffs because of police intervention. The defence lawyer also said the absence of a body undermined the prosecution's case.


An expert in body structure tells the court a man pictured on CCTV footage taken at a truck stop in Alice Springs hours after the attack does not resemble the defendant.

Professor Maciej Henneberg said Bradley Murdoch differed in body shape from the man shown on the security film.

He also cast doubt on expert prosecution evidence which said the defendant and the man on the film shared several features.


The court hears Bradley Murdoch say that even his father thought he resembled the man seen on CCTV after the attack.

He admits that a CCTV image looked "similar" to him and his vehicle.

Under cross-examination, Mr Murdoch repeatedly denies killing and burying Mr Falconio.


Mr Murdoch says he does not know how his DNA was found in a spot of blood on a T-shirt worn by Miss Lees on the night of the alleged attack.

Mr Murdoch says he was running drugs hundreds of miles away at the time of the killing.

And he tells the court it was not him or his vehicle caught on CCTV in Alice Springs that night.


Joanne Lees is unexpectedly recalled to give more evidence to the court and is repeatedly challenged by the defence about comments made to a police officer a few days after she and Mr Falconio were attacked.

She denies telling the officer about having a "strong feeling" that the gunman's truck had shelving and bottles in the back.

Miss Lees also says she has no recollection of notes carrying her initials.


A detective denies planting evidence on Mr Murdoch in a bid to incriminate him in the murder of Mr Falconio.

Det Sgt David Chalker denies leaving DNA of Bradley Murdoch on cable ties which were allegedly used to handcuff Joanne Lees, the British backpacker's girlfriend.

Defence lawyer Grant Algie had claimed police could have planted the evidence when they visited Mr Murdoch in prison in Adelaide in October 2002.


Service station worker Robert Brown and his girlfriend Melissa Kendall testify that they served Peter Falconio at Bourke, New South Wales, eight days after he disappeared.

Both say he had an injury to his face and was with a second, "solid" man, but the details of their testimonies differ over the time of day and the location of Mr Falconio's injury.

Ms Kendall also says Mr Brown was not in the shop at the same time as Mr Falconio, and that only she served him.

Rachel Maxwell, girlfriend of Mr Murdoch's alleged business partner James Hepi, tells the court she saw Mr Hepi and Mr Murdoch with a gun that was silver with a wooden handle - a description similar to that given by Joanne Lees of a weapon she said Mr Murdoch had.

But she says it could have been Mr Hepi's weapon.


A woman claims that Mr Murdoch offered to sell her a gun about a month before Mr Falconio died.

Julie McPhail tells the court that she met Mr Murdoch at a remote petrol station while driving from Perth, in Western Australia, to Adelaide, in South Australia.

After making regular stops with him in separate cars the pair shared cannabis and speed, before he demonstrated how to use a silver gun, which he then tried to sell to her.


Bradley Murdoch was seen on CCTV just hours after Mr Falconio vanished, the court hears.

The image of a man buying ice and diesel in Alice Springs had several distinctive features suggesting it was Mr Murdoch, according to a forensic expert.

However, the judge warns that deciding the man in the video was Mr Murdoch would not be enough to convict him of the murder.


Bradley Murdoch told his friend Beverley Allan that he had to "deal with" someone during a drugs run in the outback, she tells the court.

She says he confided in her that there were "a few dramas" on his trip to fetch marijuana.

"He suspected that somebody was following him on that occasion and he had to deal with them," she says.

She describes him as "fairly strung out" and "fairly stressed" when he returned to his home town of Broome from South Australia.


Bradley Murdoch binged on amphetamines to stay awake as he ran drugs across Australia, his former drug trade partner James Hepi tells the court.

Mr Hepi also says Mr Murdoch carried a gun in his truck, and changed his appearance after a trip in July 2001, at the time of Mr Falconio's disappearance.

He describes for the court how he had discovered Mr Murdoch making handcuffs out of cable ties in his backyard shed before Mr Falconio disappeared.


A forensic scientist tells the court a DNA sample on cable ties, allegedly used to bind Ms Lees, matched Mr Murdoch.

DNA from Ms Lees was also found on the ties, said British expert Jonathan Whitaker, who examined them at his laboratory in Wetherby, West Yorkshire.

He was asked to examine them because he specialised in "low copy number" DNA - a method which amplifies a DNA sample in order to get a result that could be used.


Cable ties used to bind the hands of Joanne Lees were contaminated by a forensic scientist, the court was told.

Forensic biologist Carmen Eckhoff said laboratory director Dr Peter Thatcher's DNA was found on the cuffs allegedly used by Bradley Murdoch to tie her up.

She said the presence of his DNA on the "significant" piece of evidence could have got there in a number of ways, despite protocols being in place to prevent it happening.

Ms Eckhoff also said she did not agree with the cable ties being taken to Yatala Prison in Adelaide, South Australia, where Mr Murdoch was on remand, in October 2002.


Blood on Joanne Lees' T-shirt was 150,000 billion times more likely to be Bradley Murdoch's than any other local white male's, Ms Eckhoff told the court.

A DNA profile from the sample was an "exact match" of one from Mr Murdoch, she said.

DNA samples taken from blood pools at the scene matched one from Mr Falconio's own asthma inhaler, she told the court.

She explained how items were kept packaged in heavy-duty paper inside an evidence box to avoid contamination.


Forensic biologist Carmen Eckhoff said the forensic science laboratories where tests were carried out were a converted office in a police station and not accredited.

