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Why newsreader Jill Dando's murder is still unsolved over 20 years on

english television presenter jill dando smiling at the camera
Why Jill Dando's murder is still unsolvedColin Davey - Getty Images

On 26 April 1999, one of the UK's best-known television personalities, Jill Dando, was shot dead on the doorstep of her London home. It was a case that shocked the country.

Jill Dando was regularly watched by millions of Brits on the six o'clock news and Crimewatch, and in the week she died she was on the cover of the Radio Times. Everyone knew or recognised her in some capacity.

Her celebrity, universal popularity and the shocking way in which she was killed led to tributes from across the entertainment industry. Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time, also paid tribute, along with the then Home Secretary Jack Straw and even the Queen.

Jill's death caused shockwaves that have lasted years, but what makes the case even more extraordinary is that it remains unsolved. Police still don't know who did it, despite it having been one of the most high-profile crimes of the 1990s.

Coming to Netflix on the 26th September, the streaming platform will air a new three-part true crime documentary, Who Killed Jill Dando? which re-explores the tragic event. Plus, why – after former suspect Barry George was acquitted in 2008, after serving an eight-year prison sentence for her murder – there has been no more serious investigation into Jill's death.

The platform's official synopsis says: "British broadcasting legend, Jill Dando, was killed by a single bullet on her doorstep in 1999 in broad daylight. Despite one of the biggest homicide investigations in British history, the murder remains unsolved."

"This three-part series takes viewers through the twists and the turns of a true crime mystery as her family, friends, journalists, investigators and lawyers wrestle with the question: who killed Jill Dando?"

Who was Jill Dando?

As a journalist, Jill quickly worked her way up the BBC newsroom ranks to appear on many of the broadcaster's shows. She presented the breakfast news, 6 o'clock news, Crimewatch and also the travel review programme, Holiday, which she reportedly loved.

In her personal life, the 37-year-old had a brother Nigel, she lived in west London, had many friends both inside and outside of the industry, and was engaged to gynaecologist, Alan Farthing. They were due to be married in the autumn of 1999.

"Jill was at the top of her game," says one commentator during the new trailer, with another adding: "She was the nation's sweetheart."

jill dando during women of the year awards at the savoy hotel in london in london
Fred Duval - Getty Images

The killing and day of her murder

Jill was shot in the head on the doorstep of her home in Fulham, West London, in broad daylight. Her neighbour discovered her collapsed body, covered in blood, at 11.47am.

After being rushed to the nearby Charing Cross Hospital, Jill was pronounced dead at just after 1pm on the day. Her colleague Jennie Bond, best known as the BBC's royal correspondent for many years, broke the news live on air saying that she had been stabbed to death. Much of the media believed this to be the case until it was confirmed a gun had been used, as deaths by shootings were relatively rare in comparison.

Her fiancé, Alan, said in a statement that he was "totally devastated and unable to comprehend what has happened."

The suspected motives

Given the high-profile nature of the crime, rumours, suggestions and theories about why a beloved news presenter would have been killed immediately began to swirl. The public appeal also led to the police being contacted thousands of times by witnesses who offered up their thoughts. The police had 2,000 people named as potential suspects.

"Everyone had a theory about who was responsible; criminal networks, Mafia, Russians, jilted lovers," a commentator says in the new Netflix trailer.

"Is this an assassination, is this an execution?" a second voice weighs in.

Crimewatch

Along with Nick Ross, Jill was the face of Crimewatch – the long-running BBC show that came to an end in 2017 after a 33-year run – where police officers and victims of crime appealed to the public for information in the hopes of helping to solve cases.

Due to the criminal nature of her death, some sections of the public and media speculated that her murder could have been revenge from a criminal who was convicted based on Crimewatch appeals.

