Wrongly jailed for Jill Dando murder
adapted from an article in The Libertarian
Originally published 28th December 2009
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
The case of Barry George has proven to be one of the most controversial cases in criminal history. He was arrested, charged, tried and jailed for the 1999 murder of popular TV presenter Jill Dando who was gunned down in broad daylight on the doorstep of her London home. Barry was acquitted of the crime after a retrial in August 2008 at London’s High Court attended with his sister Michelle Diskin, who led the campaign to prove his innocence.
During the afternoon of Monday 26th April 1999 news of a terrible crime began to be spread around Britain. At 11:30 that morning the television presenter Jill Dando was shot dead on her doorstep in London after a shopping trip. Before she was able to unlock her door she had been held to the ground by her assailant, who pressed a gun into her head and fired a single shot.
The public were shocked to hear that a woman could be murdered, in broad daylight, in a brutal manner outside her home. What made it even sadder was that Miss Dando had recently announced her plans to marry her gynaecologist partner Alan Farthing. What followed was one of the largest and most expensive police investigations to ever take place in Britain.
The team of up to 50 officers traced, interviewed, and eliminated thousands of suspects in the months following the incident. In total approximately £2,000,000 was spent on the police operation, which was named Operation Oxborough and headed by Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell.
Witnesses reported seeing a man, in and around Gowan Avenue, that morning. He was described as white in colour, with thickset broad shoulders and thick collar-length black hair which was pushed back. Some described him as Mediterranean, whilst others reported a man who was not of Mediterranean appearance. Some saw a man with a blue shirt less than two hours before the crime, whilst another saw a man wearing a white shirt around the same time.
A range of motives were suggested. They included the killer being a hit man, hired by an ex-boyfriend who had become jealous, an ex-boyfriend himself, and a Serbian hit man. Other theories included a spurned Mafia boss and a criminal who had a grudge against the presenter because of her work on Crimewatch UK. Eventually the police placed an emphasis on the view that Miss Dando was murdered by an obsessed fan that must have had a very strong interest in his victim.
On 11th April 2000 Barry George was interviewed by Detective Constable John Gallagher in connection with the murder of Miss Dando. Barry had emerged as a suspect because he had been agitated on the day of the crime when discussing problems with his GP and housing association, and also because he had become worried two days after the crime and had asked people to verify his movements on the day of the murder.
In addition to this, one woman had informed police that Barry was odd and had owned air rifles. Over a month after being interviewed he was arrested on suspicion of murdering the presenter. Three days later he was charged with this offence and on 2nd July 2001 he was found guilty by a majority of 10 – 1 verdict.
Despite having his appeals dismissed at the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords there was a large amount of information, much of which the jury never heard and some of which the appeal judges misinterpreted, to prove that beyond doubt Barry George had no involvement in causing Miss Dando’s death.
At Barry’s trial the jury were told that George was a loner who had an obsession with firearms and the victim. It transpired that he was in possession of gun magazines and some books on the subject of firearms. These all dated to the 1980s. Barry had joined the Territorial Army in 1981, but he left the following year after failing his basic training. He attempted to join a gun club in 1982, but he was refused membership because he could not find a suitable referee for his application.
As far as his ‘obsession’ with Miss Dando, there was very little evidence to suggest that he had any interest in her. Barry George was the type of man who enjoyed sharing his interests with people. He found it impossible to keep his interests and hobbies to himself and talked of them with great enthusiasm.
It was said by investigators that the killer would have had “an unhealthy interest in Jill Dando and more importantly it is unlikely to have been kept a secret.” However, no one had confirmed that Barry had ever mentioned the woman he allegedly killed. he had taken thousands of photographs of women and television presenters. However, none of these were of Miss Dando yet the jury was never told this. Barry collected newspapers: the police found over eight hundred newspapers in his flat. In all of these only eight articles were found which referred to Miss Dando.
Is it the case that eight articles from eight hundred newspapers indicates ‘compelling’ evidence of an obsession or could it be their presence was purely coincidental? It must be remembered that Miss Dando was in the media frequently, especially when her engagement was announced. If Barry George had evidence of an obsession then, with his incredibly untidy flat, he would have been unable to find and remove them. An obsessed man would have clear signs of an obsession. he did not.
The particle of alleged Firearms Discharge Residue (FDR) found in the pocket of one of Barry’s jackets, was seen to be compelling proof of his guilt. The particle matched those found on the victim inasmuch as they were composed of the same elements. This means that the particle in the jacket came from a source of powder that was of the same type as that used in the cartridge used in the murder weapon. It does not at all prove that the particle came from the murder weapon. The possibility that the particle had come from a blank firing gun, or even a firework, could not be ruled out.