Jill Dando death: what happened to BBC journalist, was she shot by mafia hitman, and who is Barry George?

The murder of TV presenter Jill Dando has remained unsolved over 20 years since her death

Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.
Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.

Crimewatch host Jill Dando was a household name and one of the BBC’s highest-profile stars when she was shot outside her home more than 20 years ago.

The 37-year-old’s murder on 26 April 1999 in Fulham, West London sent shock waves through the country.

Barry George was arrested on suspicion of murder in 2000, one year after Miss Dando was killed.

He was convicted and imprisoned for eight years, then acquitted and released after a retrial.

Since then despite a high-profile investigation Miss Dando’s murder has remained unsolved.

New allegations have emerged that she may have been killed by mistake by a hitman targeting another journalist.

But what happened to the BBC journalist, was she shot by a mafia hitman, and who is Barry George? This is what you need to know.

Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.
Jill Dando was shot outside her home in 1999.

What happened to Jill Dando?

On the morning on 26 April 1999 Ms Dando returned from her fiance Alan Farthing’s home in Chiswick to the house she owned in Fulham.

Just before 11.30am as she reached her front door she was shot in the head. Her body was found a short time later by a neighbour.

It was said the assailant grabbed her from behind and forced her to the ground before shooting her, killing her instantly.

Her murder sparked the biggest criminal investigation, headed up by the Met Police, since the search for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Miss Dando’s next door neighbour made the only certain sighting of the killer from his window, a six foot tall white man aged around 40 years old.

Jill Dando was shot dead outside her home in 1999. Picture: PAJill Dando was shot dead outside her home in 1999. Picture: PA
Jill Dando was shot dead outside her home in 1999. Picture: PA

Was she killed by a mafia hitman?

According to reports documents received by a court in Paris claim she may have been killed by mistake after a Russian hitman mistook her for another BBC journalist.

The court papers allege French fashion mogul Gerald Marie, who is accused on several counts of sexual assault, wanted BBC journalist Lisa Brinkworth “dealt with” for her exposing his firm.

However, the documents allege the hitman then accidentally shot down Jill Dando after mistaking her as the target.

Lawyers have argued the mix up could have been due to the similarities between the pair. It has also been noted that Miss Dando’s fiance was Ms Brinkman’s doctor.

The Daily Mail reports that in the documents, the lawyers reference a conversation witnessed by former Elite executive Omar Harfouch in which Marie ordered a member of the Russian mafia to “deal with a problem”.

The documents from French law firm Bourdon Associes say: “Shortly thereafter… a BBC journalist, Jill Dando, was shot dead in April 1999.

“Indeed, these two journalists were in their thirties, were blonde with the same facial features, of the same height and of similar stature. They lived close to each other and had people in common, including the husband of Jill Dando.”

Barry George.Barry George.
Barry George.

Who is Barry George?

After a year of no progress in the investigation police focused on Barry George who lived close to Miss Dando’s home.

He was arrested in 2000 and convicted in 2001, and was cleared after a retrial in 2008.

Miss Dando’s murder happened during the Kosovo war, and a theory which emerged was that a Serbian hitman had been responsible.

This was something Mr George’s defence QC argued during the 2001 trial. He said as the face of both the Kosovo Crisis Appeal and the BBC, Ms Dando could have been been the target of a revenge killing ordered by Serbian warlord Arkan.

A documentary revealed the decision-making happening behind the scenes of the inquiry into Miss Dando’s murder.

It detailed a particle of gunshot residue in the pocket of a coat police found in Barry George’s house became the key forensic evidence against him.

In his retrial, the jury accepted that one particle of gunshot residue was insufficient forensic evidence to place him at the scene of the murder.

Speaking to the Mirror in 2018 he told of the impact having been wrongly convicted had on him, saying: “Ten years after being acquitted and I’m still trying to get away from it.

“Physically, I’m exhausted. I’m always looking at every angle of the case, trying to get closure.

“But I just cannot make sense of it. I was acquitted but I’m serving a life sentence for a crime I did not commit.”

Mr George suffers from learning difficulties as well as Asperger’s and other conditions, he also told the Mirror: “The police tailor-made the case to fit it around my neck.

“They thought it would just go away and solve the Dando fiasco.”

What’s been said about the case?

In a BBC documentary to mark 20 years since the television presenter’s shooting the detective who led the inquiry said he did not think any new suspects would ever be brought to court.

Hamish Campbell’s team arrested Barry George on suspicion of murder in 2000, one year after Miss Dando was killed.

Asked by the BBC whether he thought Jill Dando’s murder would ever be solved, Mr Campbell said: “Do I think somebody will come back to court? Probably not, no.”

He said: “Sometimes I felt we were a day away from solving it and other times, I thought ‘No, we’re a long way away’.

“Senior officers were asking ‘What are the likelihoods of this case being resolved?’

”We had over 2,000 people named as potential suspects or responsible. Some actions to trace and eliminate one person might take a day. One action might take two weeks.

“But there’s thousands of them and that’s the issue of managing stranger homicides.”