Joanne Lees Peter Falconio: New lead in hunt for backpacker’s body in Australian outbackl

Fresh twist in the hunt for the body of murdered backpacker Peter Falconio as family are given a new tip-off just hours after $1m reward demand for the murder hunt that intrigued Australia

  • Backpacker Peter Falconio shot dead by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch in 2001
  • Girlfriend Joanne Lees managed to escape but his body has never been found  
  • Latest tip-off could lead police to a possible new location close to murder scene
  • New information comes just hours after calls for $1million reward for fresh leads 

A new lead has raised hopes of a breakthrough in the hunt for the body of murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio just hours after his mother begged for help.

Mr Falconio, 28, was shot dead by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch in 2001 who then tried to abduct his girlfriend Joanne Lees before she escaped and raised the alarm.

But the backpacker’s body has never been found – and his mother pleaded on Friday for ‘anyone with a conscience’ to help locate his remains.

Now a possible new witness has come forward to reveal he spotted a ute like the killer’s parked ‘in an odd place’ by a culvert and a bridge 24 hours after the murder. 

A new lead has raised hopes of a breakthrough in the hunt for the body of murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio (seen here with girfriend Joanne Lees) just hours after his mother begged for help.

A new lead has raised hopes of a breakthrough in the hunt for the body of murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio (seen here with girfriend Joanne Lees) just hours after his mother begged for help.

Peter Falconio was shot dead on a remote stretch of the Sturt Highway, 300km north of Alice Springs, and girlfriend Joanne Lees hid in the bush until killer Bradley Murdoch fled the scene

Peter Falconio was shot dead on a remote stretch of the Sturt Highway, 300km north of Alice Springs, and girlfriend Joanne Lees hid in the bush until killer Bradley Murdoch fled the scene

The new sighting has raised hopes it could lead to the discovery of the backpacker’s remains and end the 21-year-old mystery.

The startling new evidence was revealed after South Australian politician Frank Pangallo demanded a $1million reward for information leading police to the body.

‘I received an email this morning from somebody who was in the area the day after the murder,’ the SA-BEST member of South Australia’s legislative council revealed.

‘He said he had spotted a vehicle that was similar to the one that Murdoch was using and it was parked on the side of a road near a culvert and a bridge. 

A possible new witness has come forward to reveal he spotted a ute like the killer's parked 'in an odd place' by a culvert and a bridge 24 hours after the killing (pictured, police roadblocks in the wake of the 2001 murder)

A possible new witness has come forward to reveal he spotted a ute like the killer’s parked ‘in an odd place’ by a culvert and a bridge 24 hours after the killing (pictured, police roadblocks in the wake of the 2001 murder)

‘He remembered going past it and saying it was unusual that the the driver was parked in that position. He did alert police at the time but heard nothing more.

‘I’ll certainly pass that on to police to see if they’ll go there in person to check it out.’ 

The stunning development came just hours after Daily Mail Australia revealed police had mounted a five-day search of an outback well in 2019 in the hunt for the remains.

They pumped 15m of water out of the remote waterhole, just 1km from the murder scene near Barrow Creek, 300km north of Alice Springs, but sadly found nothing.

Now Mr Falconio’s parents Joan, 75, and Luciano, 80, have appealed for fresh information to keep the hunt alive for their son’s remains.

Parents Joan, 75, and Luciano Falconio, 80, have appealed for fresh information to keep the hunt alive for their son's remains

Parents Joan, 75, and Luciano Falconio, 80, have appealed for fresh information to keep the hunt alive for their son’s remains

‘We want to bring Peter home where he belongs near his family,’ his mother said. ‘Our pain is always with us. He was murdered 21 years ago, aged just 28 years.

‘His life stopped on a lonely road – the Stuart Highway on July 14, 2001. Shot dead by cowardly Murdoch, who will not reveal where or what he did with him.’ 

She added: ‘Peter has a beautiful niece and two lovely nephews who he never got to see or know.

‘I am appealing to anyone with a conscience to help me – however small – to tell me where he was put.’

The startling new evidence was revealed after South Australian politician Frank Pangallo (pictured right) demanded a $1million reward for information leading police to the body

The startling new evidence was revealed after South Australian politician Frank Pangallo (pictured right) demanded a $1million reward for information leading police to the body

Mr Pangallo revealed he had been in contact with the family for the last three years since covering the intriguing case years earlier as a reporter on Today Tonight.

He has now demanded Northern Territory Police offer a $1million reward to tease out new leads to follow up.

And he believes it could be enough to persuade Murdoch’s shady criminal mates to break their code of silence and tell police where the body was dumped. 

‘It is a last roll of the dice,’ Mr Pangallo said on Friday. ‘His mother didn’t want the matter to stay cold and wanted it to be brought into the public domain again.

‘What’s haunting them and has haunted them for the past 21 years is not knowing where his body is – and it will continue to haunt them until they get answers.

‘It’s crucial new information does come forward to put an end to the suffering that the Falconio family have suffered for so many years.’ 

The renewed appeal comes in the week when Peter Falconio (pictured with Joanne Lees in their campervan) would have turned 50 last Tuesday

The renewed appeal comes in the week when Peter Falconio (pictured with Joanne Lees in their campervan) would have turned 50 last Tuesday

The renewed appeal comes in the week when Mr Falconio would have turned 50 last Tuesday, but police are no closer to knowing where his body was dumped.

Murdoch was convicted of the murder and is now serving life in Darwin Correctional Centre – but he has refused to give up where he dumped Mr Falconio’s body.

He could be eligible for parole in 10 years but will never walk free without revealing the location under the NT’s ‘no body no release’ laws. 

Police believe he hid the remains somewhere in the sprawling desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia. 

Bradley Murdoch is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of the Tanami Desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia

Bradley Murdoch is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of the Tanami Desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia

‘The Tanami desert is a vast expanse,’ said Mr Pangallo. 

‘It’s believed that Murdoch, after filling up in Alice Springs that night, he would have fled to Broome and gone through the Tanami Desert.

‘There’s any any number of locations where he could have dumped the body. But he would have been panicking at that point, knowing police were searching for him.

 ‘And who knows – he may have disposed of the body earlier, which is why we want the well to be searched near Barrow Creek.’

Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan when they were pulled over by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees

Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan when they were pulled over by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees

He added: ‘Murdoch could well spend the rest of his life in prison. 

‘He knows what happened. And he knows where he put the body and one wishes that he had some sort of conscience and came forward.

‘It’s what Mrs Falconio said in her email to me – she had hoped that Murdoch had some conscience and would would reveal what he had done with Peter’s body. 

‘Murdoch hasn’t got the guts to confess to his cowardly crime and he should rot behind bars if he’s unwilling to tell the truth about what he did or where he left Peter.

‘Somebody must know where Peter is or might have some information or recollection that could be useful to police, no matter how insignificant they might think it is.

‘Joan, Luciano, Peter’s brothers – Mark, Nicholas and Paul – and their families deserve closure after all these years of grieving and uncertainty.

‘She just hopes that no one forgets about Peter Falconio.’

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