Outback murder - Joanne Lees

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Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby saloongirl » Tue May 06, 2008 3:15 pm

In light of the recent article in the Daily Mail, (See link below) does anyone have an opinion on whether or not Joanne Lees was involved in the disappearance of her boyfriend? It's strange how the Aborigines found no evidence to support her story and they are known for their accuracy.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/f ... ge_id=1879
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Re: Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby bjr » Wed May 07, 2008 11:18 pm

The shimmering red landscape of the Australian Outback is keeper to many enduring mysteries, but one in particular is a favourite topic among the barflies of Barrow Creek: the disappearance of Peter Falconio nearly seven years ago.

According to a court of law, the mystery is solved. Bradley Murdoch, an unsavoury character with an almost cartoonish "bad guy" appearance, is serving a minimum of 28 years in jail for Falconio's murder.

But the barflies aren't satisfied. How can they be when no body was ever found?

It has passed into local legend that Falconio went walkabout near Barrow Creek on that fateful night in July 2001 and is out there somewhere, alive.

It was to try to escape all this wild talk, perhaps, that Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees, now 34, recently returned to her Yorkshire roots.

After publication of her book about the tragedy, No Turning Back, she has attempted to do precisely that - put the past behind her.

This week, the Mail revealed she has bought a former mill worker's house outside Huddersfield near to where she grew up. Her life is uneventful. She's been doing some decorating and, after a spell working at a pub, is believed to be studying for a degree in sociological studies at Sheffield University.

But however much she wants to look forward, there is little chance that Miss Lees, for the foreseeable future at least, will be able to lay the ghost of Peter Falconio to rest.

In the past few days, the Mail has learned that Bradley Murdoch is preparing a fresh appeal against his conviction, and despite the failure of previous attempts to clear his name, this one will almost certainly have to be taken altogether more seriously.

The case against Murdoch was based on three crucial pieces of DNA evidence linking him to the crime. These were found on the T-shirt that Joanne was wearing on the night of the attack; on the home-made shackles used to tie her hands; and on the gearstick of Joanne and Peter's Volkwagen Kombi camper van.

Before the trial, Australian forensic experts established that the DNA on the light blue T-shirt was an exact match to Murdoch - 150 million billion times more likely to have come from Murdoch than anyone else - but were unable to link his DNA to the handcuffs.

Enter Jonathan Whitaker of Britain's Forensic Science Service, based in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Using what was then a new DNA technique called low copy number DNA analysis, Dr Whitaker was able to establish a DNA profile from previously undiscovered traces.

The jury was utterly persuaded of Murdoch's guilt when this eminent forensic scientist from Britain told the court in Darwin during the trial in 2005 that DNA found on the innermost layer of tape used to construct the handcuffs was 100 million times more likely to have come from Murdoch than anyone else.

Dr Whitaker also carried out tests on swabs taken from the gear stick of the Kombi and found a "partial" DNA profile matching Murdoch, making it 19,000 times more likely to be his than anyone else's.

And it was these two pieces of evidence, together with the speck on the T-shirt, that nailed Murdoch.

As the prosecutor Rex Wild QC put it to the jurors at the Northern Territory Supreme Court: "Any one of these might be capable of an innocent explanation, but the strength of the three separate pieces of DNA comes not from looking at them alone, but from looking at them together. Looking at them together it becomes a powerful, powerful piece of evidence."

Quite. But what happens if you take away Dr Whitaker's evidence - described by critics as "junk science" - and you are left with one single speck of DNA on a T-shirt as the single thing linking Murdoch to the crime?

Outback mystery: Joanne pictured with boyfriend Peter. His body has never been found

A Perth-based QC is planning to assert on Murdoch's behalf that this is precisely what we must do. The Outback murder trial, Tom Percy is expected to assert, has identical failings to the Omagh murder trial held at Belfast Crown Court last December.

In Belfast, Sean Hoey walked free after being found not guilty of 58 charges, including 29 murders and the manufacture of the car bomb that devastated the market town of Omagh in 1998.

Several experts told Hoey's trial the low copy number DNA technique used to identify him was unreliable, and the judge at the trial was damning in his assessment of this so-called evidence.

