Joanne Lees returns to search for body of murdered boyfriend Peter Falconio

Joanne Lees, the girlfriend of the murdered British backpacker Peter Falconio, has returned to the Northern Territory outback for the first time in 15 years to join in attempts to find his body.

She will also unveil a giant silver falcon sculpture in the outback to honour his memory.

Lees, 43, from West Yorkshire, said she wanted to “bring him home” as she returned to the scene of the shooting of Peter Falconio for an episode of the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program.

She also revealed that she had tracked down her Australian sister, Jess, whom she only met for the first time last year. “I feel less alone in the world,” Lees said of finding Jess, who is eight years younger.

Lees’ father is Australian but she was raised by her mother and does not discuss her relationship with him.

She also revealed she is planning on becoming an Australian citizen and will be spending more time in the country.

Bradley Murdoch was convicted in 2005 of murdering Falconio, 28, and assaulting Lees, then 27, on a remote stretch of highway near Barrow Creek, north of Alice Springs, on 14 July 2001. The pair were travelling when Murdoch waved down their camper van and shot Falconio in the head.

Lees was threatened with a gun, punched in the head and bound with cable-tie restraints before she managed to escape, hiding in bushes for five hours while her attacker stalked her with a dog.

“Pete lost his life on that night but I lost mine too,” Lees told 60 Minutes. “I’ll never be fully at peace if Pete’s not found, but I accept that that is a possibility.”

Murdoch is believed to have hidden Falconio’s body, which has never been found despite extensive searches.

Lees was shown on 60 Minutes in a helicopter flying over the murder scene, saying: “Pete’s still missing. I know that he’s somewhere here. His spirit just feels stronger whilst I’m in this area because I know he’s nearby.”

When asked by the reporter, Liz Hayes, if she was “stepping inside your attacker’s mind”, she said: “I guess it is a very alien thing for me to do because I’m not a violent person.

“I’m not a murderer but if that’s what I have to do and that’s how I’m going to find Pete then that’s what I’m prepared to do.”

She fought back tears as she added: “It’s because I love Pete so much and I want to bring him home and I need to bring him home.”

She has built strong relationships with the local Aboriginal community who are helping her search for Falconio and have donated art to help her pay for a memorial.

An artist has designed a silver falcon statue which will be erected in Tea Tree, which she said was the last happy place she and Peter shared together before his murder. “The falcon represents his spirit,” she said.

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