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ARE YOU GOING TO RAPE ME? Court told of girl's terror at hands of outback killer.

Byline: By Frank Thorne in Darwin

BRITISH backpacker Joanne Lees feared she was going to be raped and murdered in the Australian outback.

A court heard how she had a gun put to her head after being kidnapped by a scruffy stranger.

Just moments earlier, she believed the man had shot dead her boyfriend, Peter Falconio.

The travel agent told how she fought for her life with the mystery gunman who had flagged down their camper van.

The attacker then bound her hands and legs on a lonely road in the Northern Territory.

Terrified, Joanne asked: 'What do you want? Is it money? The van? Just take it.

'Are you going to rape me?' He pushed a pistol in her face and told her: 'Shut up and you won't get shot.'

She asked him: 'Have you shot my boyfriend?

The stranger replied: 'No.' Her dramatic evidence was read to a court where Bradley Murdoch, 48, of Broome, Western Australia, is accused of murder.

Graphic details of Joanne's ordeal on July 14, 2001, were outlined by prosecutor Rex Wild, QC, yesterday at a pre-trial committal hearing in Darwin's Supreme Court.

Mechanic Murdoch is charged with murdering Peter , 28, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Murdoch is also accused of assaulting 37-year-old Joanne.

He has yet to enter a plea. Mr Wild said Joanne will today tell the court how the attacker flagged down the couple's van at Barrow Creek.

He lured Peter to the rear of the vehicle and then a single gunshot rang out.

The stranger then pushed a pistol into her face, placed a sack over her head and threw her into the back of his four-wheel-drive truck.

Police later identified a large patch of blood on the highway as Peter's.

Joanne managed to free her hands and roll out of the back of the parked vehicle.

She ran into bushland beside the Stuart Highway, and cowered there as the man hunted in vain for her.

He eventually fled the scene and Joanne was able to flag down a passing truck.

Mr Wild told the court: 'Peter Marco Falconio is dead. He was unlawfully killed by the defendant.

'The circumstances of that killing amount to murder.'

Mr Wild claimed Murdoch was in the area at the time.

The vehicle he drove and the description Joanne gave to police matched Murdoch. The case continues.


ORDEAL: Joanne Lees feared she would be raped by mystery outback attacker; ACCUSED: Murdoch, left, allegedly shot Falconio
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 18, 2004
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