|Thursday, 23 October 2008 13:09|
Born: 9 November 1961, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England
Died: 26 April 1999, Fulham, London, England
Cause of death: Single bullet to head.
Notable because: Widely liked attractive presenter comes home to find mystery gunman waiting. Local dim wit framed for her murder, despite spectacular lack of evidence and released years later. Many theories surround the cause of her death.
Jill Dando was an English journalist and television presenter who worked for the BBC for 14 years until she was murdered in April 1999. Her death sparked a huge manhunt by the Metropolitan Police and led to the trial of Barry George. Initially convicted of the murder, after a successful appeal and retrial, George was finally acquitted on 1 August 2008, thus leaving the crime unsolved. According to police sources, Dando's family and her former fiancé Alan Farthing no longer wish her murder to be investigated. ("Daily Mail" 2 August 2008)
Jill Dando was born in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, and was educated at Mendip Green Infant School, St Martin's Junior School, Worle Comprehensive School and Broadoak Sixth Form Centre, where she was head girl. She studied journalism at South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education in Wales.
Dando was a keen thespian. She was a member of Weston-super-Mare Amateur Dramatic Society and Exeter Little Theatre Company, with whom she appeared in plays at the Barnfield Theatre.
Dando was a volunteer at Sunshine Hospital Radio in Weston-super-Mare before she started her first job as a trainee reporter for the local newspaper, the Weston Mercury, where her father and brother worked. After five years as a print journalist, she began employment with the BBC when she became a newsreader for BBC Radio Devon in 1985. That year, she transferred to BBC South West, where she presented a regional news magazine programme, Spotlight South West. In 1986, Dando made a move from regional to national television when she moved to London to present the hourly daytime television news summaries.
Dando went on to present the BBC television programmes Breakfast News, the BBC One O'Clock News, the Six O'Clock News, the travel programme Holiday, the crime appeal series Crimewatch and occasionally Songs of Praise. At the time of her death she was among those with the highest profile of the BBC's on-screen staff; she had previously been BBC Personality of the Year. Crimewatch would later reconstruct her murder to in an attempt to aid the police in the search for her killer. However, following the acquittal of Barry George, Crimewatch has made no further appeals for information about Dando's murder. At the time of her death, Dando had presented just one episode of her new project, The Antiques Inspectors and was scheduled to present the Six O'Clock News that evening. She was featured on the cover of that week's Radio Times magazine.
On the morning of 26 April 1999, Dando left the home of her fiancé, Dr. Alan Farthing, and returned to her house in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, West London. As she reached her front door at about 11:32, she was shot once in the head. Her body was discovered shortly afterwards by a friend, local resident Helen Doble. Dando was taken to the nearby Charing Cross Hospital where she was declared dead on arrival at 13:03 BST. She was 37 years old. After the murder both BBC and ITV broadcast extensive coverage of the incident. This is what Jon Roseman, Jill's agent, said about the murder: "But almost from the moment Barry George was arrested, I felt sure he could not be Jill's killer. No one saw him do it. No one connected a gun or bullet to him. And the evidence against him was flimsy, to say the least. Later on I realised, from researching on the internet, that the forensic evidence was so inadequate it would have been ruled inadmissible in every state in America." (Daily Mirror, 2 August 2008)
A murder investigation by the Metropolitan Police – named Operation Oxborough – lasted for over a year. Dando's status as a well-known public figure probably brought her into contact with thousands of people, and there was fevered speculation about the motive for her killing, including that her role as co-presenter of Crimewatch may have brought her into conflict with elements of Britain's criminal underworld. Since Dando had recently presented a programme related to funding for refugees from Yugoslavia, the theory that she was killed in retaliation for a previous US- and UK-led air attack on a Serbian TV station which killed a number of journalists and staff was considered strong enough to investigate.
After six months, the murder investigation team had spoken to more than 2,500 people and taken more than 1,000 statements. With little progress after a year, the police focused on the odd behaviour of a man who lived around half a mile from Dando's home. After a period of surveillance, police arrested Barry George for her murder, despite the lack of forensic evidence or motive. George was initially found guilty of murder in a jury trial at the Old Bailey, and was sentenced on 2 July 2001 to life imprisonment. In November 2007, George successfully appealed his conviction and, following an eight week hearing, which ended in a unanimous jury verdict of not guilty, he was acquitted on 1 August 2008.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:44|