Bradley Murdoch – how DNA may have misled the jury

Andrew L. Urban.

When juries in a circumstantial case are told of DNA, they assume that it’s a solid piece of evidence, unquestionable. The prosecution relies on this assumption and tells its story as if every DNA sample was like a brick. The case of Bradley Murdoch’s conviction for the murder of Peter Falconio is a strong example of why this is not so; even DNA can lead to unsafe convictions, as revealed in Channel 7’s investigative documentary mini series, Murder in the Outback,* which concluded on Sunday, July 19, 2020. 

On July 14, 2001, British backpackers, Peter Falconio & Joanne Lees are attacked as they drive through the night on a remote highway in the Australian outback.

Bradley Murdoch was found guilty of killing Peter Falconio, but debate continues as to whether he was correctly identified. This is one of the key elements that cast doubt on the conviction, diligently explored in the four part series. The other, even more central to the jury’s deliberations, is the DNA.

The series (with help from former defence lawyer Andrew Fraser, former The Times journalist Roger Maynard and co-producer Victor Susman among others) investigates the case 18 years after the event, presenting a comprehensive overview of the story and the prosecution’s case before turning to Dr Brian McDonald, a Molecular Geneticist who has 30 years’ and a thousand cases of experience in the testing, analysis and interpretation of DNA data.

“When I started looking at the DNA evidence it became clear there was very little clear evidence at all,” says Dr McDonald in Episode 4.

“What was presented in court was four samples:
the stain from the back of Joanne Lees’ T shirt
a swab from the gear stick
a swab from the steering wheel
a sample from the manacles (used to tie her wrists)

The T shirt sample is the only one that was clearly Murdoch’s, according to Dr McDonald. “A single source … the likelihood that is him is very very high. The likelihood that it is someone else is very very low. But it does not tell us how it got there. It certainly doesn’t tell us that there was contact between Mr Murdoch and this T shirt.”

Elsewhere in the series, the investigators discover where Murdoch’s DNA may have been transferred to the back of Joanne’s T shirt: a roadside eatery where he had been before Lees and Falconio had also stopped there … the back of chair, for example.

“All the other samples, the steering wheel, the gear lever and manacles are complex … very small amounts of DNA and multiple individuals contributing to them … low level mixtures. The chance of identifying anyone clearly is very very small. The types of mixtures in the combi van would probably not exclude a large proportion of the population.”

But that is not what the jury heard. They just heard “DNA”.

Then there is Robert Brown, a local, who swears he saw Peter Falconio in his remote shop after the news of the murder hit the papers. He knows it was Falconio because he was just looking at his photo in the paper when Falconio walked in. “I look at him and … bang … I just seen him in the paper.”

Murder in the Outback – all four episodes available to view online until July 2021.

On 24 December 2007 Ronan O’Connell of the West Australian reported “Doubt over DNA conviction tool”.

It said that WA legal groups have called for an immediate review of a controversial forensic DNA test used to help convict outback killer Bradley John Murdoch after British police suspended their use of the technique amid serious doubts about its accuracy. Law Society president Maria Saraceni and Criminal Lawyers Association vice-president Philip Urquhart said they had grave concerns about the reliability of so-called low copy DNA tests, which allow the analysis of tiny particles a millionth the size of a grain of salt.

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94 Responses to Bradley Murdoch – how DNA may have misled the jury

  1. Charles says:


    “What about the claimed gunshots? Evidence? Her claim, but no proof of them otherwise (no residues found).”

    What if Peter Falconio’s head was covered by a hood prior to the gun shot to the head? Joanne heard a sound that could have been the gunshot. Joanne described that the revolver had a silver barrel. Murdoch used to have a gun with a silver barrel (he tried to sell it to the woman that came across him travelling in South Australia).

    “I think you’re distorted about what proof is, it isn’t just someone’s say so, there needs to be some very hard basic evidence at least.”

    I read many court trial transcripts and am very familiar with the law and how inferences are allowed to be made based on partial evidence.

    “Are you possibly to do with this in some personal way that you’re not disclosing to us? Or just like messing with us for pedantic gain?”

    Absolutely not. Just like you, I offer opinions. However, I am trained and experienced in research and critical thinking.

    • Charles says:

      Lees’ attacker tried to put some sort of a bag over her head but she struggled and the bag came off.

      It is thus reasonably likely that Lees’ attacker may have used another bag to cover Peter Falconio’s head and then shoot him in the head. The bag would have minimised the amount of blood on the ground and would have kept the brain matter from being dispersed.

      Also note that dirt was scraped over the blood on the road. The dirt would have absorbed the blood.

      I used rational logic to connect various pieces of evidence to make a deductive inference. That is what jury members do when they are required to make their decision on whether the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Keep in mind that the prosecution cannot tell you the whole story. You can use your logical deduction as long as it makes reasonable sense and is practically feasible. But you need to first know the whole of the evidence that was presented.

    • John S says:

      And yet you still fail to offer any reasonable explanations for all the unexplainable claims made by Lees!

      I’d have to regard you as either being deliberately infuriating, or irrational!

      In case you missed it, this is the Wrongful Convictions website, you may well get more “likes” on another website. Also, I don’t use Fakebook (Facebook)!

      • Dr Charles Wong says:

        Pardon me for intruding into your incorrect understanding.

        Murdoch’s case is not a case of wrongful conviction. Just because someone produced a biased documentaries (and ignored a large fraction of the evidence; and floats around the improbable case of a “jelly-man”) it doesn’t mean that Murdoch was wrongfully convicted.

        You are too focused on inconsistencies rather than weighing in on the consistencies by taking into account all the evidence and the fact that one should not expect human memory to correctly remember everything that occurs suddenly and under very frightening conditions in the middle of nowhere and in darkness.

        • Dr Charles Wong says:

          The documentary asked how was it that Murdoch’s DNA wasn’t all over Lees’ clothing given the physical interaction that she described .

          There is a very simple answer if one looks at the police photo of the items that were found in Murdoch’s car. He had at least two types of gloves. One type is made of very thin and see-through material. Had he worn these gloves during his man-handling of Joanne then one shouldn’t expect any touch DNA on her clothing. Lee’s most likely wouldn’t have noticed the gloves.

