Today Tonight reporter Frank Pangallo (right) being directed to the well, which is reportedly a possible resting site for Peter Falconio’s remains. Photo: YouTube
The reporter behind a Today Tonight story, which claims to have found the possible resting place of missing British tourist Peter Falconio, has hit back at allegations of fraud.
Falconio, 28, has been missing since 2001 when he and girlfriend Joanne Lees were attacked while on a camping holiday through the Northern Territory.
Lees escaped their attacker but it has long been believed that Falconio died. Bradley John Murdoch is serving a life sentence for the murder and Falconio’s body has never been found.
Still missing … Peter Falconio, pictured in his van with Joanne Lees, before they were ambushed by a Bradley John Murdoch. Photo: Reuters
Today Tonight aired its “exclusive” story on Thursday night, which pointed to a well just 2.5 kms from where the attack took place as Falconio’s possible grave.
Frank Pangallo, a senior reporter and producer for Today Tonight, has been investigating the case for years and says his report is a valid lead and the “best” so far.
But shortly after the segment aired, it was pointed out the footage used to show the well’s location had been filmed at least two years ago, with critics saying this made the claim fraudulent.
Up for appeal … Bradley Murdoch was guilty of the 2001 killing of English traveller Peter Falconio. Photo: Bryan Charlton
A report on Network Ten branded the story “shameful” and Nine’s David Hurley called the story a “travesty”, calling on Seven and Today Tonight to “apologise unreservedly for the deliberate fraud it has perpetrated on its viewers, and hand in its practising certificate”.
“And second, fearless reporter Frank Pangallo must be lowered into the well to complete his so-called investigation.”
Pangallo has hit back, saying the fact that the footage was shot in 2011 in no way diminishes the story and he’ll vigorously defend in court any claims that he acted fraudulently, if need be.
“Just what’s the relevance of that I shot the Falconio story in March 2011 and broadcast it now?” he said. “A conspiracy of some kind? Is it Today Tonight being sneaky and unethical? Fraud? Give me a break!
“It’s my story to break when I choose. It’s never been broadcast before. It’s not faked. I’ve told the NT News, yesterday, we shot the story in March 2011. Last year we aired a series in Adelaide that I had been shooting for two years.
“We’ve been waiting for the (well) levels to subside so we could return to dig for some evidence. We’ve kept monitoring the situation since then.”
Pangallo said he had been misquoted by one newspaper, which reported he had told them: “The body is there. It’s there.”
“I never said that,” Pangallo said. “I said, ‘If there’s a body down there, it would still be there’.”
Pangallo said he decided to air the story now because of recent changes in the case, including Bradley Murdoch’s appeal, and that he had not called NT police before airing the story because he understood they received numerous calls from people claiming to know the location of Falconio’s body.
“It’s factual,” he said of his report. “The new lead is significant new information.
I sat on it hoping to get more evidence but that has proven to be difficult.”
He said he would seek legal advice over the fraud claims.
“I am angry and disappointed that someone would accuse me of fraud, as Nine have, or as Channel Ten today say its ‘shameful’ journalism,” Pangallo said.
“I shall be taking legal action against those claims.”