Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 10:24 UK

Jill Dando: The golden girl of TV

Jill Dando was shot dead outside her west London home in April 1999. The popular presenter had become a household name during her 10-year career on national TV.

In one of the last interviews she gave before her death Jill Dando said she had never been happier. She had recently announced her engagement to be married and was working on a new Sunday evening show - Antiques Detectives.

Jill Dando (Picture by Sven Arnstein, Stay Still)
Jill Dando was looking forward to married life

A talented presenter, Miss Dando was able to turn her hand to both light entertainment and news.

She had fronted BBC programmes such as the Six O'Clock News, Breakfast News, Crimewatch and Holiday.

Modest and astute

After her death the BBC Director General, Sir John Birt, paid tribute to Miss Dando's popularity and professionalism.

"She was an unusually modest person for our industry. She mucked in and was a normal member of the team," he said.

Newsreader Jennie Bond said of her former colleague: "She had a very good and astute brain, was able to ask all the right questions and to have that serious, proper professional face as well as be seen on a beach in a bikini."

"She would always laugh at herself. She did not think a lot of herself."

Miss Dando cut her teeth as a newspaper journalist in her home town of Weston-super-Mare, in south west England, after training in south Wales.

She developed a passion for acting, as a member of the local amateur dramatic society - skills which would stand her in good stead for her future television career.

Jill Dando and Nicholas Withchell presenting Breakfast News in 1989
Jill Dando and Nicholas Witchell presented BBC Breakfast News

She broke into broadcasting with a move to BBC Radio Devon, where she presented news bulletins. The rising star soon progressed to television, fronting the regional news magazine programme Spotlight.

National fame

Her big break came in 1988, at the age of 26, when she moved to the BBC's national news operation in London.

But Miss Dando maintained close ties with her native South West, taking time out of her busy schedule to become a patron of a hospice appeal in Weston-super-Mare.

The fund raised 100,000 during 1997 towards a new in-patient unit, which she officially opened in November of that year.

As a host of BBC One's Breakfast News, Miss Dando's unassuming and relaxed presentation manner gained wide recognition.

By the early 1990s she replaced Anneka Rice on the BBC Holiday programme.

Slowing down

By 1995 she had added the monthly BBC One Crimewatch show to her roster of programmes, teaming up with Nick Ross after Sue Cook decided to leave.

Jill Dando in the Seychelles for Holiday
After years of travel Jill Dando wanted more time at home

As she looked forward to married life - she became engaged to gynaecologist Alan Farthing after they met on a blind date - Miss Dando announced her desire for a less frantic life.

"I have been determined for the past couple of years to move away from all those Holiday programmes," said the former BBC personality of the year in an interview shortly before her death.

"All this time I have been packing my bags and going off to Heathrow 20 times a year, for at least a week if it was a long haul location.

Marriage

"Friends are very understanding when you tell them in April that you can see them next September, but there is a limit to how long you can go on like that.

"And getting married this autumn was certainly an additional incentive to spend rather more time in England."

Shortly before her death she had publicly ruled herself out of the race to present a revamped Six O'Clock News.

Miss Dando had also said she was looking forward to having children.



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