          • Charles says:

            Had Murdoch driven the combi van first and then driven away in his own vehicle he wouldn’t have left his own DNA on the steering wheel and the gear stick of the combi van. But because he first drove the his own car (whilst gloved) he would have picked up his own DNA onto the gloves from the DNA that was on the steering wheel of his vehicle.

            The sequence of events matters.

  2. Charles says:


    When the police searched through the orange combi vsn they itemised all that was in it. I recall seeing the itemised list on the internet about two years ago. Amongst the list were at least two different types of hair ties. We can reasonably infer that since Gwynne made a big issue out of the hair tie that was found on Murdoch’s gun holster that she first cross-checked with Joanne and the list of items that were found in the combi van.

  3. Charles says:

    John S,

    “It doesn’t show WHEN nor HOW it was put there.”

    So what?

    Murdoch’s blood on the back of Lees’ t-shirt most probably got there during the struggle (she probably knocked his nose via the back of her head when he tried to put something on her head).

    The DNA in the combi van (on the gear stick and the steering wheel) most probably got when Murdoch drove it off-road into the bush.

    As for blood: the presence of blood and the absence of Peter’s body (coupled with the sound that Lees claimed to have heard) is highly indicative of a gun shot.

    The jury makes its inference on the basis of the evidence that was presented in the court.

    • Charles says:

      It’s dissapointing that people’s perception of this case is marred by their distrust for the Northern Territory Police because of what happened in the Chamberlain case. It’s one thing to have a sceptical mind but one shouldn’t allow preconceived notions to affect one’s ability to apply unbiased critical thinking to this case without being influenced by the stuff-up that was made in the Chamberlain case.

      The jury in this case heard the defence theory of secondary transfer of Murdoch blood, etc. They didn’t side with the defence. Murdoch’s conviction was thus beyond a reasonable doubt.

      • John S says:

        I won’t be responding further to this as I believe you’re being obtuse, perhaps on purpose, so I’m not taking your hook!

        You missed my point: Murdoch may well be guilty, but the evidence just isn’t there unless you choose to interpret it as so. I think you’re judging a book by it’s cover. As for NT police, I’m sure they’re no worse than any other police forces in getting things wrong at times. The NT happens to be the most poorly managed jurisdiction in Australia, their track record on all matters of governance speaks for itself.

        Further, I’d hope the jury selection process would exclude someone of your mindset on any jury from now on.

        • Charles says:

          You were too influenced by a biased documentary.

          What do you think the evidence of Pam Brown and Jasper Haines meant within the context of Joanne’s version of events? Well their evidence was ignored by the documentary because their eye witness testimony supports Joanne’s version of events. Their testimony is far too powerful for any of your objections.

          Too many people didn’t believe Joanne until they saw her on the floor (in less than 10 seconds) move her tied arms from behind to the front. Too many people didn’t believe Lindy Chamberlain until Azaria’s jumpsuit was found.

          I studied a large number of people’s comments (on Facebook, Twitter, and here) following the documentary. Too many people are ignorant of the complete evidence that was presented in the court during Murdoch’s trial.

          • John S says:

            What about the claimed gunshots? Evidence? Her claim, but no proof of them otherwise (no residues found).

            I think you’re distorted about what proof is, it isn’t just someone’s say so, there needs to be some very hard basic evidence at least.

            Are you possibly to do with this in some personal way that you’re not disclosing to us? Or just like messing with us for pedantic gain?

  4. julie stanford says:

    If this was presented in Court today, Bradley Murdoch wouldn’t be Rotting away in Prison today. How did the Australians get this so wrong, was it Pressure from the British Authorities, or just a Pretty Innocent looking Young Woman with a Massive Tall Tale to tell. I’m pretty sure Peter’s Family know of Murdoch’s Innocence, maybe not at the time of sentencing, but over the years that have passed. While Joanne Lees sits in her little house all alone with the Memories of the Truth eating away at her, It makes me think, she deserves unhappiness for the rest of her life. R.I.P Peter Falconio


      who are you Julie stanfor… Lawyer?
      My name is Gerard , I was born in Paris France. I have ONE NEW EVIDENCE.
      I have been investigating the case for the last nearly 6 years. My evidence could be the spark to the BIG BANG (Royal Commission Inquiry).
      Interested?….Call me …0481 094 146
      A bientot j’espère. G41
      “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact”Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

      • CharlesP says:


        Would you mind if you get a call from a scientist who researched this case several years ago and concluded that the DNA evidence (together with the statement of witnesses who drove past the crime scene as the white 4WD pulled away from the location of the orange combe van) supports Lees’ version of events?

        • Charles says:

          Lee’s didn’t know which car was driven first. Since she was hiding she didn’t look but heard the vehicle being driven away each time.

          The witnesses who drove past the orange van saw a white 4WD pull away from that location as they were approaching the crime scene. They saw the orange van on the side of the road.

          Lee’s stated that after her assailant drove off the first time that he then walked back and searched for her for a few more minutes. She then heard him drive off.

          The sequence of events as explained by the witnesses and by Lees can be used to explain how a (gloved) Murdoch managed to pick up his own DNA from the steering wheel of his own vehicle to then transfer it a tiny quantity ofvit onto the steering wheel of the orange combi van.

          Without the evidence that was provided by the drive-by witnesses it would be very difficult to work out whether Lees’ version of events was reliable.

  5. Darren says:

    Lot of Comments & Theories about this case. There is no question that A Beyond Reasonable doubt verdict was never reached. It’s highly likely Bradley Murdoch could be innocent but the only way he will ever be released is if someone else confesses to this or new evidence is found that entirely points the finger at someone else. I do think however there is more to all this behind the scenes with a possible link to drugs and Lees with other man. Unfortunately we may never know the full story.

  6. Mario says:

    In this lengthy comment I will provide a number of reasons why I firmly believe that Miller’s story about seeing a little red car and three men shortly before spotting Joanne is false and was first mentioned by him in 2020.

    1. Northern Territory Police took three statements from Miller. Each of the statements was taken by an independent police officer. There is no evidence in any one of those statements anything about the little red car.

    2. There is no evidence that Miller mentioned anything about the little red car to his co-driver (who was asleep when Miller spotted Joanne) or to Joanne. One would think that had Miller seen a little red car on the road and three man next to it that he would have mentioned it to his co-driver and to Joanne when they drove to search for Peter Falconio.

