The other night I watched the horror flick “Wolf Creek 2.” I’m a big horror movie fan (go figure), and this one was pretty good and gross. I read that this one and the first Wolf Creek were based on actual events, so of course, I had to Google it.
While doing so, I came across the actual disappearance of Peter Falconio and became very intrigued by this case, so that’s why it’s now on this blog. This case made significant headlines in Australia and the UK, but I don’t recall ever hearing about it here in the States. There’s a lot of info out there, including the convicted killer’s criminal background, but I’ve kept the actual “About the Case” reasonably short. You can always Google it, too. 😉
My thoughts on the case are long, but I kept thinking of things, so if you manage to read the whole thing and not get bored, kudos to you! I cannot guarantee the accuracy of what I wrote as there were tons of articles, so some reports differed from others on certain things.
About the Case
Peter Falconio, 28, and his girlfriend, Joanne Lees, both from England, traveled in an orange VW Kombi through the Australian outback in July 2001. On July 14, they drove along Stuart Highway near Barrow Creek when a man driving a white four-wheel-drive pulled alongside their van and waved for them to pull over. There was something wrong with the Kombi.
Peter pulled the Kombi over, got out, and walked to the back of the vehicle. Joanne was still inside the van when she heard a gunshot ring out. It appeared Peter had been shot. The stranger then allegedly threatened Joanne with a small, silver handgun, grabbed and punched her, covered her head with a sack before tying her hands behind her back with cable-tie handcuffs. He then dragged her to his vehicle, throwing her in the back. Joanne managed to escape and fled into the Outback, where she hid for five hours before gaining the courage to seek help. Her attacker took his dog and went looking for her, but couldn’t find her. Around 1:00 a.m., Joanne flagged down a truck driver who took her into Barrow Creek and called the police.
At 12:45 a.m. on July 15, 2001, surveillance videos captured a man getting a large amount of gas at a Shell station in Alice Springs, about 100 miles or so from the crime scene. The man was driving a 75 series Diesel Toyota Land Cruiser with a canvas tarp over the tray. In addition to gas, he bought ice and an iced coffee before leaving the station at 12:50 a.m.
Joanne described her attacker as having long hair, a mustache, and was wearing a baseball cap. He had a spotted dog with him, who he used to help search for her after she escaped.
Aboriginal trackers brought in to search for Peter’s body questioned the old age of blood samples found at the crime scene, the lack of any footprints or other traces of anyone having been in the bushes or the area at all, except for Joanne Lees.
Despite a massive search, Peter was never found; he is presumed to have been murdered that day as his blood was found on the highway where he was last seen.
There were several sightings of Peter after the 14th but police claimed it was not him. However, ten years after these sightings, one of the people who saw Peter after he disappeared remained 100% convinced it was Peter. She also stated the police made fun of her and her co-worker when they reported seeing Peter. Many people out there still believe Peter is alive.
Over a year after the incident, Bradley Murdoch, now 58, was arrested and convicted for Peter’s murder and Joanne’s attempted abduction. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2005. He has maintained his innocence ever since. DNA on Joanne’s shirt matched the DNA of Murdoch’s brother, Gary, which sealed Murdoch’s fate. I have also read that the DNA was found at the crime scene, so not sure which is correct.
Joanne reportedly received an advance of £250,000 (one report said 650,000) for her book, No Turning Back, which details her horrific experience on that fateful day.
It came out during the trial that Joanne had an affair while in Australia with an Irish backpacker, Nick Reilly, which occurred before Peter’s disappearance.
Joanne Lees is now 42 and lives in her hometown, Huddersfield, England. She works as a social worker.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I, like many others, do not believe Joanne. I feel there is a lot wrong with her version of events.
For example, if she genuinely hid out in the “Bush” for FIVE hours, she would have been dirty. If you look at the evidence photos of her soon after her escape, Joanne’s clothes were not very dirty, except for a spot on the front of her shirt and a spot of blood on her right knee that was supposedly injured in the assault. Her feet would have been filthy because she was wearing sandals, but they weren’t (see pic below). Overall, Joanne looks pretty good for being punched and attacked AND left in the Outback for hours.
I also find her injuries to be strange. The attacker punched her, yet you can barely see anything on her face. She has one injury to her left elbow and one near her right, but none on the outer arms, not even bruises. If the attacker grabbed her, I would expect to see bruises on her arms. She has a scratch on the inside of her left ankle, but it’s nothing major. It didn’t even bleed. She was also in those handcuffs for hours, yet her wrists appear normal, not even irritated from the handcuffs. I would think after five hours, her wrists would have been sore, and there would have been marks from the handcuffs on her skin. To me, her injuries do not look consistent with a woman who was attacked and nearly abducted. She claims he grabbed her and threw her into the back of his vehicle. So, then, how did she get these specific injuries?
Peter allegedly was shot right away. The killer got him out of the way to get to her. The attacker most likely was going to abduct her, probably rape and kill her as well. Yet, he turned his back on his victim, allowing her to escape? A killer like that would have been more careful. If he killed Peter to get to Joanne, he would not have let her out of his sight for even a minute. He would have done what he set out to do without wasting any time. And he would have gotten her away from the crime scene as fast as he could.
