BROOME mechanic Bradley Murdoch has been found guilty of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio on a lonely stretch of the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory four years ago.
The result in the eight-week trial which has captivated the nation ever since Falconio and his girlfriend Joanne Lees were attacked while on a working holiday was immediately met with a demand for Murdoch to reveal where he dumped the body.
"I would like Bradley John Murdoch to seriously consider telling me, Joan and Luciano (Falconio) and Pete's brothers what he has done with Pete," Ms Lees said in a prepared statement.
Murdoch, 47, was also last night found guilty of assaulting Ms Lees and depriving her of her liberty.
The Northern Territory Supreme Court jury of six men and six women took eight hours to reach their unanimous decision.
Murdoch showed little emotion when the verdict was read, only shaking his head.
Chief Justice Brian Martin sentenced Murdoch to the mandatory life term for murder.
Ms Lees, who was sitting in the public gallery holding hands with a friend, collapsed in the arms of Falconio's brother Paul after the verdict.
Falconio's parents, Joan and Luciano, who also sat through the trial, broke down.
Murdoch has been in prison since August 2002, when he was arrested in Port Augusta over the abduction and rape of two women in South Australia. He was acquitted of those charges, but was immediately arrested over the Falconio case.
His defence lawyer, Grant Algie, said he had been instructed to launch an appeal.
"Obviously we are disappointed with the result," he said.
Ms Lees, who was treated with suspicion early in the case, stood on the steps of the court to read her prepared statement.
Mr Falconio's brothers Nick and Paul said they had waited four years for the result.
"We are pleased with the verdict but this will not bring Pete back," Nick Falconio said.
Last night's decision followed an eight-week trial, which heard from 85 witnesses and had more than 300 exhibits tendered.
Murdoch's DNA profile was found on the gear stick of the couple's orange Kombi van and deep within the cable ties used to restrain Ms Lees.
DNA on a smudge of blood on the back of Ms Lees's T-shirt was found to be 150 quadrillion (150,000,000,000,000,000) times more likely to belong to Murdoch than anyone else.
The prosecution said Falconio was shot in the head after Murdoch pulled over the couple's van on a remote stretch of the Stuart Highway four years ago.
Murdoch then threatened Ms Lees with a gun, punched her in the head and bound her with cable-ties, but she managed to escape. The prosecution suggested
Murdoch killed Falconio either because he thought he was following him, or because he saw Ms Lees driving the vehicle and thought she was alone.
It was supposed to be a dream world trip for the young British couple. But terror struck mid-way through their holiday, in July 2001, as they drove through the Outback. Driving up the Stuart Highway on a moonless night, the pair stopped when a stranger signalled for them to pull over.
Falconio, 28, got out of his van. Ms Lees heard a gun shot and was then attacked by Murdoch. Falconio's body has not been found.
In its guilty finding, the jury erased any doubts about Ms Lees being anything other than a traumatised and grieving victim.
Murdoch's defence lawyer had tried to discredit the 32-year-old Englishwoman, pointing to apparent inconsistencies in her description of her attacker's vehicle and her memory of the attack.
But Director of Public Prosecutions Rex Wild QC urged the panel to make "proper allowances" for any discrepancies in Ms Lees's testimony because of the ordeal she had faced.
"She was not taking notes, she had the most terrifying experience of her life, or of any person in this room could ever have."
Ms Lees has been a stoic and constant presence in courtroom six during the eight-week hearing, after being called as the first of the 85 witnesses.
The courtroom was silent as the disability support worker explained how she thought she would be raped or killed by the man she believed murdered her boyfriend.
"I just thought that's it, I am definitely going to die," Ms Lees told the jury. "I've got no energy to get out of this situation. I'm just exhausted. I was so frightened. I was more scared of being raped than dying, than being shot by the man.
"When I asked him if he had shot Pete he didn't give an answer."
The case has attracted international media coverage, with scores of journalists, authors and members of the public drawn to the court in Darwin.
In finding him guilty, the jury rejected the claim that Murdoch's DNA may have accidentally and unknowingly got on the back of Ms Lees' T-shirt at the shop.