Jill Dando was murdered in London in April 1999 and she was the host of ‘Crimewatch’ at the time – similar to America’s Most Wanted.
Jill Wendy Dando was born on November 9, 1961. She was born at the Ashcombe House Maternity Home in Somerset in England. Her parents were Jack Dando and Winifred Mary Jean Hockey. Winifred died from leukaemia in 1986 at aged 57. Jack passed away in 2009.
Jill had one sibling, a brother Nigel who was born in 1952, so she was the baby of the family.
Jill’s parents raised her as a Baptist and it is said that she was a devout follower for her whole life.
When Jill was three, doctors found that she had a hole in her heart, as well as a blocked pulmonary artery. She had heart surgery in January 1965, when she was 3.
Jill was successful amongst her peers during her school years. She was head girl during her teen years. She studied journalism at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Jill also loved drama and acting. She was a member of dramatic societies and theatre companies and appeared in plays at her local theatre.
Jill’s first journalistic job was as a trainee reporter for her local newspaper, the Weston Mercury. Her brother Nigel and father Jack both worked on the paper. After five years as a print journalist, she went to work for the BBC in 1985 – British Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1997, Jill was named BBC Personality of the Year.
In 1998, she made the big move from regional to national TV. She moved to London to present BBC news.
She was the host of many shows including Breakfast Time, Breakfast News, BBC One O’Clock news, Holiday and Crimewatch.
Jill moved to Fulham in London in 1994. Just as some background into that area, it is one of the nicest and is in the top four most expensive areas to live in London – the other areas are Kensington and Chelsea (think Kensington Palace), the City of Westminster (Westminster Abbey) and Camden.
The final year of her life, 1999, was one of her most successful, professionally. The day before she died, she presented the first episode of ‘Antiques Inspectors.’ She had been featured on the cover of Radio Times magazine from 20-24 April and she had been scheduled to present the British Academy Television Awards in May, alongside Michael Parkinson.
It has been said that in 1999, Jill was among those with the highest profile of the BBC’s on-screen staff.
In terms of Jill’s personal life, in December 1997, she went on a blind date that had been set up by a mutual friend. Her date was gynaecologist Alan Farthing. Jill and Alan became engaged on January 31, 1999. Their wedding date was set for September 25, 1999.
Just an interesting note, Alan went on to become Queen Elizabeth’s personal doctor.
We will now go into the timeline of the day of Jill’s murder, 26 April 1999. Jill was 37 at the time.
In the morning, she left Alan’s home in Chiswick. She drove to the house she owned in Fulham – around 4 miles and an 11ish minute drive, traffic dependent.
Jill had originally lived in the house but was in the process of selling it and did not go there frequently.
She got out of the car and walked to her front door. At 11.32am, before she could go inside, she was shot once in the head.
Her neighbor Helen Doble discovered her body 14 minutes later and police were called at 11.47am.
Helen said ‘I’m walking along Gowan Avenue. It looks like there is somebody collapsed. Confidentially, it looks like it’s Jill Dando and she’s collapsed. There’s a lot of blood.’
The operator asked Helen to check that the lady was breathing and Helen replied “ She doesn’t look as though she’s breathing. She’s got blood coming from her nose. Her arms are blue.’
The operator asked: ‘I just need to find out if she’s breathing. Is the lady’s chest going up and down?’
Helen started sobbing and she said: ‘Oh my God, no, I don’t think she’s alive. I’m sorry.’
Jill was taken to Charing Cross Hospital where she was declared dead on arrival at 1.03pm.
Some early reports about Jill’s death said that she had been stabbed multiple times, but this proved to be false.
A Scotland Yard statement said: “A post mortem held today at Fulham mortuary established the cause of death as a brain injury caused by a single gunshot wound to the head.”
Alan, Jill’s fiance made a statement and said:
”I am totally devastated and unable to comprehend what has happened. Jill was respected for her professional ability, admired by all who met her and adored by anyone who got to know her.”
