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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Dando suspect 'obsessed by fame'
Barry George
Barry George denies murdering Jill Dando
The man accused of murdering television presenter Jill Dando was obsessed by famous people and all things military, a court is told.

Orlando Pownall, prosecuting, said 41-year-old Barry George showed "an exaggerated interest in well-known figures whose success he aspired to emulate" and had, on several occasions, adopted the names of several famous people he admired.

Jill Dando
The trial is expected to last eight weeks
The jury at the Old Bailey was also told that Mr George had an interest in the military and firearms and had bought several items of military equipment two weeks before Miss Dando's death.

Mr George, from Fulham, west London, denies murdering 37-year-old Miss Dando on the doorstep of her home in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, on 26 April 1999.

On the first day of his trial on Friday the jury of seven men and five women was told that Miss Dando was shot once in the head, at close range, as she crouched outside her front door.

Mr George, who was born in Hammersmith and lived for 10 years in a ground-floor flat about 500 yards from Miss Dando's home, was arrested by police after months of investigation into the killing.

The jury was told that over the years Mr George had called himself Steve Majors, in honour of Lee Majors, the actor who played The Bionic Man in the TV series and Steve Austin, his character.

Mr Pownall said: "He also knew himself as Thomas Palmer after one of the SAS soldiers who achieved fame when he was involved in the Iranian Embassy siege.

"More recently the defendant claimed that he was Freddy Mercury's cousin and chose to be known as Barry Bulsara, after the original surname of Freddy Mercury, the former lead singer of Queen who died in November 1991."

Military interest

Mr Pownall also spoke of Mr George's interest in the military and said he had joined the Kensington and Chelsea Pistol club under the name of Steve Majors as a probationary member in 1982 but his application to become a full member was rejected.

In 1981 he had enlisted with the Territorial Army, 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment and had applied to become a member of the Royal Green Jackets and Field Ambulance Volunteers.


Gauging the precise level of the defendant's interest in Miss Dando before her death is inevitably difficult

Orlando Pownall
Mr Pownall said: "It is clear that the defendant's fascination with the Army and with firearms endured beyond his time with the TA.

"When police searched his home address in April and May, last year, they took possession of a large number of books and magazines and cards relating to guns, weapons and the military."

BBC obsession

The jury was also told the defendant had developed an obsession with the BBC, having worked as a messenger at Television Centre in Wood Lane in 1976.

"It is clear that he retained an unusual interest in the BBC and would sometimes visit Wood Lane and collect copies of the Ariel paper(the BBC's staff newspaper), which was freely available and featured photographs and articles about those who worked there, including Jill Dando," said Mr Pownall.

When police searched his house, following his arrest, photographs of presenter Anthea Turner along with documents containing references to telephone numbers at the BBC were seized.

Camera films found at the property and developed by police revealed photographs of the television set when presenters and newscasters were appearing, the jury was told.

Mr Pownall said: "Gauging the precise level of the defendant's interest in Miss Dando before her death is inevitably difficult.

"Whether he harboured a hidden grudge against her, believing her to have wronged him or figures he idolised such as Freddy Mercury, is impossible to determine with any degree of certainty."

The court heard that, although the defendant told police he did not know who Jill Dando was, he had told a woman that he knew "a very special" famous lady in Gowan Avenue.

Mr Pownall said: "If he did not know who she was before, his reaction to her death was out of all proportion to what one might expect from an individual who was not an admirer and would not even have recognised her.

"He visited shops and sought letters of condolence. He even suggested to a member of the local council they should consider a memorial."

The trial continues.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
reports from the Old Bailey, London
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04 May 01 | UK
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