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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Dando verdict surprises courtroom
Barry George
Barry George: Starting a life sentence
BBC News Online's Chris Summers was in Court Number One at the Old Bailey as the Jill Dando jury returned at the end of the eight-week murder trial.

When the jury foreman read out the verdict "guilty" to a hushed courtroom, it came as a big surprise to most of the press pack.

Only moments before, Barry George's barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, had been chatting and joking with journalists outside Court Number One.

Mansfield, who quipped that he was miffed at missing out on Centre Court seats at Wimbledon, had told reporters he was expecting the judge to send the jury to a hotel for another night.

"But I could be wrong," he added.

Michal Mansfield
Defence barrister Michael Mansfield had not expected a verdict so soon
The press benches and public gallery were packed as the judge came back into court. Most people presumed the jury were deadlocked.

There was talk of a re-trial. But then came a whisper, emanating from the front bench, that the jury had reached a verdict.

From the glum looks among the prosecution team - including Detective Superintendent Hamish Campbell and Jill Dando's friend Nick Ross - it was not good news for them.

The jury of 11 - one juror had been released after the death of her mother - filed dutifully back into court.

No gasps

George, a heavy set man with dark features, was brought up from the cells into the historic surroundings of number one court.

Wearing a blue shirt, tie and jeans, he stood impassively as the foreman was asked for the verdict.

"Guilty." There was a rustle of activity as reporters dashed off to file the newsflash, but otherwise nothing. No gasps from the public gallery, or shouts of joy.

Dando's friends and colleagues remained stony-faced as Det Supt Campbell read out George's previous convictions.

Mr Justice Gage then described George as "unpredictable and dangerous" and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The judge said even George probably did not know why he had killed Miss Dando.

George got up and was led away to the cells, saying nothing and giving the impression for all the world as if he had just been given a parking ticket.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
describes the atmosphere in the court when the verdict was delivered


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