Who killed Jill Dando? The unsolved murder of the BBC journalist gets more mysterious every year
It was just another day for English journalist, television presenter, newsreader, and 1997 BBC Personality of the Year, Jill Dando on April 26, 1999, but it ended in tragedy
When the morning of April 26, 1999, rolled around, it was just another day for 37-year-old English journalist, television presenter, newsreader, and 1997 BBC Personality of the Year, Jill Dando. She left her fiance Alan Farthing's home in Chiswick and returned to her own home in Fulham by car. Dando was the presenter of the highly-popular BBC show 'Crimewatch' alongside her co-host, Nick Ross. She had lived in the house that she owned but was in the process of selling it at the time so she did not visit it too frequently.
She was at her front door at around 11.32 am and was about to unlock the door when she was shot in the head and killed. Her body was found 14 minutes later by one of her neighbors, Helen Doble.
Authorities were called to the residence at 11.47 am and the young presenter was taken to the Charing Cross Hospital nearby where she was declared dead on arrival at 1 pm that same day.
Bob Woffinden described in an article in The Guardian in July 2002: "As Dando was about to put her keys in the lock to open the front door of her home in Fulham, she was grabbed from behind. 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. The bullet entered her head just above her ear, parallel to the ground, and came out the right side of her head."
The case is considered one of the most high-profile unsolved murders in the UK and for good reason. From a pedophile ring that has big names attached to being killed by a hitman sent by the Serbian mafia, some of the theories surrounding Dando's death have been fascinating.
As mentioned above, one theory suggested that Dando got very close to exposing a VIP pedophile ring but the BBC later said that there was no evidence to substantiate those claims. Another theory was that she was shot by a deranged stalker but this was also swiftly put to rest after a lack of leads.
Other theories that emerged included a contract kill orchestrated by a London crime family, Serbian criminals in the UK taking revenge, killed by the IRA, and murdered by a Spanish barman.
An official forensic study had indicated that Dando was shot by a bullet from a 9mm-caliber semi-automatic pistol, with the weapon being pressed against her head at the moment it was fired. Her next-door neighbor, Richard Hughes, claimed that he heard a surprised cry from Dando almost "like someone greeting a friend" but did not hear a gunshot. Hughes said that he looked out of the window and didn't notice what actually happen. He did recall, however, a six-foot-tall (183 cm) white man around 40-years-old, walking away from Dando's house.
An investigation that was launched by the Met Police, and called Operation Oxborough, did not provide any results for more than a year. Within six months of Dando's murder, the Murder Investigation Team spoke to more than 2,500 people and took more than 1,000 statements. With very little progress being seen even after a year, authorities turned their attention to Barry George, who lived only half a mile away from Dando's home. He also had a history of stalking women, sexual offenses, and had other antisocial behavior.
George was immediately put under surveillance which led to his arrest on May 25 of that year. He was charged with Dando's murder just three days later.
The man appealed the case three times and got lucky in November 2007 when his third appeal succeeded. The initial conviction was quashed and his second trial, which lasted eight weeks, ended with George being acquitted on August 1, 2008.
The original investigation had looked into the possibility of a contract killing but since the presenter lived with her fiance and rarely visited her own home, it was considered an unlikely theory that a professional assassin would have had enough information on where she would be.
Even CCTV evidence of Dando's last journey to a shopping center on her way to Fulham did not show signs that she was being followed.
When a forensic examination of the cartridge case and bullet recovered from the scene of the murder was finally conducted, it suggested that the weapon which was used had been the result of a workshop conversion of a replica or a decommissioned gun. It was also argued at the time that the professional assassin would not use poor quality weapons such as that one.
Cold case reviews by authorities after 2008, however, concluded that Dando was indeed killed by a professional assassin in a "hard contact execution". This meant that the gun would have been pressed against her head which would have silenced the shot and prevented her killer from being sprayed with her blood.
The BBC broadcasted a documentary about the case called 'The Murder of Jill Dando' on April 2, 2019. The film briefly involves her career, the events surrounding her death, the follow-up investigations, wrongful prosecution of the lead suspect, and the continued aftermath.