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It is highly unlikely Peter Falconio’s body will ever be found, but one Northern Territory judge believes its recovery is the only thing that will end rumours about Bradley John Murdoch’s innocence.


Murdoch, who has consistently maintained he is innocent, is serving a life sentence for the British backpacker’s murder.

Although the Broome drug-runner’s 2005 conviction and 28-year non-parole period have been upheld on appeal, in the 10 years since Mr Falconio went missing countless conspiracy theories have emerged.

Mr Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees, who were touring Australia in an orange Kombi van, were about 100km north of Ti Tree in central Australia on July 14, 2001, when a man in a white four-wheel drive gestured for them to pull over.

Ms Lees gave evidence Mr Falconio got out of the van to talk to the man, before she heard what sounded like a car backfiring.

It is believed Mr Falconio was shot there on a remote section of the desolate Stuart Highway.

Ms Lees was threatened with a gun, punched and restrained with cable-tie handcuffs before escaping and hiding among the spinifex for hours, until she waved down a passing road train.

Justice Dean Mildren, author of the book Big Boss Fella, All Same Judge, told AAP that questions were raised about the reliability of the DNA testing that helped convict Murdoch but that it wasn’t the only evidence against him.

Justice Mildren’s book, which was released this year to mark the centenary of the NT Supreme Court, contains a chapter about the legal saga.

“If the body were to be found, that would clear the matter up completely one way or another,” he said.

“If Peter Falconio was shot, the body is likely to have marks on the skeleton showing there was a bullet.

“Maybe if the bullet was still in the body when it was buried … then it would not just be beyond reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt at all.”

Justice Mildren said authorities went to great lengths trying to find the construction worker’s body.

“The difficulty is that one of the things that can’t be excluded is that the body was taken a long way from the area before it was buried, if it was buried.

“No one knows where else to look.

“There’s always a chance that the body might turn up through accident, but I think after all this time the chances are starting to look pretty remote.”

Although Murdoch is believed to still be in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre, all the NT Department of Justice would say on Tuesday was that he is in the custody of NT Corrective Services.

A department spokeswoman said she could not provide information about what education or rehabilitation programs Murdoch was undertaking “due to privacy and security reasons”.

Justice Mildren said it was relatively rare for defendants to maintain their innocence after all avenues of appeal had been exhausted.

He said that, not only do confessions influence what sentence a guilty defendant is given, they can also increase the likelihood of their release from prison close to the expiration of the non-parole period.

“Usually a confession, depending on the nature of the confession, is an indication of remorse and contrition,” he said.

“If he’s maintained his innocence, he may think that it might help him with the parole board.

“Although, I think it would probably have the opposite effect.”

Murdoch will be 73 years old when he is eligible to apply for parole in 2031.


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