And who presented the so-called LCN evidence against Sean Hoey at the Omagh trial? None other than Dr Whitaker, the man described by commentators covering the Murdoch case as "a very key witness".

Afterwards, British police suspended use of the technique, but it has now been resumed following a review by the Crown Prosecution Service which concluded that "the CPS has not seen anything to suggest that any current problems exist with LCN".

The findings have been questioned, however, by other forensic experts, including Allan Jamieson, director of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow, who gave evidence at the Omagh trial questioning the validity of LCN.

It was when Bradley Murdoch heard about the Omagh acquittal that he applied for Legal Aid to have his case reviewed by Tom Percy. Murdoch told friends Mr Percy is preparing an application for appeal and will argue his conviction creates a dangerous legal precedent in Australia.

Certainly there does appear to be a problem with using LCN as evidence.

Another recent murder case in which Dr Whitaker provided this kind of evidence collapsed.

This was the case of Wayne O'Donoghue in Ireland, accused of murdering 11-year-old Robert Holohan, whose body was found in 2005.

After examining a semen sample found on the body along with a swab taken from Wayne O'Donoghue, Dr Whitaker concluded that the chances of the semen and swab not being from the same person were 70 million to one.

Pretty conclusive - except it wasn't. It led to O'Donoghue being charged with murder, but when some bigger samples were brought in, Dr Whitaker decided he was no longer able to say the original one was O'Donoghue's beyond reasonable-doubt.

The case against O'Donoghue fell apart. Against this background, the case against Bradley Murdoch, who has the support of civil liberty campaigners in Australia, looks flimsy. Murdoch has vehemently protested his innocence throughout.

In phone calls to friends from his jail in Alice Springs he says over and over again that he was "stitched up because the cops needed a solution". He was, he said, the "fall guy".

His words to a visitor before the trial seem highly prescient given the new developments, and not so easily dismissed as a desperate plea of a murderer trying to evade justice. "It's got to be obvious what they're doing," he said. "They're going to throw a DNA case at me because there's nothing else.

"It will be all part of their plan to close me down and lock away the Falconio case. I have one enemy who's been collecting my DNA."

If Murdoch does win a fresh appeal, he is likely to assert again that the DNA in the speck of blood which was indisputedly his was planted by police.

After Murdoch was refused leave to appeal again last year, there were reports he was desperate to be transferred to a prison in Western Australia so his 83-year-old mother, who is seriously ill, would be able to visit him.

The police are said to have told him: "Tell us what you've done with the body and we'll move you," to which Murdoch repeatedly responded: "How can I if I don't know?"

His mother, Nance, is convinced of her son's innocence. "That girl [Joanne Lees] has told so many lies. Justice will be done," she reportedly told an Australian paper.

Of course, Mrs Murdoch is biased and Murdoch is not a sympathetic character. A former bouncer, he had begun running marijuana from South Australia to his home town of Broome in Western Australia in his canvas-covered Toyota truck.

Prior to being convicted of the Falconio murder, he had already had a spell in jail for firing a gun over the heads of a group of Aborigines. He had also been acquitted on another unrelated charge. But that doesn't mean the police got the right person.

So let us return to July 14, 2001, when Joanne and 28-year-old Peter Falconio, who met in 1996 in Huddersfield and lived together in Hove, East Sussex, before going to Australia in 2000, set out north on their trip along the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin.

Bradley Murdoch is preparing to appeal his conviction for the murder of Peter Falconio
Shortly after darkness fell, ten miles beyond Barrow Creek, a vehicle drew alongside the couple's van and the driver indicated there was something wrong with the van's exhaust.

According to Joanne, they stopped and Peter went to the back of the vehicle and began chatting with the driver, who had pulled up behind them. Then she heard a bang which she thought might be the Volkswagen backfiring.

Then the stranger appeared next to her, pointed a gun at her, manacled her hands with home-made handcuffs, put a sack over her head and partially bound her ankles, then threw her into the front of his van.

She escaped by clambering into the back of the van, dropping on to the road and scrambling to nearby bushes while her assailant was distracted. He came looking for her with his dog before driving away.

After several hours she emerged terrified from the scrub. Peter had vanished. A pool of his blood was spilled at the roadside.

