Jill Dando

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Jill Dando
JillDando.jpg
Born Jill Wendy Dando
(1961-11-09)9 November 1961
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England
Died 26 April 1999(1999-04-26) (aged 37)
Fulham, London, England
Cause of death
Murder by shooting
Resting place
Ebdon Road Cemetery
Education Worle Comprehensive School
Alma mater South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education
Occupation Journalist, Television presenter and newsreader
Years active 1979–1999
Employer BBC
Religion Baptist
Partner(s) Alan Farthing (fiancé)

Jill Wendy Dando[1] (9 November 1961 – 26 April 1999) was an English journalist, television presenter, and newsreader who was 1997 BBC Personality of the Year. At the time of her death, she was the presenter of the BBC programme Crimewatch.

On 26 April 1999, Dando was fatally shot outside her home in Fulham, London. A local man, Barry George, was convicted and jailed for the murder but was later acquitted on appeal. A Yugoslav terrorist connection was initially dismissed by police, but has since acquired more credence. The case remains open.

Early life[edit]

Dando was born at Ashcombe House Maternity Home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.[2] She was the daughter of Jack Dando (February 1918 – February 2009), who died in Weston-super-Mare on his 91st birthday,[3] and Winifred Mary Jean Dando (August 1927 – January 1986),[1] who died of leukaemia aged 58.[4] Her only sibling, brother Nigel (born 1952), works as a journalist for BBC Radio Bristol, having previously worked as a journalist in local newspapers since the 1970s.[5] Dando was raised as a Baptist.[6] When she was three years old, it was discovered that she had a hole in her heart and a blocked pulmonary artery. She had heart surgery on 12 January 1965.[2]

She was educated at Worle Infant School, Greenwood Junior School,[2] Worle Comprehensive School,[7] and Broadoak Sixth Form Centre, where she was head girl,[6] and passed two A levels.[2] She studied journalism at the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education in Cardiff.

Dando 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. She was a volunteer at Sunshine Hospital Radio in Weston-super-Mare in 1979.

Career[edit]

Dando started her first job as a trainee reporter for the local weekly 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 1987, she worked for TSW, then worked for BBC Spotlight in Plymouth.[2] In early 1988, Dando made a move from regional to national television when she moved to London to present BBC television news.

Dando went on to present the BBC television programmes Breakfast Time, Breakfast News, the BBC One O'Clock News, the Six O'Clock News, the travel programme Holiday, the crime appeal series Crimewatch (from 1995 until her death) and occasionally Songs of Praise. In 1994 she moved to Fulham.[4]

On 25 April 1999, Dando presented the first episode of The Antiques Inspectors.[8] She was scheduled to present the Six O'Clock News on the evening of the following day.[6] She was featured on the cover of that week's Radio Times magazine (for 24 to 30 April).[9]

At the time of her death, she was among those with the highest profile of the BBC's on-screen staff, and had been the 1997 BBC Personality of the Year.[10] Crimewatch reconstructed her murder in an attempt to aid the police in the search for her killer. After Barry George (see below) was charged with the murder but acquitted, Crimewatch made no further appeals for information concerning the case.

Personal life[edit]

Dando was a devout Baptist Christian.[2]

From 1989 to 1996, Dando dated BBC executive Bob Wheaton.[2][4] She also had a relationship with national park warden Simon Basil.[2] In December 1997, Dando met gynaecologist Alan Farthing on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. Farthing was separated from his wife at the time.[11] Farthing's divorce was finalised in November 1998.[12] Dando and Farthing announced that they were engaged on 31 January 1999.[11][12] Their wedding was set to take place on 25 September 1999.[12]

Murder[edit]

On the morning of 26 April 1999, 37-year-old Dando left the Chiswick home of her fiancé, Alan Farthing. She returned alone, by car, to the house she owned in Fulham. She had lived in the house, but by April 1999 was in the process of selling it and did not visit it frequently. As Dando reached her front door at about 11:32, she was shot once in the head.[13] Her body was discovered about 14 minutes later by neighbour Helen Doble.[14] Police were called at 11:47.[8] Dando was taken to the nearby Charing Cross Hospital where she was declared dead on arrival at 13:03 BST.

"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."

Bob Woffinden, The Guardian, July 2002.

Forensic study indicated that Dando had been shot by a bullet from a 9 mm calibre automatic pistol, with the gun pressed against her head at the moment of the shot. Richard Hughes, her next door neighbour, heard a surprised cry from Dando "like someone greeting a friend" but heard no gunshot. Hughes looked out of his front window and, while not realising what had happened, made the only certain sighting of the killer — a 6 foot (1.83 metre) tall white man aged around 40 years old, seen walking away from Dando's house.[8]

Investigation[edit]

After the murder, there was intense media coverage. An investigation by the Metropolitan Police, named Operation Oxborough, proved fruitless for over a year. Dando's status as a well-known public figure probably brought her into contact with thousands of people, and she was known by millions, so there was fevered speculation about the motive for her killing.

