Falconio DNA evidence questioned

Other News Materials 23 December 2007 13:14 (UTC +04:00)

Concerns over DNA testing have resulted in calls for a review of the case against the man convicted of killing British tourist Peter Falconio.

Bradley Murdoch was convicted using the same technique criticised last week by a judge who acquitted the man accused of Northern Ireland's Omagh bombing.

Murdoch is serving a life sentence for the murder of Mr Falconio on a stretch of central Australian highway in 2001.

He was also found guilty of abducting Mr Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees.

The forensic technique, that was a key part of the prosecution's case against Murdoch, claims to be able to amplify very small genetic samples to create a reliable profile.

The evidence convinced an Australian jury that DNA found on ties used in the attack against Mr Falconio and his girlfriend belonged to Murdoch.

But the Australian Council for Civil Liberties said if the technique had been called into question in the case against Sean Hoey for the 1998 Omagh bombing, then the evidence used against Murdoch must be reviewed.

The council's Terry O'Gorman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Mr Murdoch should be immediately given a special grant of legal aid with a special component to examine the forensic evidence.

"If there's a serious question mark over it, it should go back to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal should reconsider whether his conviction is safe.

"This is not any special call for sympathy for Murdoch. The reality is it's absolutely imperative that forensic evidence used in criminal cases be highly reliable.

"Over the last two decades the principal cause of miscarriage of justice in criminal cases, particularly in high-profile cases, has been misuse of forensic evidence."

Murdoch is serving life for a minimum period of 28 years for the murder on a stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, about 200 miles north of Alice Springs.

In June 2007, he lost an appeal at the High Court of Australia against his conviction and the severity of his 28-year sentence.

Murdoch has always denied he was the killer and Mr Falconio's body has never been found.

Ms Lees escaped and was found in the desert by a truck driver. ( BBC )