This motive was ruled out quite quickly, however. In the 2019 BBC documentary, The Murder of Jill Dando, which marked two decades since her death, Jill's co-presenter revealed that he never believed their job would have been a factor. Detective Hamish Campbell also added that it didn't make sense that a high-ranking criminal would avenge a presenter, whose job is merely to deliver the information. No evidence was ever found to support the theory that Jill's job on Crimewatch was the motive for her murder.

who killed jill dando
YouTube/Netflix - YouTube

A 'Serbian revenge attack'

Another theory was that the murder was revenge in another form; a planned assassination by a Serbian 'hitman'. Jill's death occurred during the Kosovo war and, in particular, on 23 April there was an airstrike by NATO forces (the UK is a member of NATO along with the US, France, Canada, Italy and more) on the Radio Television headquarters in Belgrade where 16 people died. Jill had also presented an appeal on behalf of Kosovar Albanian refugees who had been affected by the year-long war in the region.

The police ruled this argument out at the time as they had no evidence to support it.

An ex-boyfriend

Police looked into the theory of a jealous ex-boyfriend or romantic connection but found no evidence to support this.

A stalker

Being a woman in the public eye also meant the police could not rule out that Jill had been targeted by a stalker. The police did reveal that Jill received regular post from fans, some of which could certainly be described as "odd".

A stranger

Jill's brother and fellow journalist Nigel Dando has told Sky News ahead of the doc's imminent release that he believes his sister's murder was "a random killing" carried out by a stranger. Plus, that she was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Speaking to the publication, he insisted that he's hopeful "the killer is out there watching" and will "come forward to confess what they've done and get it off their chest" after 24 years.

The guilty verdict of Barry George

A year passed following Jill's death and no one had been arrested in connection with the murder. The force was under increasing pressure to solve the high-profile case.

Among the aforementioned names given to the police as suspects was Barry George: a local man who lived nearby.

Police ended up charging and mounting a case against George, alleging that he was the man who murdered Jill. This was based on evidence including witness reports that he had been in the area at the time of the murder, and was acting "suspiciously" at a nearby taxi rank in the days afterwards. The police also found photos of him holding a gun when raiding his flat, as well as newspaper cuttings and photos of both local women and famous women – including a magazine with Jill on the front. George also had a criminal conviction of attempted rape, though the jury were not told this for legal reasons.

The main evidence the police used against George was a very small particle of gunshot residue that was found on the inside of a coat he owned. Similar particles were found in Jill's hair and on her coat.

The jury took more than 30 hours deciding on the verdict. Media reported at the time that some jury members looked very distressed when they came back into court after deliberating.

The court found George guilty of Jill's murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. His legal team immediately launched an appeal, and he always maintained his innocence.

who killed jill dando
YouTube/Netflix - YouTube

Barry George's release from prison

After serving eight years in prison, George was cleared of Jill's murder and released from prison in 2008.

The main grounds for George's acquittal were due to the gunshot residue. An investigation by experts found that the amount in his coat was so tiny that it would be inadmissible in court. That single particle could not connect George to the shooting.

A retrial was ordered on these grounds and the jury found George, who has a disability and an IQ that puts him in the lowest five per cent of the population (as per The Guardian), not guilty.

George appears in the trailer for the three-part documentary – both in his original questioning video and the present day. In a short clip, which shows him sitting down with producers and appearing to give his side of the story, he says: "It makes me angry that they've taken eight years of my life."

jill dando
Colin Davey - Getty Images

Will Jill Dando's murder case ever be solved now?

Since George's release, no one else has been convicted of Jill's murder. "The file should still be open on this case, they should be looking," the trailer reveals.

Journalist and Loose Women panelist, Jane Moore is also prevalent in the trailer, speaking throughout. "To be sitting here 24 years on and saying that we still do not know who killed Jill Dando is mind-boggling," she concludes.

Elsewhere in Nigel Dando's conversation with Sky News, he shared that - due to his journalistic tendencies - he knew at the time that his sister's death was going to make major headlines.

"But, you know, one of the leading TV celebrities in this country gunned down on her own doorstep. It's going to... It's a heck of a story. And you kind of knew what was going to come down the line."

"I was trying to prepare myself to deal with that, knowing that you had to deal with the media. But trying to protect my dad from any excesses of it," who he revealed was in his eighties at the time and "not in the best of health."

Ultimately, the documentary aims to shed light on what has been described as "one of the biggest homicide investigations in British history." And – hopefully – will provide answers to the still unsolved case.

Who Killed Jane Dando? will air on Netflix in three-parts on 26 September 2023

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