Police investigate claims murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio's body 'buried in Western Australia'

Jonathan Pearlman
Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio, sitting in their van - Reuters

Police in Australia are investigating a potential lead in the 2001 murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio after a letter from an Australian in Britain claimed his remains are buried at a spot in the outback.

The typed one-page letter was sent from Britain to the Northern Territory News and claims that Bradley Murdoch, Falconio’s killer, rang an associate after the murder and arranged to have the remains dumped in the state of Western Australia.

Murdoch was found  guilty over the murder but insists he was innocent and has never revealed where the remains were.

The letter, which is being investigated by Northern Territory police, said Mr Falconio’s family and his then girlfriend Joanne Lees  “deserve to know what happened to their loved one”. It says Murdoch claimed he had “murdered a guy in self-defence”.

“Murdoch had cut the body up and put it in two large... bags that were watertight and smell proof,” the letter says.

“He told [the associate] to go straight back to Perth [in Western Australia] and dissolve the body parts in acid and put what was left in the Swan River.”

Bradley John Murdoch arrives under police escort at Darwin Airport November 14, 2003 Credit:  REUTERS/Peter Bennett/News Ltd

Mr Falconio, then 28, disappeared  while travelling with Ms Lees on a remote highway in the Northern Territory.

She claimed that Murdoch flagged down the pair and then shot Mr Falconio and attempted to kidnap her. She was cable-tied but escaped and hid in the bushland for five hours while Murdoch hunted her with his dog.

The letter claims that the associate did not follow Murdoch’s instructions and instead took the remains by train to a spot north of Perth and “buried both the bags unopened in a nice spot and even made up a cross".

“Later he [Murdoch’s associate] realised who he had buried and was in a bad way about it,” the letter says.

Colleen Gwynne, who headed the criminal investigation, said the letter named the associate and gave police a fresh line of inquiry. But she said she doubted its veracity.

"The account seems pretty bizarre and not very particularly logical that you would take a body across a couple of jurisdictions on a lengthy train ride in a couple of bags - it doesn't make a lot of sense to me," she told ABC Radio.

Joanne Lees, with Peter Falconio's brothers Nick and Paul, speaks outside the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin, Australia in 2005 Credit: RICK STEVENS/AP

The Northern Territory News said police receive dozens of tip-offs each year about the case but the letter appeared to be more credible than most.            

The murder of Mr Falconio made international headlines and continues to attract publicity in Australia.

His father Luciano Falconio told the Daily Telegraph that he had heard a "tiny bit" from police about the letter claiming to reveal where his son's body was. 

He said: "But there is no confirmation and we will have to wait and see. This has been going on for the past 16 years, it is a very long time, so we will have to wait."

Murdoch, who was arrested in 2003, claimed he was involved in drug smuggling and would not have jeopardised his business.

He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison.

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes