Australia

Peter Falconio murder: Girlfriend Joanne Lees finds Australian sister

Joanne Lees, left, with her sister Jess Image copyright 60 Minutes
Image caption Joanne Lees, left, with her sister Jess

The girlfriend of murdered British man Peter Falconio plans to apply for Australian citizenship after learning she has a sister in the country.

Joanne Lees, 43, returned to Australia as part of a TV special to search for Mr Falconio's body in the Outback.

Bradley Murdoch was convicted in 2005 of murdering Mr Falconio, 28, and assaulting Ms Lees, then 27, on a remote stretch of highway in July 2001.

Ms Lees revealed she met her sister, Jess, for the first time last year.

"I feel less alone in the world," she said of Jess, who is eight years younger. Ms Lees' father is Australian and the pair are estranged.

"When wonderful things happen in the world I want to share them with Jess."

Image copyright 60 Minutes
Image caption Ms Lees says she is determined to find Mr Falconio's body

Ms Lees and Mr Falconio, from Huddersfield, were about 200 miles north of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, when Murdoch waved down their camper van and shot Mr Falconio in the head.

Ms Lees was threatened with a gun, punched in the head and bound with cable-tie restraints before she managed to escape, hiding in bushes for hours while her attacker stalked her with a dog. She eventually flagged down a passing lorry.

Murdoch is believed to have hidden Mr Falconio's body, which has never been found, despite extensive searches.

'I'll never be at peace'

In the interview with Nine's 60 Minutes programme on Sunday, Ms Lees said she was determined to find Mr Falconio's body.

"Pete lost his life on that night but I lost mine too," she said.

"I'll never be fully at peace if Pete's not found, but I accept that that is a possibility."

Ms Lees was shown on the TV special returning to the area where the killing took place, and saying she was prepared to step into her "attacker's mind".

"It's because I love Pete so much and I want to bring him home and I need to bring him home," she said.

Joy with sister

Ms Lees described her new bond with Jess as "kind of mind-blowing".

"I have a strong connection to Australia because my father is Australian," she said.

"Although my father's not been in my life, I've always been aware of who he is and his nationality."

Image copyright 60 Minutes
Image caption Ms Lees will unveil a statue in tribute to Mr Falconio

Ms Lees also plans to erect a giant silver falcon statue in the Outback town of Ti Tree to honour Mr Falconio's memory.

The town was the last happy place they shared together, she said.

"The falcon represents his spirit," she said.

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