The Unsolved Murder Of Jill Dando

On April 26th, 1999 British TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered. The murder happened outside her home and in broad daylight. Yet, the identity of her killer remains unknown almost 20 years later.

murder of jill dando

Jill Dando

Jill Dando started working for the BBC when in 1985 she became a newsreader for BBC Radio Devon. Dando soon moved on to news reading and presenting on other regional BBC shows. Then in 1988, she got moved up to presenting the national news on BBC One and Two.

As well as presenting the Breakfast, One O’ Clock, and Six O’ Clock news, Dando also hosted several other shows for the BBC. She hosted the travel show Holiday and was one of the hosts used on Songs of Praise. However, her most well known presenting role came on the show Crimewatch.

jill dando
Jill Dando with her Crimewatch co-host Nick Ross.

Crimewatch was a show on the BBC which ran appeals and reconstructions of crimes. Its aim was to help catch criminals and close unsolved cases. The show helped to solve hundreds of cases. These including catching those responsible for the murders of Julie Dart, James Bulger, Sarah Payne and Rhys Jones.

In 1997 Jill won the award for BBC Personality Of The Year. In that same year she would meet Alan Farthing who she would begin a relationship with.

By 1999 Jill Dando was amongst the most high profile TV personalities working for the BBC. Dando and Farthing also announced their engagement in January of 1999. The couple set a wedding date of 25 September. Sadly Jill Dando wouldn’t live long another for her wedding to take place.

The Murder

On the morning of 26th April 1999 at 11:32 am Jill Dando returned to her Fulham home. She had spent the previous night at her fiance’s house, where she now spent most of her time. Whilst stood outside her front door looking for her keys Jill was grabbed from behind and forced to the ground. From here, with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol pressed directly against her skull, Jill’s attacker pulled the trigger. The gunman fired a single shot into her head.

Jill Dando was discovered by Helen Doble, her neighbour, 14 minutes after she had been shot. Police and the Ambulance service arrived on scene and Jill was taken to Charing Cross Hospital. Unfortunately, Jill Dando didn’t make it, she was declared dead on arrival at 1:03 pm.

Police took a statement from Jill Dando’s neighbour Richard Hughes. Hughes told detectives he heard Dando scream in surprise, the type you may expect if she was greeting a friend. Interestingly Hughes didn’t hear a gunshot. As he looked out of his window Hughes saw a man leaving Dando’s premises.

The man was described as 6 foot tall, white and in his 40’s. As he had not realised the event that had just occurred Hughes had no reason to think anything out of the ordinary had happened and went back about his day.

The witness statement Richard Hughes gave the police was the only reliable description of the perpetrator. It also left detectives to ponder whether the killer could have used a silencer as no neighbours, including Hughes, heard any gunshot. The greeting like scream also made investigators wonder if Jill’s attacker was possibly someone Jill knew.

The Investigation

Police set up Operation Oxborough. The investigation would be one of the largest and most intense to ever take place in the United Kingdom. Over 2500 individuals were spoken to and over 1000 statements taken. Despite the size of Operation Oxborough progress was slow. After almost a year the investigation seemed to have gone nowhere.

At this point, police decided to focus their attention on an individual who lived within half a mile of Jill Dando’s Fulham home. The man had come into police attention as he had a history of stalking women and sexual offences. The man’s name was Barry George.

Barry George

jill dando murder

Barry George had previously served 18 months of a 33-month sentence for attempted rape in 1983. He also received a 3-month sentence, which was suspended for 2 years, for an indecent assault on a woman in 1981. George seemingly had an unhealthy infatuation with celebrity culture. It was also revealed he had a habit of creating false personas for himself.

George was once arrested for impersonating a police officer. During his caught appearance for the offence, he entered the courtroom dressed as Gary Glitter. George gave his name as Paul Gadd (Glitter’s real name).

George again used the Gadd persona when he appeared in a local newspaper. This time George was claiming to be a Karate World Champion and a singer in the band Xanadu. At the time of his arrest for attempted rape in 1983, he was using the persona Stevie Majors. George was also claiming to be a stuntman under this persona.

In 1989 George married a Japanese student. Her name was Itsuko Toide. It was later claimed by Itsuko that it was a marriage of convenience. Toide said that her time with George was extremely terrifying and he would be repeatedly violent. The marriage ended in April 1990.

