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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Dando trial evidence 'flimsy'
Barry George
George's lawyers say evidence was circumstantial
The Crown's claim it had a powerful case against Barry George - the man jailed for murdering TV presenter Jill Dando - was a "misdescription", the Court of Appeal has heard.

The prosecution case was unconvincing, had intrinsic weaknesses and was not based on hard evidence, said George's lawyers as they opened an appeal against the 42-year-old's murder conviction.

George was found guilty of murdering the 37-year-old Crimewatch presenter on the steps of her home in Fulham, south-west London, and sentenced to life imprisonment last July.

George's mother, Margaret, and sister, Michelle Diskin
Barry George's family are standing by him
Michael Mansfield QC, for George, told the Court of Appeal: "It comes down to identification, one particle and a mass of other evidence which may be consistent with guilt but it's far from being cogent evidence directly linking this appellant with this particular crime."

During the four-day hearing, lawyers will claim forensic evidence linking George to Miss Dando's murder, in April 1999, was completely unreliable.

His family say he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and his conviction relied on "flimsy, circumstantial evidence and character assassination".

"Nothing could be proved against Barry except that he is vulnerable," they said in a statement, adding that family and friends were firmly behind George's appeal bid.

'Firearms residue'

George, dressed in navy trousers topped by a blue shirt, jumper and tie, was surrounded by four security officers in the dock.

His sister, Michelle Diskin, listened as he spoke just once to identify himself to the court.

His lawyers recently said the questions they plan to raise about identification will have "implications for every case in the future where identification is in issue".

The taped confessions... have never been accepted by Mr George or his legal team

George's lawyers
Days after he was convicted the legal team said their appeal would show that mistaken identification could lead to people being wrongly jailed and that stringent rules must be applied.

The trial focused on a speck of firearms residue found in George's coat pocket which, the prosecution claimed, linked him to the shooting.

His defence team said the particle - less than a half of a thousandth of an inch in size - was completely unreliable as evidence.

Mr Mansfield submitted that the judge "erred" in directing that the firearm particle was capable of corroborating or supporting the identification evidence.

Taped 'confession'

Miss Dando was killed by a single bullet but the murder weapon has never been found.

George, who lived half a mile from the TV presenter in Fulham, always denied murder but was convicted by a majority verdict.

In April police investigated claims that George had been taped confessing to Miss Dando's murder.

They have been rejected as proof of his guilt by the legal team.

"The Crown have indicated that having received the tapes and analysed them, they will not be relied on in any way by them at the appeal," said Mr Mansfield said.

Miss Dando
Miss Dando was found dead on her doorstep
He added that there had been an "abuse of process" relating to the identification evidence, which should have been ruled inadmissible and the trial stopped.

There were a "remarkable" number of people in that street "at least up to an hour before and after, none of whom saw anyone hanging about in the street, let alone Barry George" he said.

On the question of motive, Mr Mansfield said that among the "mass" of material found at George's home there was nothing "indicating that Barry George was interested to the extent of obsession, to the extent of wanting to annihilate Jill Dando ... There was no material of that kind."

Mr Mansfield submitted that what happened in George's trial on identification "subverts everything this court has stood for from 1907" in relation to protecting the vulnerable and the innocent against mistaken identification.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday when Mr Mansfield will conclude his submissions and the Crown will respond.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"Mr Mansfield said the eyewitness evidence was unreliable or even worthless"

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27 Jun 01 | UK
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