What happened to Peter Falconio? True story behind the disappearance

The British backpacker is the subject of a new C4 documentary.

Murder in the Outback: The Falconio and Lees Mystery

Some news stories capture the public’s imagination in an all-consuming way.

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Many will remember the case of Peter Falconio, a British backpacker who went missing in 2001 while on the holiday of a lifetime with his girlfriend Joanne Lees. They were coming to the end of their travels, and were driving through the Australian outback when Peter was last seen.

As Murder in the Outback: the Falconio and Lees Mystery prepares to re-examine the evidence in this case, here’s everything you need to know about Falconio and the true story behind his whereabouts.

Who is Peter Falconio?

Peter Falconio was a 28-year-old from Hepworth in West Yorkshire, one of four brothers, whose disappearance in the Australian outback made headlines all round the world in 2001. He was coming to the end of an amazing world the round trip, which had included countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal.

Falconio was travelling with his girlfriend, Joanne Lees. They first met at a nightclub in 1996 and they lived together while he studied at Brighton University.

What happened to Peter Falconio?

The only version of events available is from Joanne Lees. She says that on the 14th July 2001, while travelling through the Australian outback, she flagged down a truck on a quiet part of the Stuart Highway in Central Australia. She claims she had been hiding in long grass after she and Falconio had been attacked on the road by another driver, who encouraged them to pull over, claiming there was something wrong with their van.

Lees believed Falconio had been shot when he and the driver went to examine the back of the car, but she had been able to escape their attacker when he was distracted. Although Bradley John Murdoch has been charged with Peter’s murder, a body has never been found.

C4’s documentary has also introduced the intriguing theory that Falconio may not actually be dead. Eyewitnesses claim to have seen him 2,000km away from where he disappeared, just a few days after the crime was reported, and one of Falconio’s friends even went to the Australian authorities to suggest he may have faked his own death. The police have dismissed these claims.

Both Falconio and Lees’ families were reportedly anxious about the couple travelling through the outback after reports of attacks on backpackers.

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Murder in the Outback: The Falconio and Lees Mystery concludes tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. To find out what else is on, check out our TV Guide.