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Bradley John MURDOCH





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Falconio's body has never been found
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 14, 2001
Date of birth: 1958
Victim profile: Peter Falconio, 28 (British backpacker)
Method of murder: ???
Location: Northern Territory, Australia
Status: Sentenced to life in prison (minimum 28 years) on December 13, 2005

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Murdoch v The Queen [2007] NTCCA 1


Bradley John Murdoch (born 1958) is serving life imprisonment for the July 2001 murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio in Australia. He will be 74 when eligible for parole. Murdoch is being held in Alice Springs Correctional Centre in Alice Springs. He has lodged two appeals against his conviction; both were unsuccessful. The High Court refused special leave to appeal on 21 June 2007.

Early life

Murdoch had previously lived in Broome, Western Australia and worked as a truck driver and mechanic.

Previous convictions

  • In 1980, aged 21, Murdoch received a suspended sentence after being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

  • In 1995 Murdoch served 15 months imprisonment for shooting at people who were celebrating at a football match in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Peter Falconio murder

In December 2005, Murdoch was convicted by the Supreme Court in Darwin for the murder of Falconio on a remote stretch of road in outback Northern Territory on July 14, 2001. He was also convicted of other assault-related charges on Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 28 years.

Murdoch has maintained his innocence to this day. During his trial defence lawyers claimed that police procedures were not followed correctly, that Joanne Lees' testimony was inconsistent, and that it was impossible for him to have committed the crime.

Lees incorrectly identified the details of the vehicle Murdoch was driving and the breed of Murdoch's dog. Lees also admitted seeing an internet photograph and article linking Murdoch to the murder before she was interviewed by police.

At a pre-trial hearing the defence determined that Lees had been having an affair, even though she denied this until confronted with evidence. There are many other contradicting details given by Lees detailed in books written by three independent writers each questioning Lees's credibility.

On October 9, 2006, Lees was interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 by John Humphrys. He proceeded to attack Lees for cashing in on the tragedy. Lees has reportedly been paid $125,000 AUD for an interview with Martin Bashir and $650,000 AUD advance for a book titled 'No Turning Back". Lees admitted to use of ecstasy and marijuana, and to having sex with another man, Nick Riley, in Sydney during their trip through Australia without Peter Falconio's knowledge.

Aboriginal trackers also questioned the old age of blood samples found at the crime site, the lack of any footprints or other traces of anyone having been in the bushes or in the area at all, except for Joanne Lees. (Lees detailed how Murdoch and his dog searched for her in the bush for two hours, as she hid).

The prosecution placed great emphasis on the fact Murdoch was in a service station near Alice Springs on the night of the alleged murder, and that this is close to where the 'crime' took place. However, Alice Springs is well over one hundred miles away from Barrow Creek and therefore Murdoch's presence at the service station does not actually implicate him in any way to the crime

An NT police spokeswoman confirmed that authorities were still considering giving a $250,000 reward for information that led to Murdoch's conviction. Police said previously that the only person being considered for the reward was Murdoch's former drugs partner, James Hepi, a convicted criminal now living in South Australia. Hepi tipped off NT police that Murdoch was the killer in return for a suspended jail sentence on drug charges.


On December 12, 2006 Murdoch appealed against his life sentence in the Supreme Court where his lawyers lodged eight grounds of appeal. Murdoch claims the evidence of Lees was tainted because she had seen a photograph of Murdoch on the internet before she was interviewed by police, and an article linking Murdoch to the murder.

The appeal was dismissed on January 10, 2007. An appeal to the High Court of Australia was unsuccessful.

Location of Peter Falconio's Body

The location of Peter Falconio's body remains a mystery. However, in mid August 2007, some sections of the Australian Media speculated that Murdoch may soon reveal the whereabouts of Falconio's remains.

Specifically, the Australian press mentioned that he does not enjoy the conditions of the Berrimah Prison, on the outskirts of Darwin, Australia and may reveal the location of Falconio's body in exchange for a transfer to a prison in Western Australia, now that all avenues of appeal for Murdoch have been exhausted.