The Queen even made a statement saying she was ‘shocked and saddened’ by the murder. Jill had helped the Duke of York to promote a charity called Fight for Sight. Prime Minister Tony Blair also expressed shock about her death.
A neighbor, Richard Hughes spoke about the murder and about seeing a man at the scene.
“I heard her scream, it was a distinctive scream, she sounded quite surprised.
“I opened the shutters and saw a man, he was well dressed, he was wearing a Barbour-style jacket and at first I thought it must have been a friend of Jill’s as he looked very respectable.
“I went to the door and saw her lying on the doorstep, she was unconscious and covered in blood. I was obviously shocked. I took a look at her and she wasn’t breathing.”
Forensic testing indicated that Jill had been shot by a bullet from a 9mm short calibre semi-automatic pistol. The gun had been pressed against her head at the time she was shot. There is an in depth article from the Guardian titled ‘Shadow of Doubt’ and this info about the murder is from that:
As Jill was about to put her keys in the lock to open the front door of her home in Fulham, south-west London, she was grabbed from behind. (The late Iain West, then Britain’s leading pathologist, identified a recent bruise to her right forearm.) With his right arm, the assailant held her and forced her to the ground, so that her face was almost touching the tiled step of the porch. Then, with his left hand, he fired a single shot at her left temple, killing her instantly. It was very close to 11.30am. The bullet entered her head just above her ear, parallel to the ground, and came out the right side of her head and into the door, leaving a mark that was a mere 22cm above the doorstep.
For the killer, there were three advantages to such a clinical, one-shot murder. The first was silence. The gases escaping as the gun was discharged, which normally cause the report, instead exploded inside the head, so there was virtually no noise: Richard Hughes, Jill’s neighbour, was working at the front of the house and heard a brief, sudden cry, but no gunshot.
The second was that the assailant did not end up covered in flesh and blood. The third was speed – Hughes estimated a gap of only 30 seconds between hearing Jill get out of her car and the latch of the gate as the assailant, his job done, closed it behind him; the police estimated it happened even faster than that.
I believe the address of Jill’s house was 29 Gowan Avenue, London. Online records say it is a 5 bedroom freehold terraced house – it is ranked as the 14th most expensive property in SW6 6RH, with a valuation of £1,847,000.
In terms of the gun and ammunition used, it has been theorised that the killer was practised and this is why the short weapon was used. It seems like the plan was always to walk up and kill Jill at close range, so no long-distance accuracy was needed.
When the bullet was examined, six tiny indentations were found. These were “crimping” marks, as the cartridge case was tightened around the bullet, and they were slightly irregular, which suggested that they were handmade. The bullet was correct for the cartridge case, and functioned perfectly in the gun, and the cartridge case was ejected on the spot.
This suggests that the murderer had knowledge about handguns.
There was intense media coverage about Jill’s case. The police named their investigation ‘Operation Oxborough.’ As Jill was so well-known, she had been in contact with thousands of people and was well known to millions.
Within six months of her murder, police had spoken to more than 2,500 people and had taken over 1,000 statements.
Just to jump ahead slightly, by 2001, police had over 14,000 emails traced, and 5,000 people interviewed.
They had also identified 140 people who were found to have an “unhealthy interest” in Jill.
The main focus of the early investigation was on a man named Barry George. Barry lived about half a mile from Jill’s Fulham house. Barry had a history of being a creep – he had been known to stalk women and had been charged with sexual offences, as well as antisocial behavior.
Interestingly, Barry also had a Princess Diana obsession. He had been arrested in 1983 on the grounds of Diana’s home at Kensington Palace. At that time, he had two knives as well as a 15 foot rope on him. He was wearing combat gear and a gas mask.
Offender profiling expert Dr Reid Meloy has said that Barry was ‘very much intending to assault or harm Diana.’ In 1983, Barry had been stopped four times in 10 months from hanging around Kensington Palace in the middle of the night.
Barry didn’t end up being charged over the incident, but when police later searched his apartment, they found pictures and articles about Diana, as well as details of the cars that she drove.
At one point, he was on Scotland Yard’s list of potential dangers to the royal family.
