‘Are you going to rape me?’ Chilling moment Joanne Lees reenacts being tied up and bundled into a ute by outback killer – but experts say the forensic evidence would NOT convict Peter Falconio’s murderer today
- Police video of crime scene re-enactment shown in controversial documentary
- Joanne Lees shouted: ‘Why are you doing this … are you going to rape me?’
- Expert’s explosive claim: there was no blood found at the scene of the crime
- Documentary stirs doubts on the conviction of Bradley John Murdoch
- Stunning claim that police told a witness to sign a changed statement
- Truck driver Vincent Millar said the ‘little red car’ he told police of was left out
The distressing moment British backpacker Joanne Lees re-enacted her attack at the hands of an outback killer who moments earlier shot dead her partner Peter Falconio has been released in a controversial television documentary.
The police video was filmed four days after Peter Falconio was murdered on a lonely stretch of the Stuart Highway north of the tiny town of Barrow Creek in the remote Northern Territory, Australia, in July 2001.
His body has never been found.
In the documentary, Murder in the Outback – which aired for the first time in Australia on Sunday night – experts raised doubts over whether forensic evidence gathered at the time would today be strong enough to convict Bradley John Murdoch, who was jailed for life in 2005.
Ms Lees, aged 27 at the time, was still in shock days after the attack.
Her 28-year-old boyfriend was missing and she had been forced to run for her life in the darkness, her hands bound with cable ties, hiding in bushes by the side of the Stuart Highway before leaping out in front of a road train to escape Murdoch, a drug-running mechanic from Broome.
Murdoch had ambushed the couple moments after flagging down their orange Kombi van on the night of July 14, 2001, claiming he had seen sparks coming from their exhaust.
Just four days after the terrifying attack, Joanne Lees showed police how she was bundled into the back of Bradley John Murdoch’s white ute, with police providing a similar vehicle for the re-enactment. Terrified in the ute’s tray, she screamed: ‘Are you going to rape me?’ at Murdoch
Pictured: Peter Falconio with his girlfriend Joanne Lees. Bradley John Murdoch was convicted of murdering Mr Falconio, 28, and assaulting Ms Lees, then 27, on a remote stretch of highway in outback Northern Territory in 2001
Ms Lees heard a gunshot and said Murdoch had pointed a gun at her, bound her hands, used tape to bind her ankles and bundled her into the back of his ute, covered by a green canvas canopy.
Four days after the attack, on July 18, police took Ms Lees back to the isolated stretch of the Stuart Highway in an attempt to reconstruct the events.
In the video, Ms Lees sits inside the orange Kombi van, as police try to find out key details such as how Murdoch was holding the gun when he threatened her, and how she was attacked.
She demonstrated how her hands were tied behind her back, how she had been pushed out of the passenger side of the orange Kombi onto the red dirt on the roadside verge.
A police photo of the bloodstain on the highway. Bodily fluid expert Professor Barry Boettcher, who once exposed the botched evidence that convicted Lindy Chamberlain, said there was no actual blood found at the scene
Face-down in the red dirt, she showed police how her hands were bound behind her back and her feet were up with the ankles bound before being bundled into the back of Murdoch’s four-wheel-drive ute.
As a distressed survivor of a traumatic and violent night-time attack, Ms Lees memory was at times uncertain in the re-enactment and unsure of exactly where Mr Murdoch had stood or which direction she had run.
She remembered clearly the terrifying words she had shouted at her attacker.
‘I shout out to the man: ”why are you doing this?” she tells police in the video.
‘Is it money that you want? What do you want?’
‘And I ask him if he is going to rape me.’
Ms Lees was praised for her bravery in re-enacting her terrifying ordeal for police.
Bradley John Murdoch went on the run when he first became a suspect in the case but was caught in South Australia.
The road train Mr Millar was driving on July 14 when he saw someone dart in front and had to swerve on the Stuart Highway. The person was a terrified, distressed Joanne Lees who had her hands tied and tape on her neck, Mr Millar said
He was convicted of the outback murder in a 2005 jury trial after his DNA was found on Ms Lees’ T-shirt, however he pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence ever since.
Murdoch was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum of 28 years to serve.
Now 62 and diagnosed with terminal cancer, Murdoch, is believed to have hidden Mr Falconio’s body, which has never been found despite extensive searches.
The location of the murder, just north of Barrow Creek which is 280km north of Alice Springs in the remote Northern Territory outback. Drug-running mechanic Bradley John Murdoch lived in Broome, Western Australia
The Northern Territory passed a specific ‘no body, no parole’ law in 2016 preventing him from being released on parole unless he reveals where Mr Falconio’s body is.
Murdoch has unsuccessfully appealed his case and exhausted all avenues of appeal.
Blood specialist emeritus professor Barry Boettcher told the documentary there had been no blood found at the scene of the crime.
Professor Boettcher is the expert who exposed the botched evidence on which Lindy Chamberlain was wrongfully convicted for the death of her baby daughter Azaria in 1982.
Legal Aid Northern Territory had asked Professor Boettcher to look at the Falconio case before the trial.