    3. Miller was a witness during Murdoch’s trial. He didn’t mention anything about the little red car during the trial.

    4. There was a program on the case in 2011. There was no mention of a little red car and three man on that program.

    5. There was a program on the case in 2017. There was no mention of a little red car and three man on that program.

    6. A family was driving south on Stuart Highway . They drove past the orange van just shortly after the driver and his wife in that car saw a white 4WD pull onto the road with its headlights on near the location of the orange kombi van. Neither saw any other car before or after passing the white 4WD and the orange kombi van.

    7. Miller picked up Joanne about 4 hours after her attacker left the area. It was after midnight. At that time of night the headlights of Miller’s semi-trailer would have been visible from several kilometres away. Had Peter Falconio been abducted by two men in a little red car would they hang around nearby on Stuart Highway for four or more hours after the white 4WD left the crime scene? Also: wouldn’t they have noticed the approaching headlights of Miller’s semitrailer well before the semi-trailer reached their location thus giving them plenty of time to get out of sight and drive off?

    It is very interesting and amusing that Andrew Fraser and Victor Susman included in the documentary the sensational Miller’s story about a little red car and three man despite there being absolutely no evidence that it had been mentioned ever before in 19 years since Joanne’s rescue, and yet they chose not to include into the documentary the important information about two eyewitnesses who testified during the trial about driving on Stuart Highway and seeing a white 4WD and the orange kombi van. Why did Fraser and Susman not include in the documentary the only eyewitnesses who independently supported Joanne’s version about the white 4WD? The logical answer is that they wanted to influence people’s perception in a manner that made Miller’s story more believable, and to introduce doubt into the safety of Murdoch’s conviction.

    • Viv Tuesday Benson says:

      You are wrong. Vincent DID mention a ‘small red Japanese type of vehicle which was seen when he hit the powerful high beams on his truck, the car seemed to be doing donuts and was at the approx location where Lees was picked up. Vincent stated this a long time ago, back in 2002 – 2003 if I recall without having to search my files for the printout – he wrote many statements as the cops conveniently kept losing either all or several pages of his previous statements 9put through the shredder? maybe). As for the two eyewitnesses who were heading back late at night from a local aboriginal football match described a white Nissan Patrol! #freebradleymurdoch

      • Charles says:

        Viv Tuesday Benson,

        Can you please provide a reference to back up your claim that the witnesses saw a ‘white Nissan Patrol”?

        I can provide a reference that the witness told the court that he thought that the white vehicle was a white Toyota Land Cruiser, had “a greenish canopy on the back”.

        Please read the following article from Tue 25 Oct 2005.

      • Charles says:

        The following is from Murdoch v The Queen [2007] NTCCA 1

        “At trial, it was Mr Haines’ memory that the white vehicle seen was a 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser utility with a green canopy. However, such professed observation was not consistent with what he initially told the police or the magistrate at the committal. His earlier statements were to the effect that he thought that the 4 wheel drive vehicle might have been either a Troop Carrier or a Ford Courier.”

      • Charles says:

        “Pamela Brown, of Ti Tree, told the jury she had been a passenger in a vehicle near the alleged murder scene on the night of Mr Falconio’s disappearance and had seen a “big white vehicle” that could have been a land cruiser.”


  7. Errol says:

    The Police tampered with a witness statement jelly man must go jelly man must disappear, we must remove reasonable doubt from the case, so why wouldn’t they tamper with evidence, it should be a mistrial, 28 phone calls to her secret boyfriend that she lied about, the man in the service station video had short hair, she said he had long hair in her statement, no foot prints in the dirt of a large man or dog at the scene, and it goes on, no reasonable in this case F—KING BULLSHIT !!!

    • Mario says:

      When I saw the doco Murder in the Outback couple of years ago the first thought that occurred to me when they were talking about the absence of footprints is that it probably rained and that the rain washed away most if not all the footprints. So I decided to search on the internet for any information related to whether it rained. This is what I found:

      ‘Outback rain erases tracks of hunted gunman’

      “Yesterday heavy rain washed away any imprints left at the creek, and Cmdr Fields admitted that the “hard, rocky terrain” around the road “did not lend itself to [Aboriginal] tracking in terms of finding imprints or footprints in the sand”. “All the signs are that this could be a very long term and drawn out investigation. We are in for the long haul,” said Cmdr Fields. “The whole thing is so bizarre it almost defies belief.”

      The above paragraph is from

      I also found the following in another article:

      “The original investigation was hampered by a rarity in Central Australia – a deluge of rain that covered up tracks and turned the red dust into a quagmire.”

      It was a big surprise to me that Andrew Fraser and Victor Susman didn’t think to research whether it may have rained after Joanne was picked by by Miller.

  8. Mario says:

    Seven’s Murder in the outback doco is slammed

    See it on Media Watch starting at 4 Minutes into the program

  9. Jude Conway says:

    Bradley Murdoch had abducted and raped a woman and child in an earlier case but a clever lawyer was able to acquit him. Some of the comments say he had no motivation to stop falconio and Lee’s on the lonely road. I say his desire to rape was the motivation. The evidence including Murdoch’s DNA on Joanne’s t-shirt, Joanne’s hair tie in his possession, him being in the vicinity and her identification of Murdoch, all convince me that he was the murderer and abductor.
    I have to wonder why there are so many men trying to prove that Murdoch, obviously a nasty piece of work, was framed.

    • David Lane says:

      Jude, I have in the order of 30 documents and publications on this case amounting to hundreds of pages. I am a contributor on a number of blogs on the ‘incident’. The amount of vitriol towards Ms. Lees is worrying, and I can assure you there is an equal if not greater contribution from females.
      You touch on one subject in your post that has always puzzled me. What was the motive?

  10. Steve Timmins says:

    I have looked through the entire case. There is reasonable doubt on this conviction, in my honest opinion. Seems more of a political reason to incarcerate this man than a factual reason by the Australian authorities.

