The family of Peter Falconio suffered fresh heartbreak today after police in Australia ruled out reports they had found human remains in the outback.
The British backpacker’s mother Joan, 76, from Hepworth, Huddersfield, told MailOnline that she and his father Luciano will never lose ‘hope’ that they will one day ‘finally bring him home’ after nearly 22 years.
Speaking from her home in Yorkshire, Mrs Falconio said: ‘Our hopes had been raised and dashed again. This has happened so many times before.’
Mr Falconio was shot dead by Bradley Murdoch in July 2001. The convicted killer has refused to admit responsibility or reveal where the 28-year-old’s body was left.
Multiple newspaper reports in Australia claimed that bone fragments have been found near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, a few hundred miles from where he was murdered while crossing the country with girlfriend Joanne Lees in a Volkswagen campervan. The Australian said the bones were being tested to see if it was Peter.
But Northern Territory Police later said it was incorrect. The force’s Assistant Commissioner Michael White added: ‘Northern Territory Police would like to advise the public that speculating on the identity on any missing person causes unwarranted grief and trauma to the family and friends.’
Police have dashed hopes that the remains of backpacker Peter Falconio (pictured, with his girlfriend Joanne Lees) may have been discovered
Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan when they were pulled over by drug-runner Bradley Murdoch (pictured right) who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees
Joan Falconio (pictured with Peter’s father Luciano) is still tormented by the loss of her son on a remote stretch of road between Alice Springs and Darwin
Mrs Falconio, 76, said: ‘We have not heard anything officially yet. We would have expected the Australian police to have rang if that was the situation, we hope they would have, but we’ve not heard’. She and her 80-year-old husband have no plans to travel to Australia because ‘our health is not as good.’
Murdoch is serving 28 years in prison. He is eligible for parole in 10 years – but will not walk free without revealing the location of Peter’s remains under the Northern Territory’s ‘no body, no release’ laws.
Last year it emerged Peter’s family were given a tip-off just hours after a $1million reward for information was offered.
Reports at the time suggested a new potential witness was found, raising hopes of a breakthrough for his heartbroken parents Joan and Luciano – and Ms Lees.
Mrs Falconio said: ‘I’m still in contact with Joanne, of course I am. We get on, we still see her but our conversations remain private.’
A memorial to Peter was finally put in place at a spot in the vast Outback in summer 2016. She added: ‘We’re doing alright, we’re okay as a family.’
Forensic experts will find out if the human remains belong to the backpacker using DNA and dental records.
Mr Falconio and Ms Lees were in an orange campervan driving along the remote Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin on July 14, 2001.
They were pulled over by Murdoch, who shot Mr Falconio and tried to abduct Ms Lees.
She managed to escape, hiding in the bush for hours until she flagged down a truck and raised the alarm – but no trace of her boyfriend’s body has ever been found.
Last September, Peter’s 75-year-old mother broke her silence to beg for information about the location of her son’s body on what would have been his 50th birthday.
Mrs Falconio pleaded for ‘anyone with a conscience’ to help locate his remains.
It led to a new witness coming forward to reveal he spotted a ute – just like the killer’s – parked ‘in an odd place’ by a culvert and a bridge 24 hours after the murder.
Ms Lees is now 48 and living in Huddersfield and still stays in contact with Peter’s parents.
Northern Territory police have done multiple searches for the British tourist’s body over the years and remained hopeful of finding his remains (pictured, Mr Falconio and Ms Lees). Joanne Lees (right) would escape Murdoch and hide before raising the alarm
Bradley Murdoch grabbed Joanne Lees, tied her up with cable ties and bundled her into the back of his ute. She would later re-enact it in the hope somebody would help find Peter
Bradley Murdoch is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia
Peter and girlfriend Joanne Lees were in a campervan driving along the remote Stuart Highway (pictured) between Alice Springs and Darwin on July 14, 2001
The couple were on a trip around Australia in 2001 when Murdoch drew alongside and signalled them to pull over, claiming there were flames coming out the back of their van.
When Mr Falconio went to the rear to inspect it with Murdoch, he was shot dead.
Murdoch then grabbed Ms Lees, tied her up with cable ties and bundled her into the back of his ute.
She managed to wriggle free as he disposed of Mr Falconio’s body and their van, and hid in the bush to avoid Murdoch’s dog while he searched for her.
Murdoch eventually gave up and drove off with the body before Ms Lees flagged down a truck and was taken to a nearby roadhouse in Barrow Creek.
The police hunt for Mr Falconio and his killer then began 21 years ago and finally led to the arrest of Murdoch, who claimed he was innocent, after DNA from Ms Lees’ t-shirt matched his.
Joanne Lees managed to wriggle free as he disposed of Mr Falconio’s body and their van (pictured in 2005 in the carpark of the Supreme Court in Darwin), and hid in the bush to avoid Murdoch’s dog while he searched for her
Murdoch conceded he looked similar to a suspect captured on CCTV footage (pictured) filmed at a Shell truck stop in Alice Springs, central Australia, a few hours after the alleged murder – but he denied it was him
He is now serving life in Darwin Correctional Centre.
Bradley Murdoch is eligible for parole in 10 years – but will not walk free without revealing the location of Peter Falconio’s body under the NT’s ‘no body no release’ laws
Murdoch is believed to have hidden the remains somewhere in the vast expanse of desert between Alice Springs and Broome, 1,700km away in Western Australia.
Daily Mail Australia can reveal police emptied an outback well in 2019 where Mr Falconio’s body was thought to be dumped.
Detectives were led to the location at Neutral Junction cattle station within a mile from where Mr Falconio was shot after an witness came forward to say he saw a ute there like Murdoch’s on the night of the attack.
A TV crew led by Today Tonight reporter Frank Pangallo – now a South Australian state politician for SA BEST Party – first explored the site in 2014 but the well held 49ft of water and was inaccessible.
But police returned to the site in 2019 after the personal plea from Mr Falconio’s mother and conducted a full investigation – but failed to find any trace of him.
‘Mrs Falconio contacted me and asked if I could convince NT Police to undertake a full search of the well to eliminate the clue,’ Mr Pangallo told Daily Mail Australia.
Ms Lees and Mr Falconio had stopped and shared a sunset joint at Ti Tree, a one-horse town between Alice Springs and Barrow Creek, as they drove north on their way to the Devil’s Marbles
‘I then arranged an affidavit from the eyewitness, a truck driver who had been contracted by the cattle station, and sent it to senior NT Police.
‘NT Police found him to be credible and emptied the well in a five-day operation in 2019 but unfortunately found nothing.
‘It was the right thing for them to do and I can only praise their efforts.’