This case has its beginnings in mid 2002 when its alleged that Bradley Murdoch raped a 12 year old girl and sexually molested her mother. Both were friends of Bradley Murdoch and at the time Murdoch was staying with them, lodging in a guest house on the country property where the girl and her mother lived. The defacto husband of the girls mother was, at that time, in a hospital in Adelaide having his lungs cleared of fluid, he was suffering from cancer. Both the young girl and her mother testified in court that Bradley Murdoch sexually attacked and abducted them. Bradley told the mother that he took them as insurance in case the police caught up with Murdoch and he would let them go later, which he did. He forced both women into the back of his truck and proceeded to handcuff and chain them to the metal frame in the back of his 4x4 tray. He then concealed the women by closing the canvas cover over the meshed interior. He had the women under his control for around 25 hours before releasing them at a petrol station outside Port Augusta S.A. He gave them $1000 and said if you go to the police I'll take you both out with my rifle.
The girl, Melissa (pseudonym) and her mum Tania, (pseudonym) were caught on CCTV cameras outside the petrol station in Port Augusta and were seen to go into the toilets and then later came into the shop, they asked to use the telephone. Tania called her defacto (Fred) at the hospital and then took a taxi to see him and explain what happened. Once there Fred called Darryl Cragan and asked if he could come pick up the girls and take them somewhere safe. Darryl collected them and they all booked into the Bolivar caravan park. The following day Fred was released from hospital and joined them at the caravan park. In the meantime they pondered over what to do, Murdoch said he would shoot the women if they went to the police but also said, he was on his way to W.A to kill a few people and then to shoot himself. They thought if they waited it out for a few days hopefully Murdoch would be out of the state or dead and then it would be safe to contact the police.
Darryl had become Murdoch's partner in transporting drugs and Murdoch purchased a car and a gun for Darryl and gave him a share in the profits. At some point during the 5 days at the caravan park Darryl had visited the rented property where Murdoch was now basing his drug transport operation from, he took half of the money that as kept there and went back to the caravan park. Darryl thought he was entitled to his fair share of the money. With the police soon to be come involved Darryl had a window of opportunity and took it. Darryl had been a friend to Bradley Murdoch for a long time, since their school days back in Western Australia. But it seems that in recent times Darryl and Bradley's friendship was on shaky ground and the friendship was rapidly dissolving.
The crime was reported and the police were now on the hunt for Bradley Murdoch, he was later spotted and followed going into a supermarket and promptly arrested on his exit. Murdoch did not put up a struggle, he seemed to surrender and when the charges were read out to him he said yep, I understand. Later on attempts were made to obtain DNA samples from Murdoch, but he refused over and over. Finally samples were taken, only to sit in storage untested. Murdoch's legal council had appealed against the samples being tested. It seemed Murdoch was very reluctant to have his DNA tested and this appeared to be suspicious. They lost the appeal. Some time after the samples were tested the DNA profile belonging to Bradley Murdoch was sent to the N.T and compared with the DNA profile of the blood spot found on Joannes T shirt. It was a 16 site match, it proved Bradley Murdoch had been in close personal contact with Joanne Lees. This proved that Bradley Murdoch was in someway involved.
Bradley Murdoch was found not guilty of the rape and abduction charges and was acquitted. The case was lost and the girl. Unfortunately the prosecution was light on evidence and the defence attacked the character of Tania as she was a former prostitute and the Fred a former brothel owner. In court Tania made a grave error, Fred had told her not to speak about Darryl's full involvement, and she kept it quiet, when questioned directly the truth came out. That Darryl had helped them and he took half of Murdoch's money. Its unclear what Fred's motives were in asking Tania to keep quiet aout Darryl, maybe he wanted to get the other half of the money and if the police knew about the rented property and the money Fred would not be able to get his hands on it. This act of greed and deception did not sit well with the jury or the judge, Tania had now weakened the case by witholding information.
Melissa was checked by a GP and it was confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted and quite recently. But when the GP asked if she could do a further more intrusive internal exam, Melissa who was already very distressed, became upset and refused. This denied the prosecution of the possibility of valuable DNA evidence but no one could blame Melissa for her refusal, she had just been through a very harrowing ordeal. During the 5 days at the caravan park, the clothes that Melissa and Tania were wearing at the time of the rape were thrown away. Probably because they were soiled and smelly and no doubt a reminder of the incident. This innocent enough act again denied the prosecution of valuable DNA evidence.
The jury were not convinced, there was a lack of crucial DNA evidence, and Tania had deceived the court by not mentioning Darryl Cragan's involvement. The jury could not all agree on a verdict and therefore Murdoch had to be acquitted of all charges. There were many people that were outraged, how could this happen.. few believed the mother and daughter would make up such a horrible story. Bradley Murdoch was released and as he stepped out of the court he was arrested by the Northern Territory police, taken into custody and transported to the N.T to answer charges regarding the assault on Joanne Lees and the alleged murder of Peter Falconio.