Lees shows court how she escaped handcuffs

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The Independent Online

Ms Lees showed jurors yesterday how she moved her hands, which were tied behind her back by her attacker, to her front in a bid to escape. She sat on the floor of the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin, with her back to the man accused of killing her boyfriend, and demonstrated the move in under two seconds.

The lawyer for Bradley Murdoch, who is accused of killing the backpacker near Alice Springs four years ago, made a sustained attempt to undermine Ms Lees's evidence, suggesting she had been prompted to identify him by an image she saw on a website.

Ms Lees dismissed this suggestion as well as a claim that she bumped into Mr Murdoch as she shared a last meal with her boyfriend, Mr Falconio, at the Red Rooster restaurant in Alice Springs on 14 July 2001, hours before the attack.

She denied suggestions made by Grant Algie, for the defence, that Mr Murdoch was not the attacker. "Whatever did or did not happen north of Barrow Creek, Mr Murdoch wasn't the man you described as doing these things. Might I be right about that?" he asked. "No," she replied.

Ms Lees was also asked if she had any recollection of seeing Mr Murdoch at 1pm that day, or whether he passed near her. She replied "No" to both questions.

Asked if she thought a picture she saw on the BBC News website on 10 October 2002 of a suspect influenced her identification of Mr Murdoch as the attacker, she said: "No. I would recognise him anywhere.

"At the end of the day I was there, I know what happened and I don't need to read it from the press." Staring at Mr Murdoch, in the dock, she said: "The pictures I have seen, he is the man who attacked me north of Barrow Creek."

The court also heard from the road train driver who rescued Ms Lees.

Vince Millar told the court: "I was just driving along as you do, and this sheila jumped out in front of my truck. Her hands were together above her head. As she sort of jumped out, it was all very quick."

He said he had been looking forward to a rest at Barrow Creek, north of Alice Springs, when she jumped out, about 20 metres in front of his truck. He said he swerved to avoid her but it took him about half a mile to stop and he thought he had hit her.

"When you've got three trailers on the back of your truck, not all the three axles take the same line. I thought she either went under the second or third trailer." He said he didn't know what he expected to find when he got out to have a look: "An arm, a leg, a body, a bit of clothing, something like that."

He told the court he heard her calling out and told her to move under the truck to get to him. "When she came out the other side she sort of threw herself at me. I panicked a bit, you don't know what's going on out there when you are on your own.

"She was a bit confused, saying, 'Look, look, look at my hands'."

He said her hands were tied together and there was duct tape in her hair. "She was not upset because I don't think there was any time. There was just a lot of confusion and disbelief at the situation she was in."

He said he went to wake up the second driver, Rodney Adams. "I said, 'Hey Rod, can you get up and come out here mate, we've got a bit of a situation. We've got a bit of a sheila out here and she's all tied up, mate'."

Mr Millar, who was using crutches and was clearly in pain as he gave his evidence, and repeatedly tried to clear his throat, told the court the two men cut the restraints off her wrists, being careful not to cut her skin. "She had a lot of bark off her anyway." He later explained this meant she had a lot of cuts and abrasions to the skin on her arms and hands.

The driver said the woman, who introduced herself as Jo, told him what had happened and said she wanted to look for her boyfriend and her camper van. He said he unhooked his truck from the trailers and said: "I more or less chucked a u-ey right there."

Ms Lees told him that her attacker had had a gun and had held it against her head. "I was shit scared," he said, and added that the three of them drove to Barrow Creek to get help and to contact the police.

Mr Murdoch, 47, of Broome, Western Australia, is accused of murdering Mr Falconio after flagging the couple down on a highway north of Barrow Creek. He denies murder and charges of depriving Ms Lees of her liberty and assaulting her. The case continues.

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