DRUGS runner Bradley Murdoch (pictured) was today found guilty of murdering Huddersfield backpacker Peter Falconio.
Even though the 28-year-old Hepworth man's body has never been found, the jury were satisfied drifter Murdoch killed him on a remote stretch of desert highway in the Australian Outback more than four years ago.
Murdoch, of Broome, Western Australia, was also found guilty of depriving Peter's girlfriend Joanne Lees of her liberty and assaulting her on the Stuart Highway, near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs, on July 14, 2001.
The 47-year-old flagged the couple down in their orange camper van and shot Mr Falconio dead before threatening Joanne, 32, with a gun to her head and tying her up with her hands behind her back, the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin heard.
She managed to escape and hide in the bush for more than five hours on the moonless night before being rescued, but Peter was never seen again and his body has never been found.
Joanne, 32, formerly from Almondbury but now living in Brighton, told police she was threatened with a gun to her head, tied up with her hands behind her back and put into the back of her attacker's vehicle, but managed to escape from under the loose canopy.
She heard a gunshot, but never saw Peter again.
The judge had told the jury they had to consider whether they could be satisfied, in the absence of a body, whether Mr Falconio was shot and killed.
Joanne sat shaking in the public gallery as the jurors returned to their seats.
Mr Falconio's brother, Paul, placed his arm around her shoulder for support and as the jury's verdict was read out Joanne cried.
Sitting in front of them, Mr Falconio's parents Joan and Luciano, of Holmfirth, held hands and turned around to shake hands with their sons, Paul and Nick.
In the dock Murdoch, wearing a blue shirt, showed no emotion as the jury's verdict was read out nor when he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
All the verdicts were unananimous.
Trial judge, Chief Justice Brian Martin, sentenced Murdoch to life imprisonment.
The minimum term will be set at a later date.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery and is one of the main unanswered questions from the case - along with what happened to Peter's body.
Chief Justice Martin told the jury: "For what it's worth, can I say in respect to your verdict that I entirely agree with your verdict.
"In the future, do not look back with second thoughts or with any doubts.
"You will never be able to recreate the circumstances and knowledge you had in that jury room. Details will fade.
"You might not think that they will, but they will.
"Know that you did your job and that you did it extremely well.
"Do not look back at later times and have any second thoughts whatsoever. I thank you very much indeed for your service."
Murdoch's lawyer Grant Algie told the court he had been instructed to appeal.
SEE tomorrow's Huddersfield Examiner for full background, reaction and analysis