Girlfriend of murdered Yorkshire backpacker returns to Australia in hope of finding body

Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio. Credit: Northern Territory Police / PA.
Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio. Credit: Northern Territory Police / PA.

The girlfriend of a West Yorkshire backpacker murdered in Australia has returned to the Outback for the first time in 15 years in the hope of finding his body.

Joanne Lees, 43, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, said she wanted to “bring him home” as she returned to the scene of the shooting of Peter Falconio for an Australian television show special.

She said she had “no choice” but to run from his killer, who had also attacked her, because “it was either run or be raped and killed”.

Bradley Murdoch was convicted in 2005 of murdering Mr Falconio, 28, and assaulting Ms Lees, then 27, on a remote stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs, on July 14 2001.

The pair were travelling when Murdoch waved down their camper van and shot Mr Falconio in the head.

Ms Lees was threatened with a gun, punched in the head and bound with cable-tie restraints before she managed to escape, hiding in bushes for hours while her attacker stalked her with a dog.

Murdoch is believed to have hidden Mr Falconio’s body, which has never been found despite extensive searches.

In trailers for current affairs show 60 Minutes, Ms Lees is seen in a helicopter flying over the murder scene saying: “Pete’s still missing. I know that he’s somewhere here.”

When asked by reporter Liz Hayes if she was “stepping inside your attacker’s mind”, she said: “I guess it is a very alien thing for me to do because I’m not a violent person.

“I’m not a murderer but if that’s what I have to do and that’s how I’m gong to find Pete then that’s what I’m prepared to do.”

She fought back tears as she added: “It’s because I love Pete so much and I want to bring him home and I need to bring him home.”

The interview, which is billed as a “major television event”, will be screened at 8.40pm local time (9.40pm UK time) on Sunday.