Falconio accused 'discussed body disposal'

Bradley Murdoch, the man charged with killing Peter Falconio, discussed ways to dispose of a body after the British backpacker disappeared, a court heard yesterday.

Bradley Murdoch, the man charged with killing Peter Falconio, discussed ways to dispose of a body after the British backpacker disappeared, a court heard yesterday.

James Hepi, a former housemate and business associate, told Mr Murdoch's committal hearing in Darwin that the two men had a conversation on the subject. He also testified that Mr Murdoch went on one of his regular outback trips in July 2001, at the time when Mr Falconio and his girlfriend, Joanne Lees, were ambushed by a gunman north of Alice Springs.

When he returned to his home in Broome, in Western Australia, Mr Murdoch appeared "edgy", Mr Hepi told Darwin Magistrates' Court. The same day he radically changed his appearance, cutting his collar-length hair very short and shaving off his moustache. He also took his pick-up truck to a workshop and had it modified, removing the tray and canopy.

Mr Murdoch, 45, a former mechanic, is accused of shooting Mr Falconio and trying to abduct Ms Lees after stopping them on the isolated Stuart Highway at night. Despite an extensive search, Mr Falconio's body has never been found.

Mr Hepi said that when Mr Murdoch returned to the house they shared in Broome, about 30 hours after the murder, news about the missing backpacker was reported on television. "Brad volunteered the information up that it wasn't him," he said.

The alleged conversation about disposing of a body took place at a later date. The Crown prosecutor, Rex Wild, QC, asked Mr Hepi what was said. "How to get rid of them," he replied. "To put them in a 'spoon drain' on the side of the road and cover them with dirt." He explained that these were drains that allowed water to run off so that roads did not flood.

Asked how he responded, Mr Hepi said: "I didn't think I needed to kill anyone."

He told the court that, around the time of Mr Falconio's disappearance, he saw Mr Murdoch in a shed on his property in South Australia, making handcuffs out of wire cables. Shown a replica of the handcuffs that Ms Lees has alleged her assailant used to restrain her, he said they were "very similar to the ones I saw in my shed".

He also testified that Mr Murdoch owned two guns, both revolvers, which he carried in a holster beneath his shirt or kept in his truck. Ms Lees has said that the man who waved down the couple's camper van put a long-barrelled, silver revolver to her head.

The two men glared at each other after Mr Murdoch was brought into the dock and the latter shook his head during Mr Hepi's evidence. The pair fell out in late 2001, and Mr Murdoch's defence lawyer, Grant Algie, accused Mr Hepi of setting Murdoch up to claim a $250,000 (£96,000) reward and save his own skin in relation to serious criminal charges that he later faced. The court heard that Mr Hepi told Broome police that he would co-operate in relation to Murdoch if police helped him in turn. He subsequently pleaded guilty to the offence and received a suspended sentence.

Under cross-examination, he denied making false statements to police about Mr Murdoch. Mr Algie asked him whether he had seen his former friend as his ticket out of jail. "That's not correct," Mr Hepi replied. But he agreed that he would inquire about the reward if his evidence helped to secure a conviction.

Ms Lees has testified that the gunman had a dog in his truck, which she thought was a blue heeler. Mr Hepi said Mr Murdoch had a Dalmation cross, called Jack, which went everywhere with him. The dog was flighty and timid, he said, particularly when a voice was raised or a shot fired.

Describing the changes that Mr Murdoch made after returning home in July 2001, Mr Hepi said: "He shaved his hair back ... and cleaned up his face. The appearance of the vehicle changed dramatically. It was heavily modified."

Murdoch denies the charges. The hearing, which will determined whether there is enough evidence to send him to trial, continues today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas