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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Police defend Dando murder hunt
DS Hamish Campbell
DS Hamish Campbell led the murder investigation
The detective who led the investigation into Jill Dando's murder has defended the length of time it took to bring her killer to justice.

Although Barry George's details were passed to police within days of the murder inquiry beginning in April 1999, he was not interviewed until nearly a year later.

Officers have also been accused of making "fundamental" errors in the handling of forensic evidence which formed part of the prosecution case.

The media coverage which followed Miss Dando's death - and the prospect of a 250,000 reward - saw detectives quickly overwhelmed with information on possible suspects.


When his name was first introduced into the inquiry in May 1999 there were many other competing demands...

DS Hamish Campbell
In the exhaustive operation that followed, officers interviewed more than 5,000 people and took over 2,400 statements.

George was initially treated as a low priority, as detectives investigated suspects such as old boyfriends and people known to have a connection with, or interest in, Jill Dando.

Detective Superintendent Hamish Campbell, said: "As soon as officers were appointed to investigate this man it took a very short period of time.

"When his name was first introduced into the inquiry in May 1999 there were many other competing demands on the investigation and in terms of the priorities that I set and apportioned, he was not a priority.

"He was a man who was described incorrectly, wearing the wrong clothes and there was no suggestion that he was involved in the murder of Miss Dando."

'Difficult to detect'

Professor Gloria Laycock, of the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, said it was not surprising that George was initially given a low priority by the police.

"Their first thought on any kind of murder is that it is normally domestic, because statistically that is probably what it will be in these sort of cases," she said.

"In fact in this case it wasn't. It was a stranger on stranger murder, which is the most difficult to detect."

The evidence that convicted George
Gunfire residue on his coat
A fibre from his trousers at the crime scene
Eyewitnesses placed him at the scene
He was fascinated with guns
He was obsessed by celebrities and the BBC
There has also been criticism of the way forensic evidence was gathered and handled during the investigation.

Some of the officers who searched George's flat were not wearing overshoes, and were responsible for cleaning parts of their outfits.

This, and the subsequent handling of the evidence, led George's defence team to claim that contamination was a possibility.

Brian Cathcart, who has written a book about the murder, told the BBC that "fundamental mistakes" had been made in the handling of forensic evidence.

Chief among these was the coat which provided a speck of firearms residue linking George to the crime scene.

'Beggars belief'

Mr Cathcart said: "That a coat which had been sealed in an evidence bag should have been removed from that bag to be photographed and then replaced in that bag.

"That it was photographed in a studio where firearms were also photographed.

"This was before it was ever forensically examined. It beggars belief.

"Something similar happened with a lot of the other evidence that was removed from Barry George's flat. It was put in a depository where there was a firearms cache."

But DS Campbell said he was convinced police had got the right man.

"This has been a thorough investigation. I believe the right verdict has been reached," he said.



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