  11. SHEZZA says:

    He didn’t do it. He was a successful
    Drug runner. Dope only. What do you think he stopped to fuck round with some dumb arsed poms while he had a load of dope on board ? Needed to sell
    The stinking poms a stick ? For fucks sake it’s a joke and he’s rotting away in jail coz the dumb arsed cops wanted to pin him
    With anything since they could never catch him for the dope. Fucken dope is medicine now. The man is innocent let the cunt go. Fuck Lee’s and fuck Falconio. (edited for legal reasons)

    • Buggler says:

      I agree his conviction is unsafe and should be released. I have doubts about parts of Joanne Lees’ story and evidence, but why are they ‘dumb arsed and stinking poms’? Sounds like hate English people. I’m English and don’t think you should be speaking like that. It also dilutes your argument. Both England and Australia have horrible people, but both also have decent and lovely folk, too. There is a good chance Peter Falconio is dead, so saying ‘fuck him’ is harsh, in my opinion.

      • Errol says:

        if where so horrible why do people want to come oz and England, strange, is it just the money, so who r the horrible persons ?

  12. Tracy Moir says:

    No mention of DNA in his car? Wouldn’t you think there would be alot more of his DNA if he was guilty? That’s because he isn’t!

  13. Alan P., Sydney says:

    Murdoch had a falling out with his drug running partner James Hepi. The latter sent clothing and cigarette butts from Murdoch to the police. He also said Murdoch told him he killed Falconio and showed him his pistol. Hepi was facing a marijuana rap, so his “evidence” was to help him.

    It’s very hard to believe that Murdoch, who was on a 3,400km drug run, would kill a total stranger and let the only witness run away. Lees said she hid under a bush for some five hours.

    I have been in similar outback conditions and the trees and bushes have small leaves to conserve water in this semi-desert landscape. Most of the bushes have many small branches low down. It would be impossible to hide there.

    The best book on this mystifying case is Dead Centre by Robin Bowles.She investigated the case thoroughly. Bowles found that the couple were having arguments. and were going to part in Darwin. A clairvoyant gave Bowles a possible scenario. She suggested Lees went to the loo at a roadhouse.On leaving she spied a wallet full of money on the ground.The owner and a couple of friends gave chase and pulled the couple up in their van. Falconio got out. It is surmised that Falconio was roughed up, taken away, shot and buried.The authorities were desperate to convict someone because it would damage the tourist industry for people to think that a mad killer was on the loose.

  14. Brian Johnston says:

    To Grant Stevens: You write about a traumatic experience in darkness. Where is the evidence considering Lees lied and other events occurred. You wrote that her trauma could have affected her memory. There was no memory involved. She lied.

  15. Shirley Anderson says:

    Joanne Lees described the hand gun as being silver. Several witnesses who knew Murdoch and about various guns he had testified that Murdoch did have a silver handgun. Murdoch tried to have this evidence thrown out before the trial but wasn’t successful. You can read the Judge’s decision by downloading
    The Queen v Murdoch [2005] NTSC 79
    MURDOCH, Bradley John (No 5)

  16. Shirley Anderson says:

    The description of Bradley Murdoch’s appearance by someone who knew him prior to Falconio’s disappearance matches the description that Joanne’s Lees provided, and it matches the description that was provided by the female store owner of the man who entered their store shortly after midnight at the truck stop. All three description are of a long straggly hair and a Mexican type of mustache.

    Each of the witnesses provided their statements in court. A witness also stated that Murdoch changed his appearance soon after arriving in Broome on 16th.

    • denise young says:

      Murdoch, according to his friends and girlfriends never grew his hair long!
      JL changed her description of the so called assailant three times!
      Murdoch can be ruled out as being the man in the video at 00.03 by the timeline. He was in Broome at 06.00 that morning, which would mean he would have less than six hours to arrive in Broome at the time he was seen ( by several people ).
      The distance is approx 1800 klm’s which equates to 300 KPH, every hour.
      The question begs, why go back to the Alice when he was part of the way to Broome already?

      • David Lane says:

        Peter Jamieson who ran a roadhouse at Fitzroy Crossing was the only witness confirming Mr. Murdoch being there at around 20:00 hours. Subtracting the 1.5 hour time difference between Fitzroy Crossing (UTC +8) and Alice Springs (UTC +9.5) and witnessing him in Alice Springs at 00:30 gave him 21 Hours for the journey of 1305 Km. Thus 62 KM/hour.
        Good question regarding his ‘visit’ to Alice Springs. Simple enough, returning down the Stuart highway to Alice Springs and then taking the Tanami road gives him the alibi that he was nowhere near Barrow Creek .

  17. Felix G Smith says:

    What was the motive?
    Do you think that when Murdoch drove right next to the van that he spotted a woman and thought to get rid of the guy so that he could rape the woman? That is what I see as the motive besides a possible robbery.

    By saying that DNA isn’t 100% watertight you give me the impression that you are after a 100% certainty of what happened. But that isn’t the aim of a criminal trial nor is it a definition of beyond reasonable doubt.
    The fact that the documentary didn’t mention the one item (the hair-tie) that the police officer in charge of the investigation (a woman) considered so important is indicative of the biased nature of the documenrary. Had you been a woman would you have placed much more emphasis on the hair-tie than the men on here? The combination of the hair-tie and the DNA on the t-shirt is very significant but you aren’t factoring in the former.

    I agree with Chris when he said “But the DNA on the t-shirt was not, and amounts to pretty strong evidence. The transfer option is a pretty low probability explanation. We know eyewitness identification is flawed, but when coupled with DNA and hair tie, this becomes a relatively good case.”

    • andrew says:

      If this comment is argument intended to convince me, it has failed. What you speculate about motive, for example, cannot be taken seriously. It is just your speculation; the jury needs evidence. That which is stated without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
      As for the DNA evidence, that is addressed in the article.
      The hair tie? Yes, it is compelling, but only if it can be shown (via evidence) that it was actually taken from Lees by Murdoch. Taken…not found … It places Murdoch in the presence of Lees. It still doesn’t prove he murdered Falconio, though. Not beyond reasonable doubt.

  18. Chris says:

    The use of Steven Van Aperen to attack Joanne Lees was disgraceful and set a poor tone for the series. No, he cannot spot deception. It is well established that the methods he uses do not work. He is a snake oil salesman. Yes, some of the DNA was mixed. But the DNA on the t-shirt was not, and amounts to pretty strong evidence. The transfer option is a pretty low probability explanation. We know eyewitness identification is flawed, but when coupled with DNA and hair tie, this becomes a relatively good case. A lot of the claims made by Fraser were pretty meaningless. Finally, the guy giving evidence this many years later about jellyman, with no earlier record of such evidence, is inherently unreliable simply due to the amount of time, and not the type of new evidence that warrants a new trial. (All IMO, except the part about Van Aperen which is based on studies showing that the methods he uses do not work.)