Within 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 concentrated their attention on Barry George, who lived about half a mile from Dando's house. He had a history of stalking women, sexual offending and other anti-social and attention seeking behaviour.[15]

George was put under surveillance, arrested on 25 May and charged with Dando's murder on 28 May.[16]

George was tried at the Old Bailey, convicted, and on 2 July 2001 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Concern about this conviction was widespread on the basis that the case against George appeared thin. Two appeals were unsuccessful, but after discredited forensics evidence was excluded from the prosecution's case, George's third appeal succeeded in November 2007. The original conviction was quashed and a second trial lasting eight weeks ended in George's acquittal on 1 August 2008.[17]

Dando's family and her fiancé Alan Farthing did not ask the police to reopen the investigation.[18] After George's acquittal, some newspapers published articles which appeared to suggest that he was guilty of the Dando murder and other offences against women. In December 2009, George accepted substantial damages from News Group Newspapers over articles in The Sun and the News of the World, following a libel action in the High Court.[19]

Potential suspects[edit]

Lines of inquiry explored in the police investigation included:

  • Theories that a jealous ex-boyfriend or an unknown lover had killed her. This was quickly ruled out by the detectives who interviewed all Dando's friends and acquaintances and checked her phone calls.[20]
  • A belief that somebody had hired an assassin to murder Dando as revenge for their being convicted as a result of evidence garnered by Crimewatch viewers. After exhaustive inquiries this was also ruled out by detectives.[20]
  • Various theories relating to Bosnian-Serb or Yugoslav groups (see below).
  • The possibility that a deranged fan may have killed Dando after she had rejected his approaches. Dando’s brother, Nigel, informed detectives that she had become concerned by “some guy pestering her” in the few days before her death, but this was ruled out by detectives.
  • A case of mistaken identity. This was judged unlikely, given that the killing took place on the doorstep of Dando's own home.
  • Even actions taken by a professional rival or business partner had to be considered. Her agent Jon Roseman stated that he had been interviewed as a suspect by police.

The original police investigation had explored the possibility of a professional killing, but since Dando was living with her fiancé and was only rarely visiting her Gowan Avenue house, it was considered unlikely that a professional assassin would have been sufficiently well informed about Dando's movements to have known when she was going there. CCTV evidence of Dando's last journey (mainly security video recordings from the Kings Mall Shopping Centre in Hammersmith, which she visited on her way to Fulham) did not show any sign of her being followed.[21]

Dando's BBC colleague Nick Ross stated on Newsnight on the night of her death that retaliatory attacks by criminals against police, lawyers and judges were almost unknown in Britain. Finally, forensic examination of the cartridge case and bullet recovered from the scene of the attack suggested that the weapon used had been the result of a workshop conversion of a replica or decommissioned gun. It was argued that a professional assassin would not use such a poor quality weapon. The police therefore soon began to favour the idea that the killing had been carried out by a crazed individual acting on an opportunist basis. This assumed profile of the perpetrator led to the focus on Barry George.

However, it is reported that cold case reviews by the police after 2008 have concluded that Dando was killed by a professional assassin.[22] Dando was subject to a 'hard contact execution'. Pressing the gun against her head would have silenced the fatal shot and prevented her killer from being splattered with blood.

Yugoslav connection[edit]

Soon after the killing some commentators identified the possibility of a Serbian connection.

At Barry George's first trial his defence barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, quoted from a National Criminal Intelligence Service report which stated that the Serbian warlord leader Arkan had ordered her assassination in retaliation for the NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters on 23 April 1999. 16 station staff had died in the bombing.[23] Mansfield suggested that Dando's earlier presentation of an appeal for aid for Kosovar Albanian refugees may have attracted the attention of Bosnian-Serb hardliners. Dando's picture was on the cover of the Radio Times (edition 24 to 30 April 1999) in the week of her killing.

The theory still holds great sway with commentators.[14][24] The former communist government in Yugoslavia had a history of assassinations directed against its opponents. The victims were mostly Croatian émigrés, although others were targeted.[24] The attacks were usually carried out by small teams consisting of a trigger-man supported by a spotter and were always carefully planned.[24] The attacks were often made as targets entered or left their homes since this was the point at which they were most vulnerable and where a case of mistaken identity was least likely.[24]

Bob Woffinden, a journalist who specialises in miscarriages of justice has stated "Claims of responsibility are made by groups such as the IRA or ETA. In 60 years, there has not once been a claim of responsibility for an assassination carried out by Eastern European secret services." Woffinden advanced the view that a Yugoslav group was behind the Dando killing and in various newspaper articles he contested all the grounds on which the police had dismissed this possibility.[25][26]

Legacy[edit]

Jill's Garden in Weston-super-Mare

Dando's funeral took place on 21 May 1999 at Clarence Park Baptist Church in Weston-super-Mare.[27] She was buried next to her mother in the town's Ebdon Road Cemetery.[28][29] The gross value of her estate was £1,181,207; after her debts and income tax, the value was £863,756; after inheritance tax, it was £607,000, all of which her father inherited because she died intestate.[30]

