Outback murder trial begins

THE trial of a man accused of murdering a British tourist in the Outback begins today in the northern Australian town of Darwin.

Bradley John Murdoch, a mechanic, is charged with the murder of Peter Falconio who he allegedly flagged down on a lonely highway in northern Australia on 14 July, 2001.

Murdoch, who is also charged with assaulting and attempting to kidnap Mr Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr Falconio's body has never been found despite a police search covering an area of the Outback the size of France.

After a preliminary hearing last year, a magistrate found there was enough evidence for Murdoch to stand trial.

The court heard from more than 50 witnesses, including Ms Lees and Mr Falconio's brother, Paul.

The committal hearing heard evidence that Murdoch carried a weapon and ties similar to the ones used to truss up Ms Lees in his pick-up, and that he altered the truck's and his own appearance in the weeks after Mr Falconio's disappearance.

He faces a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.