Falconio facts and fictions – how they got it so wrong


JimmyT revisits the murky world of the TV “investigation” of the Peter Falconio murder …

Those of you who’ve been transfixed by the unexplained mysteries and “new evidence” presented by the Channel Seven documentary series about the disappearance of Peter Falconio and the subsequent hounding of Joanne Lees, may be interested in the definitive book about the murder of the English backpacker.

What does “And Then The Darkness” have to do with Flat Chat? It was written by our very own Sue Williams. 

And why is it any better than any of the many others?  For a start, it was the first Australian crime book ever to be short-listed for the UK’s prestigious Golden Dagger awards, for the best true crime book in the world that year. 

Chocolate milk

At the risk of sounding subjective, some of the others are so poorly researched and biased, either against Joanne Lees or in favour of Bradley Murdoch, that they aren’t even worth the paper they were printed on.

Maybe I’m prejudiced but I spent several weeks in Darwin covering the trial, researching a TV documentary (which was gazumped by a British production).  I recall vividly sitting with one writer who was taking two cartons of chocolate milk into the holding cells for Murdoch, “because he loves it”.

This was despite their book saying that Murdoch would not have bought chocolate milk at the roadhouse where he was captured on CCTV because he was lactose intolerant.


Then there was the humiliating farce of Joanne Lees having to show in court how she freed herself from having her hands shackled behind her back, all because one writer had hired a ballet dancer to “prove” that it couldn’t be done. 

The problem was, the writer didn’t have the elaborate shackles Murdoch made for his victims, which allow a lot more leeway than wrists bound tightly together.

Then there was the UK journalist who was told by his newsdesk to “get the bitch” because Lees had refused all interviews.  So the UK tabloids went after her and the Australian papers piled in, each justifying the other in their relentless orgy of victim shaming.

And there was the evidence that couldn’t be led in court, of the identical shackles and weapons, as well as Joanne Lees’ elastic hair tie, discovered hidden in Murdoch’s car when he was arrested for a sex crime in South Australia, for which he was later found not guilty.

Conspiracy theories

As this current alleged doco proves, some people never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  And we live in an age where facts are a fragile concept and people choose what they want to believe and reject everything that doesn’t concur with that point of view.

Hey, maybe I’m doing that too.  But I have the advantage of having met most of the characters in this story – from truckies, to cops, to roadhouse owners – and I have seen the corrosive effect of conspiracy theories at close hand.

There’s a story in Sue’s book about how the police took Joanne out for a meal in the early days of the investigation, only, to their horror, to have the Press Corp turn up in numbers and take the adjacent table.

These supposed trained observers and ace reporters who had spent days trying to track her down, didn’t even notice that their quarry was at the next table.

Special offer

You can read more about “And Then The Darkness” and get a signed copy of the book at a special Flat Chat price of $25 (including Australian postage) by going to Sue’s website HERE.

Everybody’s talking about the Falconio murder – it would be good if someone in your group had the facts.

3 Replies to “Falconio facts and fictions – how they got it so wrong”

  1. Jimmy-T says:

    That’s the wornderful thing about conspiracy theories – people take a lack of avidence as “proof”. There has never been any suggestion, apart from for those flimsy theories that have no basis in fact, that Joanne Lees or Peter Falconio were involved in drug running (although Bradley Murdoch definitely was).
    The “Jelly Man”, not mentioned in eight previous interviews with police, may just be a local drunk. The Aboriginal commuities on either side of the road there are “dry” and when you go up any track far enough you will encounter a sign that says if you are found with alcohol in your vehicle, it will be impounded (I know becasue I have seen them with my own eyes).
    So, if the Jelly Man ever existed, there are planty of logical theories why people would be manhandling him into their car and not wanting to engage with passers by.
    The other, more usual reason for not confessing to being a drug courier is that you aren’t one.
    And, pray tell,, what are your conspiracy theories about a struck-off and jailed former coke-head lawyer trying to make a name for himself (and a buck) by cobbling togehter some BS theories about a tragic case in which one young person’s life was lost and they other’s destroyed.
    Want facts? Look here: https://www.smh.com.au/national/battle-over-falconio-documentary-reveals-former-lawyer-andrew-fraser-s-emails-20200622-p5553e.html

  2. mary says:

    I think the British Reporter got it right. They were warned not to travel at night down that road. They did anyway, because like the reporter said “he thinks it was a drug courier gone wrong, Someone new of it, and wanted control”. I think the blood was not from a gun shot but a stabbing as no bullet casing found or gunshot residue. Also the truck drivers who picked up Joanne said she was terrified and rightly so, and they had witnessed driving down to the area they saw a ‘jelly man’ which indicates to me a man was hijacked and being pushed and shoved by the two men with him, who may have taken him away and ergo no body found . Joanne would not be so silly as to confess to being a drug courier. No further investigation into her Sydney lover which was of concern, or of Murdoch’s partner in drug trafficking, who seemed to know a lot about Murdoch’s wrist ties, etc.

  3. Jimmy-T says:

    This is now being discussed in the Flat Chat Forum

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