There are a sea of faded bank notes on a wall of the dusty Barrow Creek Hotel -- each tell a story, but none are as gripping as the one that lies beneath an innocuous five dollar note.
Paul Falconio pinned the five dollars there; poignant shout for his missing brother Peter, there's a drink waiting for him should he ever walk through the door. He never has -- nor is it likely he ever will.
Thirteen years on, Bradley Murdoch is eight years into a life sentence for the murder of Peter Falconio -- and attempting to kill his girlfriend Joanne Lees. The young British tourists were travelling north in their red VW Kombi, 300 kilometres from Alice Springs. It was a crime so frightening and bizarre it had the world riveted.
At a specific point on the Stuart Highway, Bradley John Murdoch murdered Peter Falconio and a nearby area of bush is where Joanne Lees hid from Murdoch. But there's one last remaining piece of the puzzle yet to be solved and that is where did Murdoch hide Peter Falconio’s body?
Many have tried and failed to solve it. “I know for a fact that Falconio's body is buried on Neutral Junction Station somewhere”, said Paul Jackson, an old-school newspaper crime reporter.
That is an understatement. “It’s 4600 square kilometres, so I think that's a bit under 1.2 million acres”, said Charles Firth, owner of Neutral Junction Station.
But now -- the best lead ever in solving the final piece of this baffling riddle. “What are the chances of a vehicle looking like Murdoch's is going to be at that area at that time one hour 20 minutes after the murder which happened 2.5km away?” said Paul.
Paul Jackson plied his trade in Adelaide and then Darwin. He's now retired but reckons there's one more big yarn in him – and this is it. “One day it will be found. Someone will walk across it, stumble across it or dig it up or whatever, but it's there”, he said.
Paul’s taken us to Neutral Junction Station and it’s by a well where an old friend of his claims his attention was drawn to a parked vehicle. He was taking a short cut in his road train around 9.15 on the night of the murder.
“He saw this white vehicle with a black canopy on it and he had big headlights and spotlights on his vehicle and he slowed down -- really slowed down -- and he thought maybe they need some help. He didn't see anyone, he didn't see anything; he just slowly cruised pass. He had no idea that a murder or abduction had even taken place an hour or so ago on the highway”, Paul said.
Jackson's convinced it was Murdoch that night parked by the well, disposing of Peter Falconio's body. The sighting was just an hour after the killing. “If you're a killer and a pre-mediated killer, you're not going to carry your body around for hours and hours on the road. You might get picked up by the highway police for speeding or drinking or whatever. You get rid of the body straight away”, Paul said.
It makes a lot of sense the killer would have been panicked by the escape of Joanne Lees into the bush and would have had no time to dig a grave.
The timeframe also matches up with the distance Murdoch would have had to travel south to Alice Springs to be caught on CCTV footage at about 12.30 am. “If you tie up the kilometres and timelines you're within a minute or two either way or a kilometre either way”, Paul said.
“I am 100% sure that Peter Falconio's body is down the bottom of the well and I'm sure we will find the silver revolver that shot him in the back of the head. And I'm sure we will find Joanne Lee's jacket with the metal Levi studs”, Paul said.
With the consent of Neutral Junction's owners, Charlie and Liz, we went with Paul Jackson to explore the deep limestone bricked well. In the team are experienced abseilers Ian Richards and Dennis Liddicoat and respected forensic anthropologist Dr Kathryn Powell.
We lowered a camera to the bottom -- there's 12 years of silt build up -- enough to completely cover human remains, most likely by now skeletal.
However recent heavy rainfall has raised the water levels of the once dry well fed by a nearby underground stream. Before we could attempt to retrieve silt samples for Dr Powell, the heavens opened and we had no choice but to scramble out -- the only road out turned into a torrent.
Charlie and Liz seemed to have coped with clairvoyants, water diviners and other amateur sleuths, all looking to write the final chapter of this outback thriller. “I do hope he will be found, that you'd find something that will help you for closure”, Liz said.
“I think it will happen one day. These things seems to just work that way -- I just think one day it's going to happen and just maybe on bone or one part of his body and then they'll go from there”, Charlie said..
As for the old newshound, he remains undaunted. “I've spent so much time on this and I just don't think I could possibly be wrong”, Paul said.