It was a sad and shocking day on 26th April 1999 when Jill Dando, newsreader and presenter of BBC TV series Crimewatch and Holiday, was shot dead outside her home. After Barry George was convicted of her murder, we all thought the case was solved. Then he was acquitted on appeal. So the question is, who killed Jill Dando?
At the time of her death, 37-year-old Jill Dando was a very high-profile BBC personality. That all changed at 11.32am on 26th April 1999, when she returned to the house she owned in Fulham. Just as she reached the front door, a single bullet was fired into her left temple. Her body was discovered 14 minutes later.
The murder weapon was said to be a 9mm automatic pistol, and forensic testing said that it was pressed against her head at the moment the trigger was pulled. Her next door neighbour, Richard Hughes, said he heard her utter a surprised cry which – interestingly – was “like someone greeting a friend”. He heard no gunshot.
Hughes also made the only eyewitness sighting of the killer. A 6-foot-tall white man, approximately 40 years old.
Barry George, a man with a history of stalking women, sex offences and anti-social behaviour, eventually became the focus of the murder investigation. The evidence against him hinged on his previous history, the fact that he was in the vicinity four and a half hours before the murder, and the tiny particle of firearm discharge residue that was found on his coat.
After being convicted of murder and serving just over 7 years in prison, George was found not guilty at a retrial. This was after the firearm residue evidence was ruled to be inadmissible because of possible cross-contamination, effectively whittling the prosecution case down to nothing.
But if it wasn’t him, who was it?
Assassinated by the Serbians?
Due to the way she was shot, the police have now decided that Jill Dando was executed by a professional assassin. This has helped fuel a number of conspiracy theories, the first being that she was assassinated by the Serbians.
At Barry George’s first trial, his defence barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, posited this theory based on Dando’s coverage of the Kosovo War. Britain was on the side of the Kosovo Albanian rebel group, who were fighting the Serbian government and dictator Slobodan Milošević.
Mansfield suggested that the Serbians may have targeted her for two reasons:
- She had recently presented a TV appeal for aid for Kosovan-Albanian refugees in the Kosovo War, which may have attracted adverse attention from Slobodan Milošević’s supporters.
- Her death was Serbian retaliation for Britain and America’s highly controversial bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia’s headquarters on 23rd April 1999.
Initially the police rejected the Serbian link because the bombing was only 3 days before her death and they wouldn’t have had enough time to plan it. But journalist Bob Woffinden argues that powers in Serbia had been planning it for a lot longer. He cited the murder of newspaper editor Slavko Curuvija – shot dead outside his Belgrade home on April 11th – as evidence that Milošević was hitting back at his perceived enemies in the media.
What’s more is that the day after Dando’s murder, a man with a mid-European accent called the BBC TV Centre to admit to Dando’s death and threaten to kill Tony Hall. Hall was the chief executive for BBC News, thus ultimately responsible for coverage of the Kosovo War. To this day, nobody knows if the call was a hoax or not. The mysterious caller said this:
“Yesterday I call you to tell you to add a few numbers to your list. Because your government, and in particular your Prime Minister Blair, murdered, butchered 17 innocent young people. He butchered, we butcher back. The first one you had yesterday, the next one will be Tony Hall.”
Assassinated by corrupt powers in football?
The Serbian assassination theory is the one that has gained the most traction, but a former BBC colleague of Jill Dando believes it is a red herring. Wishing to remain anonymous, she told the Daily Star in March 2014 that Dando’s death was to do with her investigation of the death of her friend Matthew Harding.
Three years before Dando’s death, Matthew Harding – deputy chairman of Chelsea football club – expressed concerns about corruption in football and, according to this unnamed source, repeated those concerns to Dando. Just months later, Harding was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash along with four others. Did somebody silence him? Dando was apparently looking into his death – and received two warnings to back off. She didn’t.
All sounds very colourful and scandalous, but could also be a string of coincidences – and Harding’s death was ruled an accident by an inquest jury. That’s not to say it’s impossible that there’s a huge cover-up going on, but beyond these allegations made by an unidentified source to the Daily Star, the evidence for a cover-up is thin.
Assassinated by the BBC?
Another anonymous source, also claiming to be a former colleague of Jill Dando, told the Daily Star in July 2014 that Dando was murdered in order to keep a lid on a paedophile ring within the BBC. Apparently Dando had information about ‘big-name’ celebrities and high-up BBC staff who were part of this ring and was in the process of investigating it when she was killed. Not surprisingly, the BBC said it hadn’t seen anything to substantiate the claims.
Another cover-up? Or perhaps the Daily Star spun this story themselves to capitalise on the extremely high profile of the Jimmy Saville abuse scandal and Operation Yewtree? Were they just running out of stories in mid-2014, and so decided to invent some conspiracy theories?
David Icke would argue – no. Despite not citing any evidence, he argues that Dando did know of a paedophile ring within the BBC, and that the State killed her to keep her quiet.
But then, David Icke also believes the government is under the control of lizards in human camouflage.
Will we ever know the truth?
Evidence for all these theories is pretty much non-existence. Even the coincidences they derive from are thin and barely hang together. Truth is, I haven’t got the faintest idea who killed Jill Dando. None of us do.
But what intrigues me the most – after all this talk of Serbian hitmen and huge conspiracies to cover up football corruption and paedophile rings – is the evidence of her neighbour Richard Hughes.
The sound she made, right before she was fatally shot, was “like someone greeting a friend”…