Murdoch maintains his innocence and says that although he would love a transfer back to where his terminally ill mother lives, he cannot give information on something he knows nothing about.


Peter Falconio was a British tourist who disappeared in the Australian outback in July 2001, whilst travelling with girlfriend Joanne Lees and is now presumed dead. Coming from Hepworth, Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire, he was a graduate of Brighton University, and 28 years old at the time of the disappearance. Although Falconio's body has never been found, Bradley John Murdoch was convicted of the murder on December 13, 2005. The case attracted considerable public and legal attention.

Missing person or murder?

Lees reported that while travelling at night along the Stuart Highway near Barrow Creek (between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek) in the Northern Territory on July 14, 2001, the pair were stopped by a man waving for the couple to stop their car and indicating trouble with their car's exhaust. Falconio got out of the van to help, and shortly afterwards Lees heard a gunshot. She believed that Falconio had been shot dead.

At the committal hearing in December 2004 Lees told the court that her assailant then tied her wrists together, put a sack over her head and forced her into his ute. She said she escaped from his ute and fled into the dark, hiding under bushes, while he tried to find her with a torch and a cattle dog. Falconio's body has not been found despite a massive police search.

Some two years after the disappearance, Bradley John Murdoch, a man living in Adelaide and charged with rape, was found to have a possible connection to Barrow Creek on July 14, 2001. Joanne Lees identified his photograph as being the man who abducted her, and the DNA from the bloodstains on Lees' clothing matched Murdoch's DNA.

Trial of Bradley Murdoch


Bradley Murdoch's jury trial began on October 18, 2005 in the Darwin branch of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, where he was tried for the murder of Falconio and assaults on Joanne Lees. The trial concluded in May 2006 with the conviction of Murdoch on all counts. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 28 years.

Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions Rex Wild, QC, said in court there are three pieces of evidence linking Murdoch to the scene of the crime. His DNA was a match with bloodstains on Joanne Lees's t-shirt, a smear of blood on the gearstick of the couple's car, and DNA located on tape used by the killer to bind her wrists. These assertions have all been disputed by Murdoch's defence team, who are Grant Algie and Mark Twiggs.

To cope with the demands of the trial and the huge media contingent covering the trial proceedings, the Darwin branch of the Northern Territory Supreme Court was refitted at a cost of AUD$900,000.

Defence Closing Argument

Grant Algie and Mark Twiggs, the lawyers representing the accused, Bradley John Murdoch, argued the following:

Peter Falconio faked his own death, and that when Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees stopped by the side of the road near Barrow Creek, it was to meet with a third man, of description unknown, in order to take Peter Falconio away, alive.

Police planted evidence, with the assistance of Murdoch's former drug-running partner James Hepi, who had "both motive and opportunity" to frame Murdoch, after Murdoch had been central to Hepi's arrest.

Algie and Twiggs pointed to the absence of blood at the crime scene, the mix-ups with DNA, the lack of a body, the sightings of Falconio in the days thereafter, inconsistencies in Lees' testimony, the poor police procedures in handling evidence, and the lack of a positive identification of Bradley John Murdoch.

The defence suggested that sometimes, from time to time, for reasons best known to themselves, people just disappear. That sometimes they are found again, sometimes not.

Prosecution's Closing Argument

Rex Wild QC stated that this is what really happened:

Bradley John Murdoch saw Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio while in Alice Springs, and believed that they were following him. So he drove behind them as they travelled along the Stuart Highway, and then stopped, so as to get rid of them, because he feared that they may be spying on him and may contact police in relation to his drug-running.

After stopping them, he panicked and killed Peter Falconio, making sure that there was no blood anywhere by making a shot directly to his head, then abducted Joanne Lees, binding her with cable ties, and putting her in the back of his vehicle.

After putting Lees in the back of his vehicle, Murdoch was trying to dispose of the body when Joanne Lees escaped into surrounding shrubland. Murdoch then searched for her with his dog and a flashlight, but after five hours of searching, he gave up.

Murdoch then buried Falconio in an unknown place in the Central Australian outback, having wrapped Falconio's head with Lees's denim jacket so as to prevent any blood getting in the vehicle.

