A MECHANIC suffered a "substantial miscarriage of justice" when he was found guilty of murdering Huddersfield backpacker Peter Falconio in the Australian Outback, a court heard today.
Bradley Murdoch, 48, is appealing in the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal in Darwin against his conviction and sentence for shooting 28-year-old Mr Falconio, of Hepworth, five years ago.
He was found guilty by a Darwin jury in December last year on the basis of unreliable evidence given by Mr Falconio's girlfriend, Joanne Lees, the appeal heard.
Ian Barker QC, for Murdoch, argued the trial judge should have excluded Miss Lees' identification of Murdoch in a photograph line-up because she had already seen his picture on the internet.
Her evidence in court that a photograph of Murdoch's dog was "very similar" to the animal belonging to Mr Falconio's killer was also unsound, he told the court.
Mr Barker said: "The trial resulted in a substantial miscarriage of justice because evidence was let in that should not have been admitted."
He added: "Mr Murdoch is entitled to a trial according to the law and, we respectfully submit, he didn't get it."
The appeal heard that in August 2002, when Miss Lees was working in Sicily, a friend directed her to an article about her on the BBC website.
Mr Barker said the site included a photograph of Murdoch and described him as Australian police's prime suspect for murdering Mr Falconio.
It also said there was DNA evidence linking him to the killing and gave details of his recent arrest in South Australia on suspicion of abducting and raping a 12-year-old girl and her mother.
Miss Lees, of Almondbury, was not expecting to see the photograph of Murdoch on the website but she said she immediately knew it was the man who had killed her boyfriend, the court heard.
Five weeks later, when police showed her a photo board of 12 different people, she correctly picked out Murdoch.
Miss Lees again identified him in the dock at a committal hearing and at last year's trial.
The trial judge, Chief Justice Brian Martin, ruled that her recognition of Murdoch when she saw his photograph on the BBC site was "spontaneous identification".
But Mr Barker said: "After the internet picture what followed, I respectfully submit, was merely hollow ritual.
"The photo board identification was a foregone conclusion and so was the dock identification. Once she saw him in Sicily on the internet the die was cast."
Mr Barker also raised doubts about the reliability of Miss Lees' identification of Murdoch's dog Jack, a mongrel dalmatian.
Between the night of the murder and May 2004, when she was shown a picture of the dog, she "displayed significant uncertainty about what the dog really looked like," he said.
She initially described the animal as brown and white and picked out a blue heeler, an Australian cattle dog, when shown a book with pictures of different dog breeds.
But on May 12, 2004, shortly before a committal hearing in the case, the Northern Territory's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) showed her a picture of Murdoch's very different-looking dog, Mr Barker said.
The DPP told her it was Murdoch's dog and she said this animal was "very similar" to the one that was with her boyfriend's murderer on the night of the killing, the appeal heard.
Mr Barker said: "The process of identification stopped when she saw that dog photograph book and selected a blue heeler.
"It's not right that the Crown should come back and have another go because she didn't pick the right dog."
He added: "It is surely obviously that, having been told that the dog she was looking at is a photo of Murdoch's dog, it's unlikely for her to say, `I don't think the dog I saw looked like that'."
Murdoch is serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 28 years for murdering Mr Falconio on a remote stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs, on July 14, 2001.
He was also convicted of abducting and assaulting Miss Lees, a 33-year-old support worker who now lives in Brighton, East Sussex.
The couple were travelling along the Stuart Highway heading north towards Darwin when Murdoch, of Broome, Western Australia , flagged down their orange camper van, last year's trial heard.
The mechanic shot Mr Falconio dead before threatening Miss Lees with a gun to her head and painfully tying her up with her hands behind her back, the court was told.
She told the trial of how she managed to escape and hide in the bush for more than five hours on the moonless night before being rescued.
But Mr Falconio was never seen again and his body has never been found.
Murdoch, who admitted using amphetamines to stay awake as he transported cannabis long distances across Australia, has always denied he was the killer and no motive for the attack has ever been established.
Neither Murdoch nor Miss Lees is present at the appeal, which is listed for four days.