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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 11:47 GMT
Couple were living travel dream
Joanne Lees feeding a tiger with Peter Falconio
The couple shared a love of travel and had enjoyed planning their trip
Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees had been together for five years when they embarked on what should have been the trip of a lifetime.

The couple first met in Huddersfield but moved to Brighton in 1998 when Mr Falconio began a degree course in building construction management.

Those who knew them described them as the perfect loving couple.

Together they had been planning their global adventure for years but neither could have known how it would end.

Mr Falconio, 28, grew up in Hepworth, near Huddersfield and was a pupil at Holmfirth High School and Huddersfield Technical College.

When he moved to Brighton, to enrol at the city's university, Miss Lees, now 32, of Almondbury, went with him so they could stay together, and found work as a travel agent.

Joanne has told the truth, she is like a daughter to me
Peter Falconio's mother, Joan

In November 2000, they embarked on their fateful 12-month adventure and after travelling around Asia arrived in Sydney in January 2001.

They spent a short time working in the city before moving on to see more of the country in their VW camper van.

By July, they had reached Alice Springs and just hours before leaving the town to head north to Darwin, Mr Falconio spoke to his family for what was to be the last time.

They said he was happy and looking forward to the next stage of their trip.

His mother, Joan Falconio, said: "He was looking forward to going north."

"When we spoke to them they were both very happy," his brother, Paul Falconio, added.

Joanne Lees with Mr Falconio's parents and two of his brothers
Mr Falconio's family have always publicly supported Miss Lees

But shortly after leaving Barrow Creek on the remote Stuart Highway the couple were flagged down by Bradley Murdoch who shot Mr Falconio and bound and gagged Miss Lees before bundling her into the back of his truck.

She escaped and ran into the bush to hide until she felt safe enough to flag down a passing motorist for help.

Mr Falconio's body has never been found.

The case prompted one of the biggest murder investigations Australian police have ever dealt with.

As details of their ordeal emerged, Miss Lees' relationship with Mr Falconio was put under the media spotlight and her account of what had happened was scrutinised and questioned by the world's press.

But throughout it all, and despite Miss Lees' later admission that she had a brief affair while the couple were in Sydney, Mr Falconio's family have maintained their public support of her.

He looked very happy every time he went to come and call for her
Dorothy Rushworth, former neighbour of Miss Lees' family

As media speculation grew about what had really happened in the outback, Mrs Falconio dismissed accusations against Miss Lees as "rubbish" and said the couple had been devoted to each other.

"Joanne has told the truth. I know the girl so well," she said.

"She has been going out with Peter for six years. She is like a daughter to me."

Those who had known the couple when they lived in Huddersfield also spoke out in Miss Lees' defence.

Dorothy Rushworth lived next door to the Lees family in Almondbury and said she had known Miss Lees since she was a child.

"She's nice," she said. "I've known her since she was so little that I can't believe anything bad of her really, not at all.

Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio
Friends and family said the couple were very happy together

"He [Mr Falconio] looked very happy every time he went to come and call for her.

"It's sad. They were definitely a happy couple."

Bradley Murdoch's conviction more than four years after her ordeal should signal an end to the media speculation, but for the Falconios the search for their son and brother goes on.

Paul said: "Every day has been hell. Night has been hell, day has been hell and we've just coped one day at a time as best we can.

"We want someone to tell us where Peter is and to find Peter, whatever way or means they do it.

"We're not bothered as long as they find him because you can't hold a proper funeral, you can't grieve properly and for my mum she needs that more than us, probably."


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