From infamous true-crime victim to bestselling true-crime author, the transformation of Joanne Lees seems as unlikely as the nightmare that unfolded in the pitch black of an outback night more than five years ago. She first captured the public imagination as a traumatised backpacker at the centre of an ambush on a deserted highway in Australia's vast Red Centre. But like Lindy Chamberlain before her, who famously protested a dingo had taken her baby, Lees' account of an astonishing escape from a gunman who had apparently killed her boyfriend, Peter Falconio, was soon clouded in doubt and suspicion. This week one of the most enduring crime mysteries of modern times takes its latest twist with the eagerly-awaited publication of Lees' book - the sixth to be written on the seemingly never-ending saga. At least one more book, and a TV movie, are in the works. Had Lees also disappeared that awful July night in 2001, the crime would have quickly faded from collective memory. Instead she survived to describe an ordeal - endured in one of the darkest, lonely and most frightening places on the planet - that struck at our most basic fears. The problem for Lees, and the main reason for the continuing infatuation, is that she chose not to co-operate with an insatiable media desperate to relay her personal account of a story that had everything. Her refusal to conform to the tearful victim stereotype, and break down for the cameras, created an information vacuum that was quickly filled by wild speculation, gossip and conspiracy theories. 'On my journey from that night to now, I have been spied on, lied to and exploited by people pretending to have my best interests at heart,' she said last week. 'I have been portrayed in the most luridly negative way in the press, and all but accused of murder.' The 33-year-old former travel agent says her new book, No Turning Back, is an attempt to provide the public with the 'real truth', and defuse what some have dubbed the 'Lindyfication of Joanne Lees'. True to past form, the carefully orchestrated PR campaign will restrict her involvement with prying journalists. There will be two pre-recorded TV interviews on the BBC and Australia's ABC, and limited interviews with other media. Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers in Britain and Australia are believed to have paid in excess of #100,000 (HK$1.46 million) for a serialisation deal and interview. 'Many national newspapers were desperate for my story,' she says in a podcast posted on the website of British newspaper, The Times. 'But I declined all offers, many of them substantial, because I wanted the public to have the full truth, not simply a journalistic take on what happened, glossed and distorted to make it as sensational as possible.' Apart from the committal hearing and trial, on the one occasion Lees spoke at length publicly to British TV's Martin Bashir, she was paid #50,000. A sum reported to be at least five times that amount helped broker the deal for the book she says has been written for the man she loved, Peter, and to let other victims of crime and their relatives know that justice is worth the long wait. No Turning Back hits book shops in Britain, Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, bang on time for the Christmas sales rush. Shops are under strict orders not to open any stock beforehand, and no advance copies have been released for review. Although she has no previous writing experience, Lees declined the services of a ghost writer for a project she began after Bradley Murdoch, an outback drifter and small-time drug-runner, was convicted of Falconio's murder last year. At the trial in Darwin, Lees told how Murdoch had flagged down the backpacking couple on the remote Stuart Highway, north of Alice Springs. After Falconio, 28, went back to check their van's exhaust, Lees heard a loud bang and saw the other man brandishing a gun. Within moments she was bound and gagged, fearing she would be raped and murdered. But Lees managed to escape, staggered into the darkness and hid behind bushes 40 metres away. Only the dull roar of a passing road train five hours later persuaded her to venture back to the road and raise the alarm. The jury took just eight hours to unanimously convict 48-year-old Murdoch. His DNA, extracted from a single spot of blood found on Lees' T-shirt, proved to be the most crucial evidence. Nevertheless, the trial highlighted several inconsistencies in Lees' recollection and intensified speculation surrounding the case. At least three authors of books on the murder believe there is far more to the story, although each stress they are not alleging any crimes on Lees' part. Former private investigator Robin Bowles, who wrote Dead Centre, says Lees' descriptions to police bore little resemblance to Murdoch and his dog. Identification issues will form the basis of his appeal, which is due to be heard by three judges in December. 'There are a huge number of questions,' says Bowles, who continues to wonder why the holidaying couple set off on a 300km journey just two hours before dusk. At night remote Australian roads become hazardous due to the danger of crashing into feral animals like kangaroos. She suspects they had to make a rendezvous which went 'pear shaped'. 'I have a feeling it is possible that Peter might have been ferrying some drugs to someone and it was a handover that went wrong,' says Bowles. Opinions like those enrage Lees, whose disdain for her fellow authors ranks alongside her dislike of the media. Refusing to read their books, she tells how she is determined to 'reclaim my life from these storytellers'. 'It astonishes me that [those books] could be written when none of the authors have ever spoken to me or even my close friends and family,' says Lees, who either refused or ignored their requests for co-operation. But she hopes her story will finally silence the sceptics. 'I do realise that people have built up a deep curiosity about this case and my reticence has only served to intensify this. So I have decided to write this book to satisfy their curiosity. What chance do I have of a private life in the future if their questions remain unanswered?'