Police put Barry George under surveillance deeming him their number one suspect. On the 25 May 2000 investigators made the decision to arrest Barry George. Just 3 days later on the 28th, he was officially charged with the murder of Jill Dando.

The Trial

Investigators built there case around a microscopic particle of gunshot residue. This was discovered on the inside pocket of an item of George’s clothes. Police claimed it was their belief this came from the murder weapon.

They argued the reason for the murder was that George was obsessed with Dando. One theory was George had become unhinged at the announcement of her wedding date and decided to kill her.

Jurors agreed with the case of the prosecution. On 2nd July 2001, Barry George was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey for the murder of Jill Dando.

Despite the conviction, there remained serious question marks about the guilt of Barry George. All the evidence was circumstantial. There was no murder weapon and no clear motive for the murder had been uncovered.

Appeals

It came as no surprise that Barry George appealed the conviction. However, the conviction was upheld not once but twice. A third appeal though would be successful after forensic evidence was discredited and removed from the prosecution’s case.

The conviction was quashed and a retrial ordered. On 1st August 2008 after an 8-week trial, Barry George was acquitted of the murder of Jill Dando. After 7 years incarcerated Barry George was a free man.

Since the release of Barry George, no one has been arrested or charged with the murder of Jill Dando. The case remains unsolved nearly 20 years on.

Theories

Crimewatch Revenge

Thanks to the way the murder of Jill Dando occurred some theorize that she was the victim of a professional hit. There are several theories based around the professional hitman argument, one being an act of revenge. As host of Crimewatch, some have speculated that someone the program helped to convict ordered the kill.

One agency, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (now defunct), claimed they had discovered links to a Spanish barman. Named only as “Joe”, they believed he could have been the gunman. “Joe” apparently had links to convicted murderer Kenneth Noye.

kenneth noye
Noye was convicted with the help of Crimewatch viewers.

Noye was serving a life sentence. He was convicted for the 1996 murder of Stephen Cameron in a road rage incident, with the help of Crimewatch. The report suggested that “Joe” owed Noye money. To pay off the debt, and increase his standing with gangland figures, he took out the hit on Jill Dando.

As far as I can tell police never followed up on the link and “Joe” was never traced. There are a couple of extra interesting sidenotes on Kenneth Noye. An eyewitness from his trial was also later killed in a professional hit. This couldn’t be linked to Noye by police but I found it interesting to note. Also, a serving police officer was jailed for passing Noye confidential information.

The IRA

Barry George’s legal team uncovered a written confession to the murder of Jill Dando by Wayne Aird. Aird was a convicted murderer serving life in Wakefield Prison for the murder of his flatmate in June 1999.

In his letter, Aird wrote he was part of a 4 man IRA hit squad that executed the hit on Dando. Aird said one of the other members executed her with a 9mm. The squad then made their getaway to a London safehouse in a Landrover. He claimed she was selected as a target due to her close links with the police through the Crimewatch program.

Aird wrote that he decided to confess as he didn’t want to see another man (George) used in a government cover-up. He believed the government knew the IRA was responsible but feared it would hinder the peace process in Northern Ireland so they covered it up.

Police knew about the confession. However, the decision was taken to not investigate further.

A Serbian Hit

In the weeks prior to her death, Jill Dando had been the face of a series of TV appeals in the aid of Kosovan-Albanian refugees. Some believe this made her a target for some of the more hardline Serbian paramilitaries.

On 11 April 1999, just days before the murder of Jill Dando, a Serbian journalist was murdered in a similar fashion. Slavko Curuvija was executed at the front door of his Belgrade home by two hitmen. Curuvija had been a critic of the Serbian regime.

Jill Dando Slavko Curuvija
Slavko Curuvija was murdered days before Jill Dando in a similar attack.

Police were informed of a supposed meeting at the Scandal nightclub in West London. They were told a group of Serbian men, including one with a swallow tattoo on his neck, arranged the attack. It was supposedly revenge for Nato’s bombing of a Serbian TV station.

It was also uncovered that just 3 days after Jill Dando’s murder the BBC recieved a chilling call threatening further murders.:

“From Serbia, going to kill Anne Robinson, Alice Beer, and two others.”

Investigators were able to trace the call to Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. Unfortunately, there was no way of further tracking who had made the call.

