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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 08:09 GMT
Falconio test lab 'not official'
Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio in their camper van
Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio were travelling around Australia
The forensic science laboratories where tests for the Peter Falconio murder case were carried out were not accredited, a court has heard.

Forensic biologist Carmen Eckhoff told the Darwin court that she had used a converted office in a police station.

Bradley Murdoch, 47, of Broome, Western Australia, denies killing the UK backpacker who disappeared after an alleged ambush in the Outback in 2001.

He also denies the assault and kidnap of his girlfriend Joanne Lees, now 32.

The facilities in the old police headquarters were inadequate to meet the standards from a health and safety point of view
Carmen Eckhoff
Forensic biologist

Mr Murdoch is accused of shooting dead 28-year-old Mr Falconio and disposing of his body after flagging down his kombi van on a remote road near Alice Springs on 14 July 2001.

The body of Mr Falconio, from Huddersfield, has never been found.

Carmen Eckhoff, who works for the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services, said the make-shift lab she used was on the first floor of the police centre in Berrimah.

She told the court the Australian National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) had not accredited it because of health and safety concerns - rather than due to concerns about the scientific procedures being carried out there.

These included the lack of a second exit, safety showers and eye washes which would not have affected the results, she added.

"The facilities in the old police headquarters were inadequate to meet the standards from a health and safety point of view but the scientific practices were in place from the 1990s," she said.

'Less than ideal'

Several of the tests carried out in this old laboratory were "separated by time" because they could not be separated by space, she said.

This was a recognised scientific method to help minimise contamination, she added.

However, when questioned by Anthony Elliott, prosecuting, Ms Eckhoff acknowledged the conditions were "less than ideal".

The forensic team moved to a new laboratory in Berrimah in October 2001, three months after the alleged attack.

The scene of the alleged murder and attack
The court has heard how officers failed to thoroughly search the scene

On Friday the court heard how the handcuffs allegedly used to hold Miss Lees, now living in Brighton, were put in the same room as Mr Murdoch's property.

Miss Lees told police she was threatened with a gun to her head, tied up with her hands behind her back and put into the back of her attacker's vehicle.

She says she managed to escape from under the loose canopy and had hid in the bush for more than five hours before being rescued.

The court also heard evidence that Mr Falconio could have died from a single gun shot, despite the fact that no bullets, brain matter or body parts were found at the scene.

The bullet can ricochet around inside the skull and then lodge in a thicker part of the skull.
Dr Noel Woodford
Forensic pathologist

Forensic pathologist Dr Noel Woodford told the court that most gunshot wounds from a .22 calibre revolver do not result in exit wounds.

"The bullet can ricochet around inside the skull and then lodge in a thicker part of the skull.

"A gun shot wound to the head might not necessarily leave an exit to the head.

"It may pass downwards and lodge in another part of the body. Or it might continue off and never be found again."

He also said there were a number of possible explanations why a person who was shot might not make a noise.

Dr Woodford also denied, during cross-examination, that it would be unusual for there to be no brain matter deposited on the ground.

The trial continues.

Timeline: Falconio murder trial
21 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Test on Falconio van 'took weeks'
26 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Falconio mother walks from court
25 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Falconio 'seen' at roadside cafe
24 Oct 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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