Then Murdoch panicked, and, rather than driving through the bush straight to Broome, he drove all the way back to Alice Springs, where he was spotted on closed circuit television at the truck stop, getting supplies before heading out to Broome, where he travelled non-stop at great speed, taking amphetamines to keep himself awake and alert.

Murdoch then altered his physical appearance as well as his vehicle's appearance so as to avoid detection, and immediately stopped running drugs because he feared that he might be linked to the murder.

Mr Wild suggested that there was no evidence whatsoever of any police corruption, and urged jurors to dismiss any suggestions as an unfounded conspiracy theory that was "plucked out of thin air". He suggested that all of the evidence points to one obvious conclusion; that Murdoch killed Falconio. He stated that whilst no body has been found yet, it will be eventually, that it was only a matter of time, but that it "may be quite some time".

Mr Wild stated that Joanne Lees should be expected to have mild discrepancies with Murdoch's appearance, such as the length and colour of his hair, not noticing his teeth, the description of his car and dog, and other inconsistencies, because Lees was under a lot of stress and pressure during the incident.

Mr Wild asked the jury to ignore the evidence of the sightings of Peter Falconio and to dismiss them as inaccurate, highlighting discrepancies in the stories of the various people who said to have seen him alive in the days after the attack.

Mr Wild stated that the DNA did match, and that there was no chance that it was not Murdoch's DNA and hence the jury must find him guilty.

Mr Wild said that Murdoch was a methodical killer, and that the crime was premeditated to "get rid of" someone, and suggested that he may have thought that Lees was travelling alone, since Falconio was asleep in the back when she drove by. Mr Wild stated that the methodical actions to get rid of any evidence suggesting Murdoch committed the offense, as well as quickly getting away suggests the acts of someone with extreme premeditation, and that it was the work of an obsessive methodical person, a man just like Murdoch.

Mr Wild asked the jury to ignore coincidental evidence that seemed to suggest that Murdoch didn't do it, stating that he had ample time to change the evidence to fit the story, to later suggest that he didn't do it.

Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin's Summation

Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin, the trial judge, made the following instructions to the jury:

  • "How you approach the evidence is a matter entirely for you. There are many issues that have been raised for your consideration. You may or may not find it necessary to resolve all the issues. You may or may not be able to resolve all of the issues. You must put aside the flamboyant suggestions of counsel that we do not need experts from the mother country to teach us colonials a thing or two,"

  • "Please put aside all the hyperbole and concentrate on the evidence before you. That's why you look at all the evidence, not just the experts. The question to be considered by you is whether you are satisfied the accused's blood came to be on the T-shirt in the course of attacking Miss Lees. Are you satisfied that the DNA came to be on the item because of contact in the course of the accused attacking Miss Lees? Or is it a reasonable possibility that the DNA came to be on the item through an innocent contact, or through some form of contamination either deliberate or accidental?"

The judge said that if the jury was satisfied that the blood came from Mr Murdoch, the Crown put the case that it was deposited while he was attacking Miss Lees.

  • "Ladies and gentlemen, if that's your view, if you are satisfied the Crown's submission is correct, and you are satisfied that the man who attacked Miss Lees killed Peter Falconio, then the Crown will have proved its case of murder,"

  • "You must not reason that because of those other activities, the accused is the type of person who is likely to have committed the offences charged. It provides the setting for the accused's travel and explains why he was on the road that weekend. If, from a consideration of all the other evidence, you are satisfied it was the accused and his vehicle at the truck stop, it will follow that you are satisfied that the accused has not been truthful with you and others."

Media Related Links

In early 2005, a film made in Australia, Wolf Creek was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and shown on national release in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 16 September 2005. It was released in Australia on 3 November 2005 (apart from the Northern Territory, where it was released in January 2006 after the trial had finished), so as to not unduly influence the jury. The film was advertised as being based on 'true stories', although the producers have said that it is not directly linked to any specific stories. Media outlets have suggested that it is based on the 1989-1992 backpacker murders and the Peter Falconio disappearance, whilst the 1992-1999 Snowtown murders has been suggested because of the manner with which the people were killed.

