Dead Centre

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Random House Australia
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True Crime
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Book Synopsis

When British tourist Peter Falconio disappeared in the centre of Australia on July 14, 2001, it made front page news around the world. A man had driven past his car, telling him there were sparks coming from the back of his van. Peter Falconio got out of the car to inspect. It was the last time his girlfriend Joanne Lees saw him. Remaining in the car, she heard a gunshot and was attacked and thrown into a ute. She managed to escape the gunman although he had gagged her and bound her hands.

Just what happened to Falconio ignited a massive media blitz and police hunt. While the media immediately chased interviews with Joanne Lees and attacked her for refusing to admit to the media that she was innocent (or talk publicly at all), Northern Territory police were convinced she was innocent.

Finally in August 2002 NT police had a suspect - Bradley Murdoch, a nomad arrested and later acquitted for the rape of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. A battle was waged in the courts to test Murdoch's DNA against blood found on Joanne Lees' blouse. When they had a DNA match, police had a new legal battle over whether South Australian police should have the first chance to take Murdoch to court over the rape charges or NT police should be first off the mark given the international interest of Falconio's disappearance.

Dead Centre tells the full story of this crime and its characters. As Sydney University Associate Professor of Psychology Diana Kenny would say, 'On the face of it, it's an extraordinary tale. No body, no criminal and an English girl in the Australian outback appears to outsmart a bushman [and his dog]'. And for Joanne Lees, the days that followed would be seen through a salt-water blur. The horror was just beginning. It would not only be the police that she'd have to convince over the weeks and months to come.

Robin Bowles has covered the mystery from day one - not as a journalist but as an investigative writer. She sat through the court committal and spent more than 40 hours interviewing the suspect in jail - insider access that no other commentator has had. She has covered the trial which has just come to a close in Darwin, Australia.

Robin has interviewed more than 150 people involved in the case - people she met in all kinds of locations - pubs, cattle stations, universities, windswept beaches, dark coffee lounges, police stations and private homes. In her trademark, inquiring style, Robin tells the full story of this puzzling crime and raises key issues of legal justice. She has the police and legal contacts - as well as the reputation - to reach everyone involved in this intruiging mystery. If you want to know the truth about what happened to Peter Falconio, Robin Bowles is the person to tell it.

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