true crime

Reporter Jill Dando was killed 20 years ago. It's still one of the most baffling crimes. 

Jill Dando was reaching for her front door when she was shot once in the head.

It was 11:32am on April 26, 1999 and she had just left her fiance’s home in Chiswick.

The 37-year-old, often referred to as the golden girl of the BBC, was found 14 minutes later by her neighbour. By the time she arrived at Charing Cross Hospital, she was declared dead.

Dando was a household name, presenting a program called Crimewatch, which reconstructed unsolved crimes in an attempt to garner interest from the public and produce new leads.

She likely did not suspect that one day it would be her own murder reenacted, in a desperate attempt to solve one of the most baffling crimes in living memory.

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What made Dando’s murder especially complicated, was that she had enemies. Lots of them.

Her career as an investigative journalist meant she knew things she was not supposed to. She had connections to the police through her work on Crimewatch, which perhaps made her a target for the IRA.

Jill Dando. Image via BBC.
Jill Dando. Image via BBC.

A former colleague of Dando's told police that she was trying to expose a paedophile ring in the months before her murder.

The source said: "I don't recall the names of all the stars and don't want to implicate anyone, but Jill said they were surprisingly big names."

Was this a desperate attempt to keep Dando quiet?

Some theorised it had been a representative of the Bosnian-Serb or Yugoslav groups, retaliating against Dando's media appeals to send aid during the Yugoslav Wars.

Then there was a man widely referred to as 'Joe' the Spanish barman. Could this have been an act of revenge?

After a Crimewatch appeal, a man named Kenneth Noye was sentenced to life in prison for a road rage killing which took place in 1996. Noye and 'Joe', it was believed, were linked.

Or could this be the work of a stalker, utterly obsessed with Dando?

Her brother, Nigel, told detectives that she had referred to "some guy pestering her" in the lead up to her death.

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Police explored all these leads, and landed at a dead end.

The facts were known and relatively uncomplicated.

At a few minutes past 10am, a postman remembers seeing a man with dark hair and dressed in a suit watching him intently. Witnesses also remember seeing a blue Range Rover parked illegally.

Over an hour later, Dando returned home to Fulham. She was grabbed from behind, according to police, and forced to the ground. The perpetrator then fired a single shot into her left temple.

Two witnesses recall seeing a man wearing a black jacket running from Dando's house in the moments after her murder.

Ten minutes later, a man was seen crouching in a park, speaking on a phone. He then ran into traffic crossing Dando's street, but escaped unharmed.

CCTV captured a blue Range Rover speeding away from the crime scene, down Fulham Palace Road.

The police knew the details of what happened. But who was responsible?

After the murder, around 2000 people were named as potential suspects.

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Barry George had a history of sexual offences, stalking, and a variety of antisocial tendencies.

He also lived about 800 metres from Dando's home.

After 12 months of thorough police investigations, with very little progress, they turned their attention to the failed musician who was known for 'attention seeking' behaviour.

Inside his home, police found a jacket with gunpowder in the pocket. This would be used as forensic evidence.

They also came across a photo of George in a mask, holding a pistol.

These two pieces of evidence were enough, in July 2001, to convict George of Dando's murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

But eight years later, after a retrial, George walked out of a court room an innocent man.

The gunpowder was deemed inadmissible as evidence because the particle found in his pocket could not be properly identified. Some claim the jacket had been cross-contaminated by police working on the case.

Almost 20 years later, Dando's murder, which took place outside her home in broad daylight, remains unsolved.

In a new BBC documentary The Murder of Jill Dando, detective Hamish Campbell admitted that the case may never be solved.

"Do I think somebody will come back to court? Probably not, no," Campbell admitted in the new documentary.

Dando's brother, Nigel, also spoke out in the documentary.

"I would like to see somebody charged and convicted, but I would just like to know, why someone would want to kill her," he said in the documentary.

It is not yet known when the documentary will air in Australia.

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