Dando's co-presenter Nick Ross proposed the formation of an academic institute in her name and, together with her fiancé Alan Farthing, raised almost £1.5 million. The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science was founded at University College London on 26 April 2001, the second anniversary of her murder.[31]

A memorial garden was designed and realised by the BBC Television Ground Force team in Dando's memory, using plants and colours that were special to her. It is located within Grove Park, Weston-super-Mare (51°21′09″N 2°58′45″W / 51.352498°N 2.979242°W / 51.352498; -2.979242) and was opened on 2 August 2001.[32]

The BBC set up a bursary award in Dando's memory, which enables one student each year to study broadcast journalism at University College Falmouth. Sophie Long, who was then a postgraduate who had grown up in Weston-super-Mare and is now a presenter on BBC News, gained the first bursary award in 2000.[33]

In 2007, Weston College opened a new university campus on the site of the former Broadoak Sixth Form Centre where Dando studied. The Sixth Form building has been dedicated to her and named as "The Jill Dando Centre".[34][35]

BBC investigation[edit]

In July 2014, a report appeared in the Daily Star Sunday quoting an unnamed retired BBC colleague of Dando's, who claimed she had investigated allegations of a paedophile ring at the BBC during the mid 1990s. The article went on to claim Dando had handed a dossier to BBC management, but that no further inquiries were made. Responding to the article, the BBC said it had seen no evidence to support the allegations.[36][37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Through the family photo album
  3. ^ Jill Dando's dad dies at 91 in Weston
  4. ^ a b c Bird, Steve (2 August 2008). "Jill Dando bubbly excited and in love then she was shot on doorstep". The Times (London). 
  5. ^ Nigel Dando
  6. ^ a b c Barker, Dennis (27 April 1999). "Jill Dando Obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 June 2007. 
  7. ^ Story of the murder of Jill Dando
  8. ^ a b c TV star Dando murdered by single shot
  9. ^ Barker, Dennis (27 April 1999). "Jill Dando: Broadcaster with feel-good factor". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  10. ^ This is Bristol :10 years later
  11. ^ a b "Alan Farthing: 'No-one can replace Jill'". bbc.co.uk. 2 July 2001. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Cheston, Paul (1 August 2008). "So if George didn't kill Jill Dando, who did?". standard.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "BBC presenter shot dead". BBC News. 26 April 1999. 
  14. ^ a b Daily Mail article :2000
  15. ^ "Dando killer's Diana 'obsession'". BBC News. 3 July 2001. 
  16. ^ "Jill Dando: The investigation". BBC News. 25 February 2001. 
  17. ^ "George not guilty of Dando murder". BBC News. 1 August 2008. Retrieved 1 August 2008. 
  18. ^ Leake, Christopher (2 August 2008). "Dando family and former fiance want her murder case closed". London: Mail Online. Retrieved 4 March 2009. "... a senior police source last night told the Mail on Sunday that Miss Dando's former fiance, consultant gynaecologist Alan Farthing, and her family wanted the case to remain closed ... the senior officer revealed that it was 'most likely' there would be no reinvestigation, though the file would remain open ..." 
  19. ^ BBC report :December 2009
  20. ^ a b Cathcart, Brian (2 August 2008). "Dando murder: we need to think twice before locking up the local weirdo". London: The Times. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  21. ^ Guardian article :2001 article
  22. ^ Plymouth Herald report, 23 July 2013 "Jill Dando was executed ..."
  23. ^ Amnesty International, 9 April 2009 "No Justice ..."
  24. ^ a b c d Pravda, 2002 :book review
  25. ^ Woffinden, Bob (6 July 2002). "Shadow of doubt?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2007. 
  26. ^ Campbell, Duncan (1 August 2008). "With Barry George innocent, who did kill Jill Dando?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2008. 
  27. ^ Emotional farewell to Dando
  28. ^ Profile: Jill Dando, TV's girl next door
  29. ^ Obsessed with visiting Jill Dando's grave and acting more erratically than ever, Barry George is a man on the edge
  30. ^ Dando leaves £1m
  31. ^ "About the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science". Jill Dando Institute. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  32. ^ "A memorial to Jill Dando". The Weston & Somerset Mercury. Retrieved 23 June 2007. 
  33. ^ Sonia McDuff (3 May 2001). "FCA Bursary Winners". Falmouth Navigator. Retrieved 21 January 2008. 
  34. ^ "University Campus Dedicated to Jill". Weston College. 16 August 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  35. ^ "College remembers presenter Dando". BBC News. 6 August 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  36. ^ "Former Plymouth journalist Jill Dando knew of BBC paedophile ring, claims retired colleague". Plymouth Herald. 21 July 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  37. ^ "Jill Dando tried to expose BBC paedophile ring but 'nobody wanted to know'". Bristol Post. 21 July 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Sue Cook
Co-host of Crimewatch
with Nick Ross

1995–1999
Succeeded by
Fiona Bruce