When Diana died in 1997, Barry went to the funeral. He camped out all night at Westminster Abbey to ensure he got a good spot. He had a sign that said “Queen of Hearts”, signed “Barry Bulsara, Freddie Mercury’s cousin (RIP)”.
Barry also had an obsession with Freddie Mercury.
Just to make the whole Barry motive come full circle, the Guardian suggested that his obsession with Freddie could have been the motive to kill Jill.
“He disliked the BBC and its journalists because of the way Freddie Mercury had been treated before he died”, George had reportedly told one woman.
Barry was put under surveillance by police and he was arrested on 25 May 2000. He was charged with Jill’s murder three days later, 28 May.
After Barry was arrested, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Prosecutions psychologists also found that he had several personality disorders including antisocial, histronic, narcissistic and paranoid, as well as ADHD.
He was also said to have epilepsy and and IQ of 75. (100 is average, scores under 70 would be considered below average or ‘borderline impaired.’ Most people have an IQ between 85 and 115. 130 is above average or ‘very superior’)
The main piece of evidence against Barry came when his coat was examined by Forensic Science Services.
A single particle of firearms residue was found in the coat pocket. It was no bigger than one hundredth of a millimetre. Senior Forensic Officer Mr Keeley decided that it matched the discharge residue found at the scene of the killing. Barry admitted that he had been wearing the coat on the day of the murder.
Their other reasoning for Barry’s guilt was that he fit the general description of the man seen fleeing the scene. No witnesses positively identified the suspect as being Barry, but he had been identified as being in the area four hours before the murder.
When Barry was initially interviewed, he lied about his knowledge of Jill and he tried to create a fake alibi.
In Barry’s defence, a Dr Lloyd gave evidence and said that in his opinion, the particle was so small that to rely on it as evidence one year after the murder was incredible. He also argued that the particle could be a result of casual contamination.
The jury took nearly five days to reach their verdict. It was not unanimous (the verdict was a 10-1 majority) but it was a guilty verdict. Barry was sentenced to life in prison on 2 July 2001.
An appeal by Barry in 2002 was unsuccessful. Three senior Court of Appeal judges rejected claims that the evidence used to convict Barry was ‘flimsy’.
The judges said: “We do not consider that the cumulative effect of delay and adverse publicity was such as to render a fair trial no longer possible.
“The trial which took place was fair.”
On identification, the judges ruled: “We are satisfied that there was evidence properly admitted and properly left to the jury for their consideration.
“It was evidence from which the jury could conclude that each witness saw the same man and that the man was the appellant, Barry George.”
Barry’s lawyers launched another appeal in 2006. In March of that year, their appeal was based on fresh evidence regarding medical examinations. These studies suggested that Barry was not capable of committing such a crime due to his mental disabilities.
The defence brought in neuropsychiatrist Michael Kopelman to dispute the prosecution’s claim that Barry showed signs of “histrionics, paranoia and narcissism” and had a personality disorder. Dr Kopelman testified that “[He] described to me that he can be aware of what’s going on around him but he just can’t respond”, and concluded that Barry was not calculating enough to have committed the crime.
A second part of the appeal was that two new witnesses say they saw armed police at the scene when Barry was arrested. This is contrary to official reports where Metropolitan Police maintain there were no armed officers present.
The defence argued that because police officers were there, that may be how the gunshot residue transferred to Barry.
On 20 June, 2007, the Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that it would refer Barry’s case to the Court of Appeal. The hearing began on 5 November, 2007. Two days later, on 7 November 2007, the Court of Appeal reserved judgement in the case and on November 15, it announced that the appeal was allowed and Barry’s conviction was overturned.
A retrial was ordered and Barry was kept in custody.
He appeared in court again on 14 December 2007 and pleaded not guilty. His retrial began on 9 June, 2008.
For the defence William Clegg QC reminded the jury that evidence from three women from HAFAD (Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability) placed the defendant’s arrival at their offices at 11:50 or 12:00, which, according to Clegg’s argument, would have made it impossible for him to have committed a murder at Dando’s house at 11:30 and then gone home (in the wrong direction) to change. Two neighbours who almost certainly saw the murderer immediately after the shooting had seen him go off in this direction, and later failed to identify George at an identification parade.
