Falconio murderer loses appeal

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The drug runner found guilty of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio in the Australian Outback in 2001 lost his appeal against his conviction and sentence today.

Bradley Murdoch, 48, is serving a life sentence for murdering 28-year-old Mr Falconio, from Hepworth in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, on a remote stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs.

He was ordered to serve a minimum non-parole term of 28 years.

The mechanic was also found guilty of abducting and assaulting Mr Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees, a 33-year-old support worker.

Lawyers for Bradley Murdoch, 48, argued last month that he had suffered a "substantial miscarriage of justice" at his trial in Darwin, Australia, in 2005.

But Darwin's Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the appeal unanimously.

The three judges were Acting Chief Justice David Angel, Justice Trevor Riley, and Acting Justice Trevor Olsson.

They said that the core issue in the case was the identity of the assailant - and blood on Miss Lees's T-shirt established "beyond reasonable doubt" that Murdoch was present when she was attacked.

The judges found: "In our opinion the presence of the blood of the appellant upon the T-shirt of Ms Lees establishes beyond reasonable doubt the presence of the appellant at the time Ms Lees was attacked just north of Barrow Creek.

"When this evidence is considered along with the other evidence properly admitted at trial of events occurring at that location, the guilt of the appellant of the murder of Peter Falconio is established beyond reasonable doubt.

"The case against the appellant becomes overwhelming when the evidence of the identification of the appellant as the assailant by Ms Lees is taken into account.

They added: "We conclude that there has been no substantial miscarriage of justice in this case.

"The appeal against conviction must be dismissed."

The judges also dismissed the appeal against sentence, saying the killing was "cold blooded and premeditated".

The ruling added: "The appellant has not demonstrated any remorse and the body of the victim has not been found.

"As the Crown put it there can be no closure for those grieving for the victim as the appellant has chosen not to reveal what he did.

"As to the other offences each was of an inherently serious nature that subjected Ms Lees to a terrifying ordeal in circumstances in which she had every reason to anticipate at least sexual violation and at worst eventual death herself."

The judges found that there were no factors to mitigate the appellant's conduct which was "cruel, remorseless and completely unprovoked".

At last month's appeal in Darwin, Murdoch's defence team argued the trial judge should have excluded Miss Lees's identification of Murdoch in a photograph line-up because she had already seen his picture on the internet.

In August 2002 a friend directed Miss Lees to the BBC website, which included a photograph of Murdoch and described him as the Australian police's prime suspect for the murder of Mr Falconio.

Five weeks later, when police showed her a photo board of 12 different people, she correctly picked out Murdoch and later identified him in the dock at his 2005 trial, the appeal heard.

But Rex Wild QC, for the Crown, said Miss Lees had not gone on to the internet looking for a picture of her boyfriend's killer.

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