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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before