    • andrew says:

      Yes, yes, but …. I have questions that continue to fester and undermine the security of the conviction. What was Murdoch’s motive? What did he do with the body, given the extensive search of the area? If he had taken it away in his vehicle, DNA would provide evidence. The DNA evidence is not 100% watertight, I gather. Admittedly, I am not thoroughly familiar with this case (before my Wrongful Convictions days) but I do not think his guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt. But happy to hear argument to convince me.

      • Jo says:

        I understand this is a slightly old post, but I came across it while looking for something on this case.

        I think it is a false assumption that there would have been Falconio’s DNA in Murdoch’s vehicle. It was a long time after the murder that he was arrested, so there was ample time for him to have cleaned his car or for any DNA to have degraded beyond being salvageable.

        Given this, Murdoch could have dumped the body in thousands and thousands of square kms. He was a drug runner who frequently travelled through the outback and knew it reasonably well. He could have picked a random spot about 200kms from the incident, driven 10kms off the road and dumped the body and it would never be found except by dumb luck, especially if he knew of disused mine shafts.

        Further, in the event it is the limited amount of DNA that leads to a query over Murdoch’s guilt, the obvious question is why nobody else’s DNA was found? I don’t think this can be both ways: if Murdoch is innocent due to a lack of DNA, it can’t be ignored that another perpetrator’s DNA didn’t exist at all. Who is this person and how did they avoid getting any of their DNA on Lees or the car?

        Unless the suggestion is that Lees is the perpetrator, a theory that doesn’t hold up to reason. What did she do with the body? Why did she come up with an insanely elaborate plot to get rid of him that involved her having to pull off an oscar winning performance and involving third parties like the truck driver?

        • Lance Hagel says:

          I think Lees planned it all, I think it was drug related and that she knew the guys in the red car involved.. I think they planned the whole event right down to putting the blame on Murdoch.. I mean if you were planning to murder someone and put the blame onto someone else wouldn’t Murdoch have been the perfect choice? Lees may have not killed Peter herself but she was involved that’s for sure and her and the guys in the red car are free as a bird while Murdoch is in jail for a crime he did not commit..

      • Charles says:

        What was Murdoch’s motive?

        What do you think the motive was given that he shot Falconio but was intent on kidnapping the woman (a rather sexy and good looking young lady)?

        He certainly didn’t intend to immediately kill Joanne. He certainly wouldn’t have taken her home to introduce her to his mates as his girlfriend. He certainly wasn’t intending to take her to a movie. He certainly didn’t intend to send her home alive.

        It’s pretty obvious that the only reasonable conclusion is that Murdoch’s intent was of sexual nature.

    • Leonid Lerner says:

      The makers of the documentary did say they checked with people the truck driver spoke to at the time of the incident, and they all confirm he mentioned it to them. Therefore he is credible, as well as his explanation why the evidence was not presented in court – the police changed the first two pages of his statement. Plus the red car was mentioned in Vince’s testimony to Bowles at the time of the trial. He is one of the few real witnesses to this besides Joanne. And she has proven herself unreliable.

      • Charles says:

        “The makers of the documentary did say they checked with people the truck driver spoke to at the time of the incident, and they all confirm he mentioned it to them. Therefore he is credible, as well as his explanation why the evidence was not presented in court – the police changed the first two pages of his statement. ”

        Wow! The makers of the documentary checked with people the truck driver spoke to BUT none of those people provided an affidavit or appeared in the documentary!!! Given that Joanne was inside the truck with Miller and his co- driver why the hell didn’t Miller tell either one of them about it???

        What a croak of BS!

    • Steve van Aperen says:

      Please do state the studies you are referring to. Steve van APEREN

    • Steve van Aperen says:

      “Snake oil salesman” Hmmm. “Well established”. Exactly what studies are you referring to?

  19. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Felix, you raise some very important points which I acknowledge. Mention is made of the hair tie being of “incriminating evidence”.
    Other tangible evidence also provided at the trial was DNA tested and it has been pointed out how significant the DNA found on Joanne’s clothing was, the DNA found in several locations inside the van was and I believe the DNA found on the shackles used to tie Joanne’s hands was.
    My question to Grant was in reply to his raising it,”Was the hair tie DNA tested”? Grant courteously replied that he was not aware of DNA tests on the hair tie.
    It should be of concern that such a tangible piece of evidence, in this case, taken from Joanne Lee and then found apparently among the possessions of Bradley Murdoch may not have been DNA tested. Yet it becomes “a significant piece of incriminating evidence”!
    Nothing to “justify” here, sorry Felix, but my thanks to Grant for bringing it to our attention, “this significant piece of evidence”.
    The authors of the documentary deserve mention for their research.
    The CCRC, well I think Andrew has covered it.

  20. Felix G Smith says:

    The jury who found Bradley Murdoch guilty of Peter Falconio’s death, and the attack on Joanne Lee’s, were presented much more than than the DNA evidence that you write about.

    Those on here who weren’t aware of the hair-tie before yesterday’s comment by Grant Steven’s are now trying to justify the omission of that evidence from the documentary. Bradley couldn’t explain how is it that he had Joanne’s hair-tie in his possession.

    Whenever a documentary omits a significant piece of incriminating evidence then my suspicion is aroused about the integrity of information that is prevented in the documentary and its purpose.

    • John S says:

      This is getting rather heated! The hair tie is interesting evidence, but not compelling unless we can be certain it was from Lees (which I’m not yet), and if it can prove Murdoch murdered Falconio (which I doubt it ever could). The fact that it was left out of the documentary isn’t too surprising as it would distract from the real deal: did Murdoch kill Falconio? Even the DNA doesn’t prove that beyond any doubt.

      In any case, how and when did Murdoch even get the hair tie, interesting questions given that the shackles were brought to the prison Murdoch was held in at the time – making that evidence very questionable. The case is far from simple, the NT police did not do a good job of it (like Azaria case).

      Apart from lack of motive and a body (or even any evidence of body being moved, etc), what evidence was there even of a gunshot or a weapon, questions also not covered by the documentary which I think are of interest to cover.

      Incriminating evidence is simply that: incriminating, and only of interest to perhaps those ready to damn and assume guilt of those charged if they look likely. It’s a witch hunt mentality at its worst, and sensationalist otherwise. To ‘carry on’ about it in light of sensible examination is verging vexatiousness.

  21. Felix G Smith says:

    “In order for the Commission to be able to refer a case back to the appeal court, we will almost always need to identify some new evidence or other new issue that might provide grounds for a fresh appeal.”


    I could have used the word “identify” instead of “find”. Then my question can be rephrased as follows:

    What do you think a CCRC will indentify that will overcome the DNA evidence, the hair-tie, the description of the ute, the description of the dog, and the fact that Bradley was known to be in the area about the same time?

  22. Felix G Smith says:

    What do you think a CCRC will find that will overcome the DNA evidence, the hair-tie, the description of the ute, the description of the dog, and the fact that Bradley was known to be in the area about the same time?

    Did the documentary mention that it rained after Lees was picked up by the truckie? Was this info passed onto the experts who expected more blood at the scene of crime?

    • andrew says:

      The CCRC doesn’t find anything; it would be a body to review cases brought to it by those who claim to have been wrongfully convicted and if the CCRC deems it a valid application, refers the case to the relevant appeals court for a further appeal. It is a process intended to provide an avenue for a FURTHER right to appeal.

  23. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Thank you for your reply Grant and also for the link to the Guardian article.
    However, unlike you, I would be surprised that this alleged piece of evidence may never have been DNA tested and although I was not present at the ‘Murdoch trial’ I am not surprised he rejected this piece of evidence. If this was “the nail in the coffin” so to speak and given the scientific responses related to other DNA findings I am now not surprised that the “hair tie” was omitted from the documentary recently shown on Channel 7.
    This is a further reason for pursuing a CCRC in every Australian state. There may be reason to doubt the outcome of a circumstantial murder conviction on such a vital piece of untested evidence.
    For whatever Bradley Murdoch has done prior to his arrest,yes, he should be accountable but, given all his prior admissions, I have my doubts he murdered Peter Falconio.

    • Felix G Smith says:

      Jerry Fitzsimmons,
      Since you are treating the hair-tie as not being of much significance I am not surprised at you statement “I have my doubts he murdered Peter Falconio.” A woman has a personal attitude and preference towards the type and style of a hair-tie she would use. Did you look online about Mary Jane style of hair-ties? I did. I noticed that they are patterned and colorful. A woman who has that preference would readily recognise that hair-tie which went missing after her struggle with a man who tried to cover her head.

  24. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Andrew, once again you bring to our attention a recent viewing of the Bradley Murdoch conviction (circumstantial) for the murder of Peter Falconio, thank you.
    I also must concur with Grant Stevens that a hair tie was provided as evidence during the trial (“a trophy”) which was rejected by Bradley Murdoch.
    My question to Mr Stevens is; was the hair tie tested for DNA from either Joanne or Bradley and if so, was it presented as DNA evidence in the trial?
    Again, I concur with Mr Stevens when he says, and I quote “…To many people have been locked up on the basis of mistaken identity or because of some other failure in the human memory retrieval processes”.
    I think particularly of Sue Neil-Fraser who is one of those “many people” and yet another ‘circumstantial’ conviction.
    In all our opinions, which should be respected, we must never forget that there are some tormented souls out there who having sat on juries (under oath not to disclose) and now when hearing or seeing what some of these ‘cold case’ investigations are uncovering must ponder, ‘what if’.
    We should therefore collectively support the notion that there is nothing to be gained by ignoring the call for a CCRC in all states of Australia and strive to be a part of restoring a diminishing respect towards all our law enforcers for the sake of true justice.

    • Grant Stevens says:

      I am not aware of DNA tests on the hair tie. I think that the hair tie was recognised by Lees to be hers because of an identifying feature of a particular style called ‘Mary Jane’ hair tie.

      Refer to these two paragraphs in another news article

      “Then a detective – the one Gwynne had chosen for her acute attention to detail and who had sifted through thousands of Murdoch’s belongings – discovered a small, round, Mary Jane hair tie.

      “It was the hair tie that was taken from Joanne Lees when she struggled to survive and keep her life. [Murdoch] had it wrapped around his shoulder holster, inside his belongings. I think it was a trophy but no one will ever know.”

      It is surprising that the 4 part Episode documentary left out this significant piece of evidence.

      • Lucy Gall says:

        Mary Jane hair ties are the most common brand of hair tie on the market. They are very very common. There is no way anybody could say that it was definitely their hair tie.

  25. Grant Stevens says:

    Despite Murdoch’s DNA in several locations including inside the van, and despite the finding of Lees’ hair tie in Murdoch’s possession, there are people with inaccurate opinions that Lee’s lied; about ants (who don’t come out during a cold mid-winter’s night to chomp on someone’s blood); about witnesses who mistook another person for Peter Falconio; about a failed lawyer who doesn’t understand that human memory cannot be trusted to be accurate, etc.

    I wonder when will people in general accept that one cannot rely on witness statements. Too many people have been locked up on the basis of mistaken identity or because of some other failure in the human memory retrieval processes.

    • Susan Manning says:

      The hair tie was not lees. Simple thats why it wasnt used in evidence. It was a common black elastic one not what she described as a plattered 3 stranded tie. It had no link to lees.

      • Don Wakeling says:

        Is this correct? That the much talked about hair tie wasn’t exhibited as evidence? And that Lees described a quite different tie . Did she say that to the Jury? Was the hair tie ever part of the case presented by the Crown?

        • Charles says:

          The hair tie wasn’t admitted as evidence. The cops did show it to Lees who identified as having lost an identical hair tie during her struggle with her attacker. I suppose that the cops either didn’t test or didn’t find DNA on it. Thus the hair tie wasn’t used as evidence in the court. A police photo of all the items that were found in Murdoch’s vehicle showed the hair tie. It also showed two different types of gloves (including see through plastic gloves).