Barry was acquitted on 1 August, 2008.
Jill was buried next to her mother on May 21, 1999. She was buried in the Ebdon Road Cemetery.
Jill’s colleague Nick Ross worked with her fiance Alan and they raised around 1.5 million pounds. They founded the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at the University College London. It was opened on 26 April 2001, the second anniversary of Jill’s murder.
The BBC set up a bursary award in Jill’s name which enables one student each year to study journalism.
Police have said that Jill’s case remains open.
“The investigation into the murder of Ms Dando remains open, as with all murder investigations. We will always explore any new information which may become available.”
1 – A jealous ex or former lover killed Jill.
Jill did have a few former boyfriends but police quickly ruled out this theory after cross referencing her phone records.
2 – Jill had been assassinated by someone as a result of her involvement in Crimewatch. A type of retribution killing? Police also ruled out this theory.
3 – Was a deranged fan the murderer? Nigel, Jill’s brother told police that she had been worried by ‘some guy pestering her’, but detectives also ruled out this theory.
4 – Mistaken identity. This one seems unlikely seeing as Jill was literally killed on the doorstep of her own home.
5 – Killed by a rival or a business partner. There isn’t too much information on this one, but her agent Jon Roseman told the media that he had been interviewed as part of the investigation.
6 – A connection to the Jimmy Saville sexual abuse scandal and a pedophile ring was also looked into. Jimmy Saville was an English media personality who sexually abused hundreds of people in his life. There was a rumor that Jill had investigated a pedophile ring associated with the Saville case. The same rumor said that she had given a file with her findings to BBC management. The theory related to this is that she was killed in a revenge attack. The BBC has said there is no evidence to support this claim.
As a lot of the theories involve Jill being targeted for whatever reason – jilted lover, angry colleague, retribution, this would have likely involved a contract killing. As Jill was not living at the Fulham property and she only rarely visited there, police believed that a professional hitman would have been aware of the situation. Police also looked at CCTV of Jill’s final journey to Fulham and did not find any evidence that she had been followed.
Following forensic investigation of the gun, it was argued by police too that a professional would not have used such a poor quality weapon. This is part of the reason why the focus was on Barry George – as a crazy individual who acted on opportunity.
The final theory is that Jill was murdered due to her involvement in the Yugoslav Wars. She had appealed for aid during 1999. Her appeals for help for refugees had been shown on television three weeks before she died.
As some background into this theory, the UK and NATO were involved in the Kosovo War, opposing Serbia. After Jill was murdered, calls were made to the BBC and other media outlets taking responsibility for the crime on behalf of Serbian groups. One call was made at 3pm on the day of the murder, just 2 hours after she was publicly pronounced dead.
“Re the murder of journalist. Tell your Prime Minister. In Belgrade 15 killed, so 14 more to go.”
Barry George’s defence barrister Michael Mansfield said during the trial that he believed Serbian warlord Arkan had ordered Jill’s assassination.
“Jill Dando by this stage had become one of the, if not the, face[s] of the BBC. In short, she was the personification and embodiment of the BBC.”
In 2019, reports emerged that the British National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) had given an intelligence report to the Jill Dando murder investigators. In this report, it was claimed that the murder was retaliation for bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters and that Arkan had ordered the murder.
The report outlined a possible connection between the bullet that killed Jill and bullets used for assassinations in Germany. Another journalist, Slavko Curuvija, was assassinated outside his home in Belgrade just days before Jill died, and the method used in both cases was identical. In 2019, four men from the Serbian Secret Service were convicted of Slavko’s murder.
Despite all the arguments about the murder being carried out by a crazed gunman, there was a 2008 review carried out which concluded that Jill had been killed by a professional in a ‘hard contact execution’. The gunman knew that pressing the gun against Jill’s head would have muffled the shot and would have also stopped the murderer from being splattered with blood.
CLIP USED IN THE PODCAST