Also, Joanne’s story changed several times, and she described a different person and truck. She said the man had long black hair. Murdoch had a crew cut at the time. He also had missing front teeth, which Joanne failed to mention. That is a pretty distinct feature. She also said the killer had a dog with spots on it. Murdoch had a Dalmatian. She would have said “Dalmatian” if it was Murdoch’s dog. Whoever she described wasn’t Murdoch or his truck. A truthful person’s story never changes, and that is a fact. But a liar? Well, he or she usually cannot remember all the lies he or she has told.
And what about the affair with Nick? Motive? Yes, a lot of times it is. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it most certainly could have been. Maybe Joanne wanted something more with Nick, but Peter was in the way. Or maybe she realized she no longer wanted to be tied down. It’s kind of strange that the police didn’t look closely at that.
How was Joanne able to run without falling with her hands tied behind her? And what about the sack on her head? 😉 How did she get the bag off so she could run from her captor? I suppose she could have leaned over and shaken her head, allowing the sack to fall off. I don’t know. Regardless, she wouldn’t have been able to get a far enough lead on him, AND she could not have been running very fast because of the restraints. One report I read said that in court, Joanne showed how easy it was for her to slip the handcuffs over her head, so her hands were in front of her. Okay, then why were her hands BEHIND her in the evidence photo? And honestly, it doesn’t look to me like it would have been effortless to get those over her head. You can see in the photo below that Joanne does not have any markings from the restraints after allegedly wearing them for hours.
And could someone please explain why she’s wearing different clothes in the pic above? Did they let her wash herself up? ODD. If you look at the pics of her injuries, you can see a towel in one of them, which means they took pics of her injuries AFTER she cleaned herself up. That’s not the norm. Evidence pics are usually taken as soon as possible after the crime has been committed. Police are not going to allow a victim to wash for fear of wiping away any potential evidence. So, if she was allowed to clean up, there is something not right going on as far as the police are concerned.
Now, Joanne claimed that she bit and scratched her attacker. Did Murdoch have visible wounds on him when he supposedly killed Peter and attempted to abduct Joanne? Any witnesses who could confirm that? Where is the DNA under her fingernails? She would have her attacker’s DNA under her fingernails if she scratched him—NO mention of that whatsoever.
We have evidence Peter was hurt. DNA proved the blood on the highway was his. However, we have zero evidence he was murdered or even shot, for that matter—only one witness – Joanne.
Peter and Joanne stopped at the Tri Tree Roadhouse, located along Stuart Highway, north of Alice Springs. There, they smoked a joint, watched the sunset, and fueled the Kombi, leaving shortly after. The receipt was stamped at 6:21 p.m. Now, supposedly the killer waved them to pull over between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. However, according to Google Maps, it is only a little over an hour drive from Tri Tree Roadhouse to Barrow Creek. The guy pulled them over about 7 miles (11km) north of Barrow Creek. So it took Peter and Joanne over an hour and forty minutes to get to the crime scene location from Tri Tree Roadhouse. It should only have taken about an hour and fifteen minutes. Why did it take them so long?
In addition to all that, it is a 3.5-hour drive from Barrow Creek to Alice Springs, where Murdoch was seen at the Shell station. This means that if he killed Peter and attacked Joanne, he had to have left the crime scene at around 9:15 p.m. Joanne claimed the killer searched for her for hours. No way could the killer make it to the Shell station by 12:45 a.m.
I found this composite sketch of the alleged killer. At the time, Murdoch had crew-cut hair. Of all the pics out there of him, NONE show him with just a mustache. He’s either got a beard or no facial hair at all.
I think it’s odd that Joanne didn’t go back to the van to see if Peter was still alive. If she felt safe enough to wave a trucker down, why didn’t she go back to check on Peter? She made sure to tell the trucker that her attacker had a gun, so naturally, he didn’t go to the scene.
I’m not 100% convinced of Murdoch’s guilt. DNA matched to his brother Gary, no Murdoch because investigators claimed they would not be able to retrieve it from Murdoch. Yet he has always maintained his innocence, so he likely would have. Why was Gary never questioned? The surveillance videos prove nothing because they’re grainy. Also, if this was the truck the killer drove, he couldn’t have thrown Joanne into the back as she claimed. Technically, there is no back of the truck. It’s sealed. Yes, he could have put her under the tarp, but it would have been a massive risk for her to escape. No, he would have kept her upfront with him.
I just think Joanne is full of SH*T.
Other scenarios have been given in this case.
- Peter faked his own death because of money troubles. There was a third person with Peter and Joanne who helped take Peter away. I think this is possible because Peter was never found, and the blood at the scene wasn’t very much for someone who got shot unless it was a shot not intended to do much damage.
- Joanne killed Peter. The case is strange, and the “facts” don’t really add up. She probably thought she would gain a lot of sympathy (*coughs* money) by playing the victim. The only problem with that? She wasn’t believable.
- Joanne hired Murdoch to kill Peter. Yeah, it’s possible, but Murdoch maintains he never killed Peter or attempted to abduct Joanne. Plus, I don’t think there’s proof Joanne knew Murdoch before July 14th.