          I suppose some people consider the hair tie to be evidence against Murdoch because of his reaction when a police detective told him (in prison ) about finding Lees’ hair tie in his vehicle. I don’t consider it relevant. The other evidence is sufficient to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Murdoch was the attacker. Unfortunately, too many people commenting here aren’t aware of the significant evidence that was provided by the drive-by witnesses (Pam Brown and Jasper Haines). Too many people aren’t aware that the sequence of events matters in order to explain how Murdoch’s DNA ended on the steering wheel (and the gear stick) of the orange combi van. Too many people aren’t aware of the police photo showing the items that police found in Murdoch’s vehicle (two types of gloves, plastic ties, gun, hair tie).

          • Charles says:

            Correction: the hair tie was shown to Murdoch in the Court.

          • Don Wakeling says:

            So. Is Susan Manning’s comment correct, that is: did Lee’s acknowledge that her hair tie was a three stranded tie, that is, not the one police day they found, upon their search of property? Did Lee’s acknowledge to the Court that the produced tie wasn’t hers ?

          • Charles says:

            Since we don’t have access to the trial transcript I managed to find an online article that says that the hair tie was presented at Murdoch ‘s trial:



            “Then a detective – the one Gwynne had chosen for her acute attention to detail and who had sifted through thousands of Murdoch’s belongings – discovered a small, round, Mary Jane hair tie.

            “It was the hair tie that was taken from Joanne Lees when she struggled to survive and keep her life. [Murdoch] had it wrapped around his shoulder holster, inside his belongings. I think it was a trophy but no one will ever know.”

            Months later, when the hair tie was presented as evidence in the trial, it clearly made an impression on Murdoch.

            “He recoiled and he wouldn’t touch it,” recalls Gwynne. “You could see that he knew that was it. That was the nail in his coffin.””

          • Don Wakeling says:

            Regardless of what Dect Gwynne had to say, the unanswered question for me remains:Did Lees describe her hair tie as trippled stranded, as commented by the contributor, Susan Manning, and was it different from the tie which was produced ?

          • John S says:

            Two small things about DNA:

            1. It doesn’t show WHEN nor HOW it was put there.

            2. The amounts found were so tiny & hardly likely to be the amount one would expect given Lees’ account of events.

            On it’s own, it could hardly have really been key evidence backing Lees’ claims, except to those biased against Murdoch.

            Much of Lees’ claims don’t stack up, like: the length of time she managed to hide from dogs searching for her.

            The lack of any significant marks on the ground where Falconio’s body was said to have been dragged.

            The lack of blood as any evidence of gun shots. Unlike in the movies, gunshots usually result in lots of messy blood, not just a drop or two. The rain did not wash it away, there wasn’t much to start with.

            I’m not claiming Murdoch is innocent, but the case against him was weak & largely circumstantial. Not guilty doesn’t not mean innocent, but nor does he it he might have done it & gotten away with it. The evidence used was remarkably similar to the later debunked evidence used in the infamous Azaria case. I wouldn’t use NT police for traffic control duties!

          • Robert Greenshields says:

            I read with interest your posting John, and appreciate your inquiring line of thought.
            One aspect of DNA evidence that has long intrigued me, apart from the supposed scientific, physical biological evidence, is the DNA trail of those involved in an incident, not only the claimed perpetrators, but investigators. So many recorded incidents of criminality have ultimately been exposed as unjust or proven to be the results of blatant deceit, lies, fabrications, and the closing of ranks by corrupt and venal sections of policing forces, that surely the time has arrived that a police officers career and integrity can be widely investigated, and included in the defence portfolio of legitimate interrogation.
            Australia suffers at and through the hands of those claiming, and unjustifiably handsomely remunerated, to be working in the public interest; an unadulterated folly of Gallipolian proportions I devoutly and earnestly concur.
            Northern Territory recent court proceedings, along with Coroners court proceedings in the North West of NSW at both Moree and Gunnedah seemingly endorse the need to investigate serving, or recently serving officers to the utmost degree of professionalism.
            The DNA running through attitudes and cultures is seemingly more than just a thin trail of coincidence and convenience, others might generally connect it correctly, and observe it as true connivance.
            Choreographed proceedings in courts through the manipulations of criminally intent policing practices has a common “demoninator” that erodes respect and values nationally, and that recognised “demon” is, and has long been, our nations pitiful policing services and fellow venal cohorts also comfortably ensconced within judicial establishments.

  26. owen allen says:

    I pray for Jesus to Bless wrongfully convicted people worldwide. Their families friends and supporters Bless them Jesus and give them strength and bring justice.
    I pray in your name Jesus. AMEN.
    Owen the Michael.

  27. Peter says:

    I would like to know what happens now. Do the Police take up and run with all this new evidence to investigate.
    A. the red car with 3 male persons one assisted by other 2 others to get in that car
    B. Falconio’s sighting and the vehicle being fuelled in a strange manner
    C.Falconio’s statement to friend about Life Insurance “ Ive got it covered”, has any Insurance Company come forward or been approached, was a claim made and who got the insurance if any.
    D. Has parents and Lee’s Bank accounted been checked in that period
    E. What happened about the affair Lee’s had and going to meet up with him later. Was he ever interviewed

    • Jenn says:

      As a psych nurse for many years it is clear JL has a nasty borderline personality disorder. The way she performs in interviews and what is mentioned of her behaviour towards people trying to help her and how she turned on them it is clear she was very manipulative. BPD love attention I think she lied about recognising BM and the description of his dog she states a “blue heeler” a term she learned from asking what kind of dog a person owned at Barrow Creek and in the workshop in Alice where the Kombi was fixed. She was treated like a movie star in the court hearings and trials. It is also clear that the NT didn’t want a repeat performance of the Chamberlan outcome and a blight on their tourist industry. It so seems Peter Falconio was no angel. Why have we heard no background on him ? Apparently he was a scammer and a small time drug dealer. I can’t believe the jury ignored all the discrepancies in JL time lines and descriptions of the Ute and persons appearance. It is such a set up. Poor Murdoch. He admits to being a criminal but vehemently Denies harming her or Falconio. The people who perpetrated the crime are out there and Lee’s knows she lied but BPD are pathological which is how she was so convincing.

    • Kelz says:

      To partially answer you life insurance question, PF & JL had travel insurance & most travel insurance policies pay out for accidental death whilst travelling.
      We know they had travel insurance through JL herself, as stated in her book No Turning Back pg 35:.
      Whether PF had a life insurance policy or not I don’t know, but JL did apply for victims of crime compensation, did paid interviews & wrote a book… needed the money to pay for all that cosmetic surgery she’s had lol!

