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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 11:59 GMT
Falconio judge in drugs warning
Joan and Luciano Falconio
Peter Falconio's parents, Joan and Luciano, arrive at court
Drug trafficking allegations against the man accused of killing Briton Peter Falconio do not make him guilty, the judge at his murder trial has said.

In his summing-up, Judge Brian Martin told jurors in Darwin, Australia, they should not assume Bradley Murdoch, 47, is a "bad character".

Mr Murdoch, of Broome, Western Australia, denies killing Mr Falconio north of Alice Springs in 2001.

He also denies abducting and assaulting Mr Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees.

Drug consignments

Miss Lees has testified that they were attacked on a remote stretch of highway north of Barrow Creek, about 200 miles from Alice Springs, on 14 July 2001.

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
Judge Martin

Mr Falconio's body has not been found.

Several witnesses testified that Murdoch regularly drove long distances to transport drug consignments between Australia's south and north-western coasts.

But Judge Martin, the Chief Justice of the Northern Territory, told the jury no assumptions should be made.

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

'Significant issue'

Summing up after the nine-week trial, Judge Martin asked the jury to review the evidence given by Miss Lees.

He reminded the jurors how she had told police after the alleged attack that she had moved from the front of Mr Murdoch's truck to the back by moving between the seats.

But it emerged Mr Murdoch's truck did not have front-to-rear access.

"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".

But 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.

'Remarkable resemblance'

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

In the police "comfit" image immediately after the events of July 2001, the attacker had long hair - even though Mr Murdoch's hair was short.

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

The Darwin jury is expected to start its deliberations this week.

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