Joanne Lees: Murder in The Outback

In March 2007, Channel Ten in Australia showed an account of what happened, the assumed murder and the trial afterwards, from Joanne Lees' perspective. It was shown on April 8, 2007 on ITV1 in the UK, and later in New Zealand on Tv1 on the 10th of June, 2007.

Red Rooster Claim

During Murdoch's committal hearing, Lees mentioned that she and Falconio had stopped at a Red Rooster restaurant in Alice Springs. Murdoch claimed to have stopped at the same restaurant to buy chicken for himself and his dog, "First thing in Alice, pulled into the Red Rooster... Chicken roll, box of nuggets for Jack...full chicken for the trip." Grant Algie suggested that Murdoch might have cut himself and inadvertently left blood at the restaurant which later transferred to Lees' shirt, explaining the presence of his DNA there.

In April 2006, The Bulletin reported that Murdoch had refused to be served chicken while incarcerated during the committal and trial, claiming he was allergic to it, and that he has a standing medical certificate at Berrimah Prison requesting that he never be served chicken.

However, when he was arrested in South Australia (on charges later thrown out of court) for the alleged rape of a woman and her daughter, part of his grocery shopping contained a roast chicken, thus proving he was prepared to buy chicken for either him and/or his dog. Hence, the Bulletin article demonstrates nothing about Murdoch's disposition towards chicken.

Appeals Against Conviction and Sentence

Appeal 1: NT CCA Subsequent to being convicted of murder, Murdoch appealed his conviction and sentence. On 10 January 2007, the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed both limbs of the appeal.

Appeal 2: High Court of Australia Murdoch applied for Special Leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia. On 21 June 2007, the High Court refused to grant Special Leave.

Under the Australian judicial system, Murdoch has now exhausted all opportunities to appeal.


Police check Murdoch for other crimes


Police are reviewing the background of convicted killer Bradley John Murdoch for links to a string of unsolved murders and disappearances in Western Australia.

Murdoch, from Broome in WA's far north, was jailed this week in the Northern Territory for a minimum 28 years after being convicted of the murder of British tourist Peter Falconio and the assault on his girlfriend Joanne Lees.

WA Police said Murdoch's methodology and criminal profile were now being carefully scrutinised for possible links to several missing women across the state.

Details from the court case will be examined for extra information on Murdoch's whereabouts at the time of unsolved crimes or any links to disappearances which may have gone unrecorded, Sgt Graham Clifford said.

The cold cases being investigated include Perth's Claremont serial killings, the disappearance of teenager Hayley Dodd, 17, last seen in 1999 near Badgingarra north of Perth, and a Broome woman missing since 1996.

"Police have been aware of him (Murdoch) for a while," Sgt Clifford said.

"It's normal police procedure to revisit (unsolved crimes) on a regular basis.

"Maybe something has come out of this latest court case that will be of some interest."

Meanwhile newspapers released extracts from the only book to be published containing interviews conducted with Murdoch from inside prison.

Murdoch told author Robin Bowles he was innocent but prepared for a guilty a verdict.

"Why wouldn't I be found guilty? ... I've been paraded round the country like a prize catch on every media outlet you can be on for years," he said.

He said he planned on becoming a "fitness freak" in jail, and that life inside was easy.

"No rent, three square meals a day, no tax, no parking fines.

"You work a couple of hours then watch TV, read a bit ... I'll be a 63-year-old fitness freak and eligible for a pension when I get out."

Murdoch's sentence was longer than he expected and he will be 73 when he is first eligible for parole.

Murdoch admitted to drug running and selling hydroponic cannabis to Aborigines around Broome but said he did not kill Mr Falconio, suggesting that the Briton may still be alive.

He said his DNA found on Ms Lees T-shirt, the only hard evidence in an otherwise circumstantial case, was planted.

"Hepi (a former friend he fell out with over drugs) must have given them some of my clothes with blood on them where I cut myself," he said.

Ms Bowles book Dead Centre will be published by Random House next week.


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