  28. Brian Johnston says:

    [Edited] The author opened his story saying Falconio and Lees were attacked. Where is the evidence.
    There is a lot wrong with this case. I am convinced Murdoch is innocent. I am not able to view the programme though have been told the truck drivers saw 2 men loading a dead weight into a red vehicle and 2 pages of their statement were left out. The dead weight is surely Falconio.
    When Joanne Lees described going into the back of Murdoch’s vehicle she was lying and basing her story on her experiences with a kombi.
    A tracker noticed that ants did not eat the blood on the highway. Odd.
    Joanne Lees lied all the way and would not talk to the media. The cops bought her story and she did not want to run the risk of the media catching her out.

    • Grant Stevens says:

      It is extremely irresponsible and insulting to say thar Lees lied.

      Anyone going through such a sudden traumatic experience, in darkness and in the middle of a desert, will have an inaccurate memory of everything that happened and how it happened.

      Why people trust the documentary over the trial evidence is beyond me.

      • John S says:

        I’m not relying on a few selected things shown in such a documentary either, but it does raise significant doubts that have few satisfactory explanations that are beyond reasonable doubt.

        This case is clearly an example of what a CCRC needs to be established for and examining. Given the NT’s record of poor governance and of conducting criminal trials that stand up to scrutiny, there is ample ground to doubt the outcome of this case.

      • Brian Johnston says:

        To Grant Stevens: I did not see the recent documentary film. I formed my opinion years ago. What happened on the road that night is different to what Lees says. She originally described a guy with long hair and a droopy moustache and certainly not
        6′ 4”. She also described a blue heeler. Murdoch had a Dalmatian. Truckies said she was warm when they picked her up. There were no footprints of Murdoch and his dog when he went looking for Lees.
        Lees said Murdoch climbed into the kombi and they fell out the other side. A man of Murdoch’s size does not hop into a vehicle as described. She said he marched her to his vehicle and turned her head so she could not see Peter. She then claimed he put her in the front seat of his vehicle what! so she could watch him dealing with Peter? She gets over this problem by saying she screamed. If she sat in the front she would be covered in dog hair. She then scrambled into the rear of the vehicle. To overcome this problem the story was changed to Lees being pushed into the rear. She saw everything and yet sees nothing.
        Lees lied.

        • denise young says:

          In the first part of the four part mini-series it shows a re-enactment in which Jl is seen sitting in the tray of a ute. She then gets out of the ute, stands up and states that she thought she ran into the bush on her right side. She then states that she could not have done this because he ( BM ) was standing at the right rear corner of the ute ( so he was on her right side ) so thinks she must have run to the left side i.e she crossed over the road into the bush. She then has the audacity to ask the policeman, Can you help me, I’m not sure etc. Really?
          The problem with this scene is that she has said on several occasions that BM was off somewhere else which enabled her to make her escape!
          Whilst watching the first part on a catchup channel I noticed that the lawyer’s mate on two occasions whilst talking, held in his hand a document. I paused the play and read what was visible. In one sentence JL states that they were doing about 65 MPH when a vehicle pulled up along side . I find this strange for one simple reason, the Kombi’s engine was on its last legs ( according to the mechanic who worked on it, he stated the engine needed a complete overhaul ) For those that have no knowledge of VW Kombi’s. A brand new Kombi has a maximum speed of 65 MPH, so for JL to claim what she did is stretching the truth somewhat. I myself have driven a Kombi and can say this in all honesty, they are woefully under powered.

          • Jenn says:

            Same. We had a couple of later models. T 3s and they were more powerful than the T 2 they had but we only ever pushed it to 100 K per hour on the highway. Also T2 s back fire and JL said the motor was running when PF went around the back with “The man “…a backfiring car can sound like a gunshot. I would say a woman who can’t discriminate between a blue heeler and a Dalmatian wouldn’t know a gunshot from a backfiring car.

      • breez says:

        Absolutely agree re traumatic experiences and memory.

        Lees may not have responded the way many people think she should have. That doesn’t mean she was lying, or that she is cold, or was involved. Enough with the victim blaming!!!

      • Lance Hagel says:

        What Evidence??? The DNA on her shirt??? What a joke she lied the whole way through

  29. Keith says:

    Thankyou Andrew for including this case on your website. I’m sure you wouldn’t want Murdoch as your son in law however that does not preclude him from getting a fair trial. The series raised a number of points, not the least of which was the lack of clarity by Lees in her interviews. The main issue I could never resolve at the time was her claim that Murdoch bundled her into the back of the ute through the front seats when no Toyota or any other ute is configured that way – they are a cabin and a tray or a twin cab. This was glossed over yet is key to her testimony suggesting she was being loose with the truth.
    Murdoch is a crook but there is sufficient evidence to reasonably doubt that he did it.

  30. John S says:

    There are many strange things about this case, sadly all too familiar to those who remember the Azaria case in the 1980s.

    1. Like Azaria, Falconio’s body never found! Strange co-incidence!

    2. Questionable evidence used: ‘fetal’ blood in Azaria’s case that turned out to be wrong. DNA of Murdoch found in very few places, despite what seemed like an ordeal. The skeric of DNA found on Lee’s t-shirt was the best DNA found. The other DNA was really too mixed to be any good, and likely to have come from Lee’s visit to Red Rooster.

    3. Many other strange things: lack of Murdoch’s foot prints at the scene, uncertain blood found at scene, red car speeding off – never identified! What was Murdoch’s motive? Why would he even stop if he was ‘drug running’?

    Sounds so Neill-Fraser like. Given the Azaria Chamberlain case outcome, could we ever have any faith in any NT trial! I would think not!

    It’s not an open and shut case! But the NT don’t want to look in to it! Bit scrutiny shy, like the Azaria case! Very rough justice in the NT, stay home!

  31. Grant Stevens says:

    Why did you leave our the evidence that Murdoch had in his possession something that belonged to Lees?

    “The item that ultimately convicted Murdoch was a small, non-descript everyday item, an elastic hair-tie.”

    • andrew says:

      I didn’t leave it out so much as it wasn’t included in the series which is what this story is about. I also point out that the test for a guilty verdict is that the charge has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt – Murdoch was charged with Falconio’s murder, not Lees’.

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