Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 14:11 UK

Why Dando murder remains unsolved

Barry George
The defence said Mr George was not capable of murder

Barry George was a loner, an oddball, with a history of harassing women.

But he has consistently insisted that he did not kill Jill Dando. And a jury has agreed.

Their not guilty verdict means the nine-year-old murder - one of the most high-profile in recent history - remains unsolved.

Miss Dando was one of the most familiar faces on television, commanding respect and affection from the public in equal measure.

She died on the doorstep of her home in Fulham, west London, at 1130 on 26 April 1999 from a single gunshot to the head.

Theories abounded: that she had been the victim of a lone stalker; an obsessive; a gangland hit. There was even a claim that she had been killed by a Serb assassin, angered by Nato's war in Kosovo.

I was very shocked and quite distraught about it
Janet Herbert
Juror

But police believed there was a local connection.

On 15 May 2000, a year after Jill Dando's death, Barry George was arrested and charged.

In July 2001, his trial at the Old Bailey began.

One piece of forensic evidence was crucial to the prosecution case. In Mr George's pocket, scientists had found a microscopic speck of gunshot residue.

The prosecution said that proved that he had fired the fatal shot. He was convicted by a majority of 10 to one.

But Janet Herbert, who was a member of that jury, was troubled that the evidence did not demonstrate his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

"In fact, I thought it was the other way - that it didn't prove that he had done it at all," she says.

"So I was very shocked and quite distraught about it."

Bad character

In July 2002 the case went to appeal, but the conviction was upheld.

Backed by a campaign, Mr George returned to court in November 2007 - and this time got the outcome he hoped for.

Vital new evidence had emerged - there was no proof that the speck of residue in the coat had come from the murder weapon, or that Mr George had fired it. No murder weapon has ever been found.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the original jury had been misled. It quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial.

That forensic evidence - vital in the original conviction - was not permitted in the retrial.

The rest of the case against Mr George was circumstantial.

Barry George
Mr George was obsessed with guns and claimed to have been in the SAS

Prosecutors maintained that witness identification was the most important part of their case.

But only one witness could be 100% sure that they had seen Mr George in Gowan Avenue.

The prosecution also claimed that Mr George had lied to police - he had denied knowing Jill Dando, despite regularly collecting copies of the BBC's Ariel magazine, and he changed his alibi during the course of questioning.

But the defence said that Mr George was a epileptic with low intelligence. He had memory lapses, and he was a fantasist who claimed to be related to the late Queen singer Freddy Mercury.

The prosecution used a change in the law to introduce so-called bad character evidence.

They painted a picture of Mr George stalking a series of women on the streets of Fulham.

He had spoken crudely, the jury heard, and grabbed at least one woman by the arm. Witnesses spoke of being frightened and distressed.

Huge inquiry

The defence disputed none of that. They said that the evidence merely supported the view that the man who lived in that ground floor flat was an inadequate loner.

There was nothing, they argued, to suggest that he was a killer.

The inquiry into Jill Dando's murder was one of the most extensive in British criminal history. Police interviewed 5,000 people.

Crimewatch - the programme Jill Dando had herself presented - twice launched appeals for witnesses.

Barry George went to jail a convicted killer. He now walks free, a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

And if he did not kill Jill Dando, who did? The question is - again - as open as it was the day she died.



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