Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jill Dando: The Murder of the BBCs Sunshine Girl

Operation Oxborough

Investigator Hamish Campbell (BBC News)
Investigator Hamish
Campbell (BBC News)

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Oxborough," began immediately. Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell led the inquiry, involving numerous criminologists, psychologists and other forensic experts in the investigation. A total of three teams of detectives were created. A forensic examination of the area surrounding Dando's front yard yielded one single Remington brand cartridge from a rare short version 9 mm semi-automatic Browning pistol. Criminologist Kate Broadhurst described the weapon to BBC News on April 27, 1999, as being similar to the guns used by, "drug dealers and professional criminals."

Given the execution-style manner in which Dando was murdered, Mr. Campbell stated to the press that the killer "could either be a stalker or hit man." Weeks after the murder the police had no one in custody linked to the crime.

Chronology of events map (BBC News)
Chronology of events map (BBC News)

There were several people who came forward immediately following Dando's murder to report seeing a man behaving strangely in the vicinity of the crime. One witness, a 10-year-old boy, was being driven to school by his mother when he spotted a "weird" man outside Dando's home the morning of the murder. The boy told BBC News that the man, who was wearing a dated suit and cap, was pacing Gowan Avenue and had almost stepped in front of the vehicle in which the boy was riding. Neither the boy nor his mother got a good look at the man's face.

A window cleaner in the area also told police he witnessed a man outside Dando's home one hour before she had been shot. Still yet another witness had seen a man with large glasses loitering around Dando's home shortly before the shooting. Other witnesses had seen a man fleeing with a mobile phone from Dando's house after the murder and another saw a man climbing the fence at a nearby park. Another man was seen sitting in a Range Rover near Dando's home before the slaying occurred. Investigators examining area traffic camera footage showed a blue Range Rover vehicle speeding down Fulham Road near the vicinity of the Dando's house 22 minutes after her murder. Investigators were unable to trace the driver or the vehicle. Another man was seen, perspiring heavily and resting at a bus stop shortly after the murder had occurred. Other interesting tips were revealed to the police in the weeks following Dando's slaying, including statements taken from passengers on the bus that passed near the murder scene and said they saw the prime suspect talking on his mobile phone. This suspect was seen exiting the bus at Putney Bridge subway station. It was unclear if any of the sightings matched the description of the strange man of whom Dando's neighbor had earlier described.

Police composite of suspect (BBC News)
Police composite of
suspect (BBC News)

Information was gathered by the witnesses and a composite of the chief suspect was drawn up. Unfortunately, the witness accounts, camera footage, composite sketch and psychological profile all failed to produce new leads in the investigation.

After 28 days, the trail of the killer had gone cold. The Dando case had undergone a re-examination and a new inspector, Detective Chief Superintendent Brian Edwards, replaced Campbell. A new team had been organized with some 44 inspectors. Campbell, however, remained in control of the daily aspects of the case. On May 27, 1999, a man was taken into overnight custody by police. Scotland Yard later released the man, a funeral director, the following morning, after he was found to have no connection with the case.

On June 16, 1999, BBC News broadcast that sources revealed it was unlikely Dando had been stalked and that the crime was believed to have been carried out by a professional criminal. Police, who had extensively examined video footage following Dando's movements in the weeks leading up to her death, found no evidence suggesting she had been stalked. The source further stated that the shooting bore, "all the hallmarks of a very planned and precise homicide."

Bullet casing, police evidence (BBC News)
Bullet casing, police
evidence (BBC News)

During the last week of July 1999, forensic experts publicly disclosed that they had discovered unique markings on the bullet casing found at the murder scene. Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell relayed that six tiny, yet distinctive marks, deliberately made with a hammer-like instrument, had been found on the casing. The markings were believed to have been made to hold the bullet in place and reduce the firing sound. He was further quoted, stating that the markings could have been a "trademark, habit or idiosyncrasy" of the killer.

Investigators appealed to the public, specifically to ammunition and gun dealers, for information concerning the strange markings. The Daily Mail and Sun newspapers offered 100,000 pounds each, along with a 50,000 pound reward offered by Crimestoppers, for further information leading to the capture of Dando's murderer. One hundred days had gone by since her death yet no one had been charged for the crime. The police and investigators continued to search for vital clues.

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