NT News’ graphic description of backpacker Peter Falconio’s murder not justified, rules APC

An article published in the NT News headlined ‘Falconio ‘Cut Up, Dumped” in print with a photograph entitled ‘Slain British backpacker Peter Falconio..with girlfriend Joanne Lees’, has been lambasted by the press watchdog after Falconio’s mother said it was published without any regard for the distress it would cause to her and her family.

The Australian Press Council found the NT News’ graphic description of the alleged handling of Falconio’s body caused substantial offence to the family.


NT News’ article included specific claims the body was “transported across three states” before being “cut and dumped”. It was based off an anonymous letter which contained new claims about the location of Falconio’s body.

Falconio’s mother, Joan Falconio, said the letter should’ve been referred to the police, arguing it was not in the public interest.

But NT News argued Falconio’s murder and the conviction of Bradley Murdoch was in the public interest, particularly given the letter revealed new allegations related to the whereabouts of Falconio’s body.

The publisher said it presented the allegations to a high-ranked officer in the Northern Territory Police Force who said the letter might be authentic, and it delayed publication of the story to allow police to contact the complainant’s family.

NT News did acknowledge the distress caused by the article.

The Press Council ruled NT News had taken reasonable steps to present the letter with accuracy, fairness and balance. But it also said the publication had failed to take reasonable steps to avoid causing distress. While it said there is a public interest in reporting the crime, anonymous and unverified allegations did not justify the graphic details presented in the story.


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