Monday, June 9, 2008

Dando shot by 'irrational loner'

Dando shot by 'irrational loner'

BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was killed by a "loner" with an "exaggerated interest" in celebrities, single women and weapons, the Old Bailey has heard.

Barry George, 48, kept photographs of famous personalities and followed women in west London, where both he and Miss Dando lived, the prosecution said.

Miss Dando, 37, was shot in the head on her doorstep in April 1999 in what was an irrational act, the jury was told.

Mr George, who was originally tried for her killing in 2001, denies murder.

Miss Dando, who became a household name after presenting shows such as Crimewatch, the Holiday programme and the news, was described in court as a "kind and generous" woman who was popular with colleagues and the public. Over the course of many years the defendant... would approach women, engage them in conversation and then seek to discover where they lived

Jonathan Laidlaw QC

She had "none of the pretensions" associated with those who achieved fame, jurors were told.

The court heard how Miss Dando was killed on the morning of 26 April 1999 after being "taken by surprise" by her attacker.

She had just returned to her Fulham home from her fiance's house in Chiswick, west London.

'No hate campaign'

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said her death was the result of the actions of "a loner, a man acting alone with no rational motive to kill".

Describing the killing itself, Mr Laidlaw said: "She arrived at her doorstep at 1130 and it would appear she was immediately shot by a gunman as she was about to unlock her door. Her keys were in her hand."

Miss Dando had not been aware of being stalked in the Fulham area and "she had certainly not been the target of any sort of sustained hate campaign", he told the jury.

Miss Dando, originally from Weston-super-Mare, was due to marry doctor Alan Farthing in September 1999.

Mr Laidlaw went on to tell the court there was "no evidence" that anyone other than Mr George, also of Fulham, was involved in the murder.

Mr George, who was wearing a blue shirt and tie in court, sat beside clinical psychologist Dr Susan Young who, the court was told, was there to help the defendant follow proceedings.

The jury heard how Mr George, who lived a few streets away from Miss Dando, had a history of complex medical problems and told police that he had a "personality disorder".

Mr Laidlaw said the defendant had "a wholly exaggerated interest in well-known personalities and entertainment", with "single women and particularly those living locally to him" and also with "the army and weaponry" and the media.

Among some 4,000 undeveloped pictures found at his home were images of TV presenters Anthea Turner, Caron Keating, Emma Freud and Fiona Foster, photographed from his television, the court heard.

Mr George had also "hung around" at the BBC's offices in White City, west London, had BBC cards and also had copies of the corporation's staff publication, Ariel, the prosecution said.

'Changed names'

The jury was told the defendant lived out his celebrity fantasy by pretending to be Queen singer Freddy Mercury's cousin.

Mr George, who had briefly worked as a messenger for the BBC in the 1970s, told another BBC employee he "did not like the way they [the BBC] had treated Freddie Mercury and his family", the prosecution said.

The defendant had also changed his name by deed poll, twice adopting the names of famous people, including Paul Gadd, the real name of singer Gary Glitter, the jury heard.

Mr George, a former member of the Territorial Army and a temporary member of the Kensington and Chelsea Pistol Club, also called himself Thomas Palmer - a member of the SAS involved in the Iranian embassy siege in May 1980.

He also bought a number of items of military equipment two weeks before Miss Dando died, the court was told.

Mr Laidlaw said as well as photographs of female news presenters, Mr George had allegedly taken hundreds of pictures of women he had followed.

He said: "Over the course of many years the defendant, particularly but not exclusively in the area of Fulham, would approach women, engage them in conversation and then seek to discover where they lived and the vehicles they drove."

The Old Bailey heard that witnesses also saw Mr George observing these addresses and on occasions watching as the women arrived home.

Mr Laidlaw said these "obsessive aspects" of Mr George's behaviour may provide a reason why he had an "interest" in Miss Dando and why he formed an "irrational" plan to kill her.

Six people have given evidence that they saw a man matching Mr George's description in the area at the time of Jill Dando's death, the prosecution said.


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