Her account raised many questions. Why, for example, did Murdoch risk driving off with Falconio's body, as he must have done because no body was found at the scene?

How was it that not a single trace of blood was found in his vehicle (although Murdoch did change parts of the vehicle after Falconio disappeared)?

Why, though Joanne's footprints were discovered, was not a single footprint of Murdoch, or his dog, found at the scene? This aspect of the case continues to baffle the Aborigine trackers who searched for them. And why were there no drag marks to show a body had been moved?

Joanne says a violent struggle took place between her and Murdoch, yet the only trace he left was that speck on her Tshirt. Murdoch's vehicle had no front to rear access yet Joanne said she climbed from the front to the back of the vehicle.

And why did Joanne refuse to talk publicly at the time in any detail about the attack even though police urged her to in order to help them try to find her boyfriend?

And why, even taking into account her distress at the time, did Miss Lees manage to get her description of her attacker so wrong?

He was, she said, of medium build and with long hair; Murdoch stands 6ft 4in and had a crew cut. He has no front teeth but Joanne did not notice that. She thought the dog was red and brown coloured; Murdoch's dog is a dalmatian.

The plot thickened when hundreds of miles away in Bourke, New South Wales, two petrol station employees were adamant that several days after his disappearance, Falconio came into the filling station and bought a Mars bar.

There was a major breakthrough, though, when Murdoch was arrested in 2002. His DNA was checked against that on the T-shirt; there was an exact match.

But there was more controversy when under cross-examination by the defence team a year before the trial, Miss Lees admitted she had been having an affair with Nick Reilly, while living with Falconio in Sydney.

After Falconio's disappearance, Joanne returned to Britain. She took a job with a voluntary organisation helping people with learning difficulties. She began seeing a man called Miad Najafi.

At the trial in 2005 she showed considerable poise in the witness box. Asked in court whether she recognised her attacker, she turned to Murdoch and said: "Yes, I am looking at him."

Murdoch was convicted. Joanne began writing her autobiography, No Turning Back, for which she reportedly received £250,000, and it was published two years ago.

She quietly bought the house in Huddersfield a year ago for £144,000.

Neighbours say she is solitary, popping to the shops and gym alone. She wants to get on with her life and put the Falconio story behind her. But that looks unlikely.

If Murdoch's appeal is successful, Joanne Lees faces the prospect of a retrial at the very least, or - the worst case scenario for her and Falconio's family - his acquittal.

Which would raise the the disturbing question: If Murdoch wasn't responsible for Peter Falconio's disappearance, then who was?
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Re: Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby Chosen » Thu May 22, 2008 5:03 pm

I have always been very suspicious of Joanne Lees version of what happened to Peter Falconio. I would very much like to see a retrial as Bradley Murdoch was found guilty of Peter's murder on what seemed to be very flimsy evidence.
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Re: Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby jdomino » Thu May 22, 2008 5:05 pm

A very strange case.

If she is completely innocent of all charges why did she change her story so often?...she even mistook an alsation for a dalmation. Odd.
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Re: Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby earthspirit » Thu May 22, 2008 5:10 pm

saloongirl wrote:In light of the recent article in the Daily Mail, (See link below) does anyone have an opinion on whether or not Joanne Lees was involved in the disappearance of her boyfriend? It's strange how the Aborigines found no evidence to support her story and they are known for their accuracy.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/f ... ge_id=1879



BUT THEY CONVICTED SOMEONE SO THATS THE END OF THAT

A VERY STRANGE STORY TOO BUT OH WELL WHAT DO I KNOW

sorry i was not shouting but im using caps on the work i am meant to be doing
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Re: Outback murder - Joanne Lees

Postby cushty » Thu May 22, 2008 5:32 pm

I have just finished reading an account of this case, called 'Bloodstain', which the Mail article follows very closely

the sticking point is that speck of DNA on Joanne's t-shirt, which was not LCN, and an exact match for Mudooch

my own take is that Joanne did not have anything to do with Falconia's disappearance, as how could she have disposed of his body on her own, but that he might not have been murdered at all - the blood was insufficient to cause death by blood loss, so he could have been taken away injured - but a motive for anyone is a problem
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