Police dismissed the Serbian hitman theory during the original trial of Barry George. One reason given was the lack of public acknowledgement for the murder. Investigators believed the Serbians responsible would have taken credit for the hit. DCI Hamish Campbell said “It would not be left for us to guess why she had been killed”.

Paedophile Ring

Jill Dando was investigating a VIP paedophile ring shortly prior to her death. This was the claim made by an unnamed former colleague of Dando’s in 2014.

The source claimed that Dando had approached her bosses at the BBC. She informed them of her fears but that the higher-ups “Didn’t want to know”.

The BBC responded to the claims by saying they would investigate any allegations made of this magnitude. However, they also added that there was nothing to substantiate the claims. They found no evidence of Jill Dando investigating any paedophile ring or sexual abuse before her death.

Crazed Stalker

Was Barry George really inocent or did the police just botch the investigation? Even if you believe George to be innocent it is not out of the question that the police were looking for someone with a similar profile.

Jill Dando was a very popular TV personality. It is without question she will have had her fair share of fans. Therefore it is not out of the realms of possibility to believe one of these fans may have had an unhealthy obsession with Dando.

One such fan allegedly went by the name of “Julian”. The man is said to have approached Dando just days before her murder. “Julian” also supposedly matched descriptions of a man seen loitering near Dando’s home on the day of the murder.

The one thing that supports the crazed fan theory is a statement made by Jill’s own brother Nigel. Nigel Dando told police that his sister had recently complained to him of “some guy pestering her”. He also said that she seemed concerned by the incidents.

Final Thoughts

The murder of Jill Dando is one of those cases where I just don’t know what to think. On the one hand, the professional hit seems plausible as the killer managed to shoot Dando in broad daylight. They also managed to get away without been spotted.

Yet, wouldn’t a professional have broken into the property and waited for her to enter? To be honest I’ve no idea if this is what a professional hitman would do. That said, to me at least, it seems less risky than executing someone in broad daylight.

My other problem with the professional hit is the theories that go with it:

  • Would the Serbians really make her the main target for simply been the face of an ad campaign?
  • Why would a convict caught thanks to Crimewatch hold the host responsible rather than one of the investigators?
  • Would the IRA organize a hit on her for merely knowing some police officers through her work on Crimewatch?
  • And wouldn’t there have been some sort of evidence by now that Jill Dando was investigating a possible paedophile ring before her death?

If you don’t believe in a professional hit that sort of only leaves a crazed stalker or something similar. This, however, has its own problems. Would someone like that be able to compose themselves. Also, would they think clearly enough to leave the scene without drawing any attention to themselves? I would imagine it would also rely on a lot of luck in terms of not leaving evidence or ending up covered in blood.

One final downside to the crazed stalker theory is the timing. Jill Dando at the time of her death was practically living at her fiances home. She only occasionally returned to her own home. Surely a crazed stalker would have known Jill Dando wasn’t living at that address? There was no evidence on any CCTV that Jill was been followed so it just strikes me as odd. Wouldn’t the crazed stalker be more likely to be waiting for her at her fiance’s home rather than Jill’s own home which she rarely visited?

The more I read about the murder of Jill Dando the more questions it seems to throw up. Hopefully, Jill’s murder doesn’t become one of those which is never solved. Maybe one day the truth will finally be revealed about who killed Jill Dando.

1 thought on “The Unsolved Murder Of Jill Dando”

  1. I had a “friend” who was I suspected probably in MI6. One day a few days after Miss Dando’s murder we were chatting and he simply said “Oh well she was warned about this” I then asked him what he meant and simply said “She had been hit by Slobadan Milosovic” I simply thought oh? Well I remember repeating this to a reasonably senior police officer acquaintance some time later and he thought that this was far more likely than Mr George. Well I am an amputee and we decided to see how long it would take me to get from Miss Dando’s home in Fulham to Waterloo. Well I managed it with one leg in a little over half an hour via Putney!
    I then realised that the Hit Man could have been out of the country by the time the police started their investigations.
    Several years later I was on holiday in Serbia and I got into a conversation a Serbian Army officer and he was convinced that Mrs Dando was the victim of a State Sponsored Hit. Adding that that was how the Milosovic Government dealt with such criticism.
    Certainly I do feel that whoever did kill Miss Dando was a professional Hit Man and such people don’t come cheap and a Government certainly could afford the cost.

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