£90,000 to catch Outback gunman

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The Independent Online

The search for an Australian gunman in connection with the disappearance of a British tourist in the Outback was stepped up yesterday with the offer of a A$250,000 (£90,000) reward for information leading to his capture and conviction.

The reward, which is more than double the previous Northern Territory record bounty, came with the offer of indemnity from prosecution for any accomplice willing to turn in the suspect.

Peter Falconio, 28, has not been seen since he and his girlfriend Joanne Lees, 27, were ambushed by a gunman on the main Stuart Highway 175 miles north of Alice Springs 12 days ago.

She escaped, bound and gagged, from the man's four-wheel-drive vehicle and hid in the scrub while he searched with a torch and a cattle dog.

There have been hundreds of calls to police and several false alarms across the country since the attack. But officers are no closer to finding the gunman or Mr Falconio, who is feared dead after a lot of blood thought to be his was found at the crime scene.

Brian Bates, Commissioner of Police, said Ms Lees and Mr Falconio's family welcomed the move. Since a nervous Ms Lees faced the media on Wednesday and said she had not given up hope of finding her boyfriend, officers said they had received a further 300 calls from people offering information.

Police Commander Max Pope said: "The plea by Ms Lees has once again stimulated the public's interest and people are coming forward with further information, some of which we can discount fairly rapidly, some of which we have already attended to."