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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 13:25 GMT
Falconio trial: Judge's summing up
As he began summing up the Peter Falconio murder trial, the Chief Justice of Australia's Northern Territory gave the jury a number of points to consider in deciding on a verdict. He will continue his summing up on Monday.

Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees
Mr Falconio allegedly died on 14 July 2001

Mr Justice Brian Martin said jurors "might think this case comes down to whether you accept the evidence of Miss Lees beyond a reasonable doubt."

Equally importantly, he said, the jury should consider whether they were satisfied, in the absence of a body, that Mr Falconio was shot and murdered. If not, the defendant, Bradley Murdoch, must be acquitted, he said.


The judge reviewed the differing opinions surrounding CCTV footage apparently showing Mr Murdoch at a service station near to where the alleged attack took place.

Mr Murdoch denied being at the truck stop, while Joanne Lees said she believed the footage showed the man who attacked her.

The judge said: "You should disregard Miss Lees' belief as to the offender being in the video. Perhaps her belief is understandable, but it cannot be of any assistance to you."

He urged the jurors to study carefully all of the evidence relating to the truck stop video and to consider whether they thought Mr Murdoch was telling the truth when he said he was not there.

"If you are satisfied the accused has deliberately lied about being at the truck stop, and he told the lie because it would implicate him in the matter, you may find it was out of a consciousness of guilt on the part of the accused.

"If you are satisfied that the accused deliberately lied in this matter then that is another piece of circumstantial evidence in this case."


The jury was told not to make any assumptions about the accused following claims by several witness that he was a drug-runner.

Judge Martin said jurors should not assume Mr Murdoch was a "bad character" capable of killing.

He added the evidence "provides the setting for the accused's travels and explains why he was on the road that weekend".


The judge reminded the jurors of evidence relating to Mr Murdoch's truck.

He said: "Immediately after the events Miss Lees believed the vehicle had bucket seats and she got through to the rear by moving between those seats.

"Miss Lees now says she is not so sure. She said: 'It's possible now he' - her attacker - 'might have pushed me through the side of the canvas'."

The judge described it as a "very significant issue", saying "if it's a reasonable possibility it was not the accused's vehicle, then it would also follow that it's a reasonable possibility that it was not the accused".

He said if that was the case, Mr Murdoch must be acquitted.

The judge said: "Bearing in mind the explanation given by Miss Lees, and all the other evidence, are you satisfied that the original recollection of Miss Lees was incorrect?"

He then drew attention to the prosecution's claim that Miss Lees was "confused because of the trauma and distress".

He also reminded the jury that Miss Lees had accurately described the seats of Mr Murdoch's vehicle as "bucket seats" - which were not the standard type of seat to have on his type of van.


The judge drew attention to defence claims there were "significant inconsistencies" in Miss Lees' description of her attacker.

She worked with police immediately after the alleged attack to produce a "comfit" image of the suspect.

Defence lawyers pointed out that the suspect is portrayed as having long hair on the comfit image - even though Mr Murdoch's hair was short.

But the judge asked the jury to remember prosecution claims that the rest of the image "bore a remarkable resemblance" to Mr Murdoch.


The judge addressed prosecution claims that Mr Murdoch had "tailored" his evidence after hearing the Crown's case.

The judge said: "You should not approach the evidence of the accused with any assumption that, because he is the accused, or has heard the Crown's evidence, that he is likely to be not telling the truth or to have tailored his evidence.

"To approach the evidence in this way would be to undermine the presumption of innocence.

"But you are entitled to consider the suggestion the accused has tailored his evidence to meet the Crown's case in the same way that you approach the suggestion that Miss Lees had changed her evidence about the front-to-rear access (in her attacker's vehicle)."


Mr Justice Martin reminded jurors that two service station workers at Bourke in New South Wales had said they saw a man they believed to be Peter Falconio at their service station eight days after the alleged murder.

He had walked in and bought a chocolate bar and a drink, they claimed.

"You might think that if Mr Falconio was alive one week after the events at Barrow Creek, bearing in mind his family has not heard from him, the obvious conclusion is that Mr Falconio faked his own death and intended to disappear.

If that was his intention, is he likely to appear in a service station at Bourke and engage the owners in conversation?

"If he was moving across the country openly, you might expect he would be seen and recognised by more than two people in Bourke.

"It's the Crown's case that Mr Falconio would not put his family through the trauma they have, and are, experiencing."

The prosecution had said Mr Falconio was a young man with everything to live for, he added.


The jury must consider whether Mr Falconio and Miss Lees were "anything other than a normal young couple on a working holiday, planning future trips", Mr Justice Martin said.

Defence counsel had not put forward any evidence suggesting there was, he added.

"Bear that in mind when considering the implied suggestion that somehow Miss Lees was involved in the disappearance of Mr Falconio."

He referred to a sexual relationship Miss Lees had with another man.

Miss Lees had admitted she had "overstepped the boundaries of friendship" with a man called Nick in Sydney, said Mr Justice Martin, but her relationship with Mr Falconio had resumed normally after that.

Mr Falconio's passport was left in the camper van, none of his bank accounts had been used and there was no evidence of a large insurance claim, he added.


On the issue of Miss Lees' identification of Mr Murdoch, the judge told the jury they were considering evidence "from the comfortable and safe surroundings of this court, which are a far cry from the Stuart Highway on a dark night".

Mr Justice Martin urged jurors to consider the "totality of opportunity" Miss Lees had to see her attacker.

The opportunities were when he pulled alongside Miss Lees and Mr Falconio's camper van, when he was at the back of the car, when he was by her window and in the alleged attack itself, the judge added.

But the jury must remember that Miss Lees had seen an article on the BBC News website in October 2002 with a picture of Murdoch as the subject.

A month later, during a police interview in the UK, she had picked out an image of Murdoch from a dozen other images.

Mr Justice Martin asked: "Is it possible that whatever image Miss Lees had in her mind was displaced by a combination of circumstances and the article and image on the internet? Is it reasonably possible that such a displacement effect occurred?

"Or was it a vivid and accurate image in her mind which she accurately recognised when she saw the image on the internet?"


The jury must consider the vehicle involved and the appearance of the man driving the four wheel drive, the judge said.

They must also assess whether Mr Murdoch had the opportunity to be in Barrow Creek at the time of the alleged incident, he said.

Other circumstantial evidence to consider included that relating to the attacker's dog and the gun.

The conduct of the accused must also be assessed.

And evidence "tending to connect" Miss Lees and Mr Murdoch, including his DNA being found on her blood-stained t-shirt, was also important, he added.


Mr Justice Martin drew the attention of the jury to the evidence given by James Hepi, Mr Murdoch's former business partner.

Mr Hepi had told the court Bradley Murdoch carried a gun and seem "scattered" on his return from a drugs run in July 2001, having taken amphetamines for days on end.

The court heard Mr Hepi was "not a good character".

He was a cannabis dealer who thought Mr Murdoch had ripped him off and "dobbed" him into the police, the judge said.

It would be "dangerous" to convict Mr Murdoch upon Mr Hepi's evidence, "unless, having paid due heed to my warning and approaching his evidence with great caution, and given it particularly careful scrutiny, you are satisfied the evidence is both accurate and reliable," Mr Justice Martin added.

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