Truck driver Vincent Millar who rescued Joanne Lees from the Stuart Highway on July 14, 2001, pictured outside the NT Supreme Court in Darwin, 2005. Mr Millar says police ‘lost two pages’ of his original statement and asked him to sign one which left out a crucial detail
Ms Lees (left) and Mr Falconio (right) in their van. Peter Falconio was killed on July 14, 2001. The documentary criticised Ms Lees for vagueness and inconsistencies in her testimony
Police had found a stain on the verge of the highway consistent with three pools of blood – a main pool with two smaller adjacent pools – together with signs of a struggle.
Professor Boettcher told the documentary that the forensic pathologist had examined the scene using Luminol, a chemical that glows blue if it touches traces of blood at crime scenes when it reacts with the iron in hemoglobin.
‘If a body had been shot and then dragged somewhere you would expect a blood trail. There was no blood trail in this case,’ he said.
Bradley John Murdoch arrives at Darwin Airport in November 2003 surrounded by police. He was convicted of Peter Falconio’s murder in 2005 and has exhausted all avenues of appeal
The orange Kombi van that had been driven up the highway by Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees, impounded for evidence at the NT Supreme Court
‘Further than this there was no blood spatter found at the scene.
‘In my opinion, based on the DNA and blood evidence, I would not expect today to have a guilty verdict recorded against anybody’.
Professor Boettcher believes the prosecution case relies only on one spot of DNA found on Joanne Lees’ shirt.
L-R: Mr Falconio’s father Luciano, his brother Paul Falconio and Ms Lees’ stepfather Vincent James at a press conference in 2001. Mr James has said he believes the man convicted of killing the 28-year-old backpacker is innocent
Boettcher and DNA expert, Dr Brian McDonald, believe the DNA samples identifying Murdoch taken from the couple’s Kombi van were only weak mixtures that might not have come from Murdoch at all.
It was not the only eye-opening detail raised by the documentary.
Only Joanne Lees’ footprints were found in the bush near the crime scene, none from Bradley John Murdoch or his dog, or of Peter Falconio.
Joanne Lees with Peter Falconio’s family at the trial of Bradley John Murdoch in 2005. Ms Lees had a prickly relationship with the media whom she distrusted and felt distressed by
Joanne Lees leaving court after Bradley John Murdoch was found guilty of killing Peter Falconio in December 2005
Disgraced former defence attorney Andrew Fraser made a case for why he believes Murdoch should never have been convicted.
Mr Fraser was convicted in 2001 over cocaine importation, and while he is forbidden from practising law, he says he is still driven by the need to right a potential injustice.
He said a damning statement came from Vincent Millar, the road-train driver who rescued Joanne Lees.
Mr Millar revealed a shocking new detail about the case that had not before been heard.
As he drove his road train north of Barrow Creek, itself about 280km north of Alice Springs, Mr Millar said he saw headlights circling and flashing on and off.
Cuts and grazes on Joanne Lees’ elbow (left) and wrist (right). Ms Lees’ wrists were tied with cable ties but she managed to escape her attacker and hide in the bushes
He then saw a red car on the side of the highway with two men standing beside it.
Slowing to give assistance if needed, he saw the men bundling a man who looked ‘like jelly’ into the car, which then sped off.
‘There was something they didn’t want me to see. I am pretty sure that guy in the middle very well could have been Peter Falconio,’ Mr Millar said on the documentary.
Mr Millar said police had taken his statement after he had rescued Joanne Lees and driven back to Barrow Creek.
Bradley John Murdoch being bundled into a police car by South Australian police after he was caught and arrested for the 2001 murder of Peter Falconio
However, in the documentary he said police lost the first two pages he had written just before the trial and asked him to sign a replacement two pages that did not mention the little red car.
Disturbingly, he said he hadn’t wanted to sign the new version but felt pressured to.
The documentary also revealed ‘secret emails’ and bulk phone calls between Joanne Lees and her secret lover whom she had an affair with shortly before Peter Falconio’s murder.
Ms Lees did not initially tell police about her affair with another British backpacker named ‘Nick’, who used the pseudonym ‘Steph’ on email.
Joanne has said she expected to marry Peter Falconio in Bora Bora on their way home.
The documentary drew attention to Ms Lees’ vague statements and her lack of co-operation with the media, turning her into the an unsympathetic victim in the public’s eye, like Lindy Chamberlain before her.
Police initially considered that she may have been involved before investigations centred on Bradley John Murdoch.
However for Lees, now 46, the terrible outback attack marked a turning point in her life from which she would never recover.
She never married or had children and is living an isolated life as a council social worker in her hometown of Huddersfield, England, the Sun newspaper reported last month.
Murder in the Outback: The Falconio and Lees Mystery can be seen on 7plus
‘I think he’s innocent’: Joanne Lees’ stepfather in stunning turnaround
Vincent James, stepfather of British backpacker Joanne Lees, now believes Australian killer Bradley John Murdoch is innocent of killing Peter Falconio – after watching a controversial documentary on TV.
‘At the time when I was there I thought he was guilty but now I don’t,’ he told NewsCorp from his home in Huddersfield, UK.
It is a sensational turn-around in the outback mystery.
Mr Falconio’s body has never been found but Mr Murdoch was convicted in a jury trial after his DNA was found on Ms Lee’s clothing.
Mr James said he had changed his mind after seeing the four-part documentary Murder in the Outback: The Falconio and Lees Mystery.
The television program aired in Britain last month and is now being screened in Australia by Seven.
In it, experts raise questions about the DNA evidence and the small amount of Falconio’s blood at the scene.
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