The man convicted of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio should be retried, claim two legal experts who believe he is innocent.
Bradley Murdoch was convicted in 2005 of murdering Falconio, 28, and assaulting his girlfriend Joanne Lees at gunpoint on a remote stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs on 14 July 2001.
Falconio’s body has never been found.
Now former criminal lawyer Andrew Fraser – who was once jailed for five years for importing cocaine – and his business partner Victor Susman, told Australia’s Channel 10 show The Project they believe the DNA evidence linking 59-year-old Murdoch to the murder is unstable.
The pair have examined thousands of pages of police and prosecution material and believe they have found enough evidence to put a petition of mercy to the Northern Territory Government, requesting a retrial for Murdoch.
“We both believe (Murdoch’s) not guilty,” Susman said. “There’s just hole after hole in what (Lees) says,” said Fraser.
Lee’s testimony – as the only witness to the murder – was crucial to the conviction of Murdoch.
DNA expert Barry Boettcher, whose evidence helped overturn the guilty verdict in the Lindy Chamberlain case also appeared on the show, casting doubt on the contention that Murdoch’s DNA was found on Lees’ shirt and that he handled her at all.
He said: “I have had a sense of unease from the beginning and I continue to have that unease today.”
Forensic biologist Carmen Eckhoff worked on the Falconio case and admitted she was surprised there was no “blood spatter and human tissue” at the crime scene.
Falconio and Lees, both from Yorkshire, were touring Australia in an orange Kombi van in 2001, when a man flagged them down. Falconio got out of the car to speak to the man, now identified as Murdoch, before Lees heard a shot. She was then put in handcuffs and kidnapped, but managed to escape and hide in undergrowth until flagging down a passing truck driver the next morning. She never saw Falconio again.
In February Lees returned to Australia in a bid to recover Falconio’s body and “bring him home.”
Appearing on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes, Lees broke down in tears as she recalled her escape: “It was either run, or be raped and killed.”
She added: “I love Pete so much and I want to bring him home… I need to bring him home. I know that he’s somewhere here.”
Murdoch continues to maintain his innocence from his jail cell in Darwin – and thanks to a new “no body, no parole” law introduced into parliament last year, it means he would be unable to apply for parole, even at the end of the 28-year “no parole” period of his life sentence, unless he reveals the location of Falconio’s body.
Speaking last year, John Elferink attorney general of the Northern Territory, who is the minister for justice, said: “This legislation means that a murderer will be accountable for their own lack of contrition.
“A contrite human being is one who seeks redemption by word and action. A person who does not display that desire for absolution after committing such a heinous crime is not a person that society wants walking amongst them.
“Victim’s families have every right to closure, this will impress upon murderers that victims’ rights are superior than theirs.”
A spokesman for the attorney general’s department said Murdoch’s case was “the only one in the territory that fits the bill”.
He said: “He has always maintained his innocence and has never disclosed the location of Mr Falconio’s body. But he has been found guilty by a jury of his peers.
“He still has another 18 years to go before he would be eligible for parole.”