Page last updated at 21:47 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 22:47 UK

George not guilty of Dando murder

Barry George leaving court on 1 August 2008
Barry George denied killing the Crimewatch presenter

Barry George has been found not guilty of murdering BBC television presenter Jill Dando outside her London home.

Mr George, 48, of Fulham, west London, denied shooting 37-year-old Miss Dando on her doorstep on 26 April 1999.

He was first convicted in 2001 but an Old Bailey retrial was ordered after doubt was cast on the reliability of gunshot residue evidence.

In a statement issued through his solicitor Jeremy Moore, Mr George said he was "overwhelmed" by the verdict.

Mr George added: "I want to thank my family, my legal team, my medical team and all the people who have supported me at Belmarsh, Whitemoor and Manchester prisons, and all my supporters."

But Mr Moore said: "This is not a time to celebrate. Barry George, an innocent man, has spent eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

"Those eight years could have been better served by the police in searching for the real killer."

Mr Moore said he would not be surprised if Mr George, who left the Old Bailey in a taxi, sought compensation for the time wrongly spent in jail.

Barry George's solicitor reacts to the verdict

The jury of eight women and four men was sent out to deliberate on Wednesday after an eight-week trial.

Mr George, a loner and epileptic who suffers from mental illness, has consistently insisted he did not murder Ms Dando.

He showed no reaction as the verdict was read out but nodded as clinical psychologist Dr Susan Young, who sat with him in the dock during the case, whispered to him.

Outside court, Dr Young said: "Throughout the trial, he did not dare to get his hopes up and he continually said to me in the dock he believed he would be convicted.

"His eyes filled with tears and he took a very deep breath."

Later, Dr Young told the BBC News Channel that Mr George was unlikely to be angry about his experience.

"Obviously this is the time for reflection; perhaps mistakes have been made but bitter and angry are not words I would use."

Mr George was arrested on 15 May 2000, a year after the shooting in Gowan Avenue.

His defence argued he was not capable of carrying out what could be seen as the "perfect crime" that required "meticulous" planning.

We are really delighted to finally have justice
Michelle Diskin
Barry George's sister

Forensic evidence about a tiny speck of gun residue found in Barry George's coat pocket after his arrest helped secure his original conviction.

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

But last year, the Court of Appeal ruled new scientific doubts over the evidence meant the conviction had to be quashed and ordered a retrial.

The appeal hearing was told it was "just as likely" that the particle came from "some extraneous source as it was that it came from a gun fired".

The residue evidence was not permitted to be put before the retrial jury.

Mr George's sister Michelle Diskin, who has led the fight for his release, was instrumental in getting the Criminal Cases Review Commission to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

"We are really delighted to finally have justice," she said.

Barry George's sister said she hoped police will launch a reinvestigation

"A huge thank you to the jury. They obviously worked very hard to ensure they correctly interpreted the circumstantial evidence in this case...

"We've been fighting for many years. Now we need time to get back together as a family. We also hope that the police will now look again into the murder of Jill Dando."

The Crown Prosecution Service defended its original decision to charge Mr George.

In a statement it said: "Mr George now has the right to be regarded as an innocent man. But that does not mean it was wrong to bring the case.

"Our test is always whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction; it would be wholly wrong only to bring cases where we were guaranteed a conviction."

The Met Police said it would reflect on George's acquittal and "consider how best to proceed".

Commander Simon Foy, head of Scotland Yard's homicide and serious crime command, said: "We are disappointed by today's verdict but especially disappointed for Jill's family and friends. However, we respect the decision of the court."

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

Jill Dando
Jill Dando was one of the most popular presenters on television

They painted an image of Mr George approaching a series of women on the streets of Fulham.

No murder weapon was found by police.

But prosecutors presented evidence they said showed Mr George was a celebrity and gun-obsessed stalker with a grudge against the BBC, where he had worked as a messenger for a short time in the past.

He was said to have photographed hundreds of women and was described as a fantasist who told people he was the cousin of the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury.

When police searched his home in Crookham Road, officers found 2,248 photographs he had taken of women.

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

However, only one witness could be 100% sure that they had seen Mr George in Gowan Avenue - and that was more than four hours before the killing.

Defence counsel William Clegg QC pointed out the prosecution case was circumstantial and said there was no direct evidence that George was the killer.

Extracts from Barry George police interviews in 2000

The court heard that Mr George has an IQ of 75, in the lowest 5% of the population.

The jury at the retrial also heard the defendant had a history of medical problems and memory lapses and told police he had a "personality disorder".

Mr Clegg said: "The only reason that the prosecution say that this is the work of the local loner, the local nutter, the man with these serious psychological problems, is because that is the man they arrested.

"But if you look at the facts of the case they will give you a very different story."

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