British backpacker Joanna Lees is seen in the UK more than two decades after her boyfriend was murdered in the Australian outback
- Joanna Lees was attacked in Australia when travelling with her boyfriend
- Peter Falconio, 28, was murdered in 2001, but Ms Lees managed to escape
The former girlfriend of backpacker Peter Falconio, who was murdered 23 years ago, is seen in the UK more than two decades after he was killed in the Australian outback.
Joanna Lees was attacked in Australia in 2001 when travelling with her boyfriend.
While she managed to escape, he was murdered – shot in the head by drug runner Bradley John Murdoch.
Years on from that tragic moment, she said she was applying to be an Australian citizen to be with her half-sister Jess McMillan – and was even changing her surname to match.
But she was recently spotted back at her two-bed Huddersfield home in West Yorkshire.
Joanne Lees was recently spotted back at her two-bed Huddersfield home in West Yorkshire
Ms Lees grew up in Huddersfield with her mother Jennifer, her stepfather and stepbrother
Pictured: Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees
In July 2001, Ms Lees and Mr Falconio were travelling through Australia
A graphic showing the location of where the murder took place
Joanne Lees (left) learned she had a younger Australian half sister Jess (right) as she searched for the body of her murdered boyfriend Peter Falconio
In July 2001, Ms Lees and Mr Falconio were travelling through Australia when Murdoch waved down their Volkswagen Kombi camper van.
Murdoch shot Mr Falconio in the head and threatened Ms Lees with the gun and bound her with restraints before she managed to escape – hiding in bushes for five hours while her attacker hunted for her with his dog.
READ MORE – How Joanne Lees has bonded with her lost Kiwi sister
Murdoch was later convicted of murdering Mr Falconio, who was 28 at the time, and of assaulting Ms Lees – then aged 27, on the Stuart Highway near Barrow Creek, north of Alice Springs.
Despite extensive searches, the body of Mr Falconio has never been found, and Ms Lees, now 48, never married or had children following the tragic death.
In 2017, she travelled to Australia to the scene of the shooting for a television show and that year she discovered her younger half-sister, Jess McMillan.
That January, her cousin Corrine tweeted: ‘It was great to meet my newfound cousin Joanne Lees from the UK and welcome her to our McMillan family!’
New Zealand primary school teacher Jess McMillan – the daughter of Ms Lees’ estranged father- told the show 60 Minutes she didn’t know about the events of 2001 until she met her sister, eight years her senior.
Ms Lees told the show: ‘I feel less alone in the world. When wonderful things happen I want to share them with Jess.’
The pair grew close, and Ms Lees revealed she was applying for Australian citizenship so she could move closer to her new-found family members – who spread as far as Queensland.
Ms Lees grew up in Huddersfield with her mother Jennifer, her stepfather Vincent and her step-brother Sam.
She is reported to be living in the rural town in the terraced house she’s owned for 16 years, working as a social worker at the Directorate for Children and Young People for Kirklees Council.
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