But that was due to health and safety concerns rather than the scientific procedures being carried out.

Several tests there were separated in time, because they couldn't be separated by space, and that was a recognised scientific method, she said.

But, questioned by prosecutor Anthony Elliot, she acknowledged the conditions were less than ideal.


Mr Murdoch's barrister suggested the makeshift handcuffs allegedly used to hold Miss Lees may be an unreliable form of evidence.

The court was told the cable ties and tape were photographed 1.5cm away from a piece of tape found at the home of the suspect and could have become contaminated.

A crime scene examiner told the jury police were trying to compare possible similarities in the two pieces of tape.

Tim Sandry also denied having the cable ties over a two day period in February 2002 even though a police log recorded they were in his possession.


It emerged that the handcuffs allegedly used to tie up Miss Lees were put in the same room as property belonging to Mr Murdoch.

The court heard the cuffs were kept in a room just 10ft away from seized items belonging to the suspect.

Senior Constable Tim Sandry told the court that he locked the handcuffs in a cabinet in the physical evidence section of the police building in Adelaide while he visited properties where Mr Murdoch lived in October 2002.

The jury also heard that the handcuffs were not deconstructed or their component parts examined until May 2004 - almost three years after the attack.


The jury heard police took several weeks to test the couple's camper van for traces of gunshot, during which time it had been driven on a truck to a police garage in Alice Springs and dusted for fingerprints.

A police officer also told the court he did not know if tape and lip gloss found at the scene three months after the attack had been there earlier.

Initially police only found the lip balm lid Miss Lees said she had used to loosen handcuffs with which Mr Murdoch had allegedly restrained her.

They did not search the nearby area until three months later, he said.


The mother of Mr Falconio walked out of court after seeing images which prosecutors said showed a pool of her son's blood.

Joan Falconio, from Huddersfield, was sitting in the public gallery with her husband Luciano and Miss Lees when a 30-minute video and other photographs were shown to the jury.

The video also showed vehicle tracks leading to the camper van used by Peter Falconio and his girlfriend.

The Darwin court was also by a crimes scenes officer that police had not searched the area properly at the time and missed important evidence.


Witness Gregory Dick said Mr Falconio and Miss Lees had eaten a meal at his roadside cafe about four hours before the alleged attack on them.

Mr Dick said while they were at Aileron Roadhouse, north of Alice Springs, the couple had looked at a series of brochures and discussed places to visit.

I would say she was, as we'd call them, a Pom
Gregory Dick
Roadside cafe owner

"I would say it was definitely them otherwise they had a good set of twins in Australia," he told the court.

His evidence, which was backed up by employees, contradicted that of Miss Lees, who told the jury she and Mr Falconio had not stopped at the site.


Rodney Adams, a sleeping passenger in a truck who came across Miss Lees after the alleged attack, said she was "distraught, in a state of panic" when he and driver Vince Millar found her.

There was a small conversation, she kept asking about her boyfriend
Rodney Adams
Truck passenger

Her hands were bound and she had tape around her neck and one ankle, he said.

"There was a small conversation, she kept asking about her boyfriend."

They headed south to Barrow Creek to get help, he added.

When they arrived at the Barrow Creek pub, Mr Adams said Miss Lees would not initially leave the cab.


Joanne Lees showed the courtroom how she escaped. She showed how she moved her tied hands from her back, to her front.

I would recognise him anywhere
Joanne Lees

Miss Lees was asked if she thought a picture on the BBC News website of a suspect influenced her identification of Mr Murdoch.

She said: "No. I would recognise him anywhere."

Vince Millar, the driver of the road train that rescued Miss Lees, said she had jumped out around 20 yards in front of his truck.

He swerved to avoid her but it took him around a kilometre (1000 metres) to stop and he thought he had hit her.


Miss Lees told the jury she was positive she had identified the right man.

The jury saw a video of an interview at Hove police station on 18 November 2002, in which she picked out a passport-style image of Mr Murdoch from a choice of 12.

I didn't really study the photograph of the man for long - I just knew that it was him
Joanne Lees

She said Australian police had shown her a CCTV image the day after the attack of a man at an Alice Springs truck stop, but that at the time she had told them he was "too old" to be her attacker.

She had since changed her mind because "the police were able to show me a better quality picture".


After taking the stand, Miss Lees was asked if she could identify her boyfriend's attacker.

She looked at Bradley Murdoch and said: "I'm looking at him".

I was more scared of being raped than I was of dying and being shot
Joanne Lees

Miss Lees told the jury how on the evening in question, the couple were flagged down by the driver of a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Mr Falconio got out of the van and began talking to the man, then there was a sound like a gunshot and the man appeared at her window holding a gun, she said.

She then told how she was tied up and forced into the man's vehicle.

Miss Lees struggled out of the van and ran away, managing to hide under a bush.

She said she had waited for "a very long time" before leaving her hiding place and jumping in front of a truck to get the driver's attention.


Lawyers outlining the case against Bradley Murdoch said they had three pieces of DNA evidence linking him to Peter Falconio's murder.

It was the last time Joanne Lees saw Peter Falconio alive, nor has anyone else seen him alive from that moment
Prosecutor Rex Wild

Prosecutor Rex Wild said DNA consistent with the mechanic from Western Australia was found on Miss Lees' shirt, on cable ties used to tie her up and on the gear-stick of the camper van.

He also told how Miss Lees hid "like a rabbit" for five hours from her attacker.


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