Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jill Dando: The Murder of the BBCs Sunshine Girl

Sparks of Hope

Jill Dando
Jill Dando

On December 10, 1999, The Sun newspaper interviewed a man working on the film 102 Dalmatians who had found a strange object on the shore of the Thames during an afternoon stroll. Wrapped in newspaper, the man discovered a black 9mm automatic Beretta, believed to have been similar to the gun used in the Dando shooting. The gun was discovered on the same day police revealed that Dando was most likely not murdered by a professional killer, although it had not been totally ruled out. Police further revealed that during the weeks leading up to her murder, two men at different occasions showed a fixation with Dando. On one occasion a man attempted to place his name on Dando's electricity bill, and on another, a man attempted to have her telephone changed to his name. Weeks later, detectives revealed that there was a third incident in which a man attempted to access Dando's private documents. It was unclear whether the men were one and the same or were two or three different people. This new evidence led police to speculate that Dando's murder was most probably carried out by a stalker.

The Psychopathology of a Stalker

Katherine Ramsland in her article, "Stalkers: The Psychological Terrorists," presents the definition of a stalker, which is according to U.S. legislation, a person who "willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses" another person and who threatens the safety of that person or their immediate family. Recently stalking has gained a great deal of media attention due to several high profile cases in which celebrities have been murdered or assaulted by obsessed stalkers. The problem has often been believed to have been one suffered exclusively by females, especially those who are continuously in the public eye. According to Dr. Phillip Resnick of Case Western Reserve University, one in 12 women is stalked by either sex at one time throughout her life. However, stalking is not a phenomenon to which only celebrities or females alone fall victim. Both stalkers and their victims are represented by both genders. Dr. Ramsland points out the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in 45 men are stalked at sometime in his life and that "90 percent of women killed by their husbands or boyfriends had first been stalked." However, on average women are more likely than men to be the victims of a stalker.

Jill Dando, victim, with  fiancé (BBC News)
Jill Dando, victim, with
fiancé (BBC News)

Dr. Reid Meloy, author of several books on stalking and a leading expert on stalking behavior, stated that stalkers are mostly middle-aged men who develop pathological attachments and usually follow a predictable pattern of behavior. He describes the progression of a stalker in his book The Psychology of Stalking, as one which begins with infatuation-like feelings, eventually followed by contact with the person of interest. Contact with the person often ends in rejection, which Meloy states, "triggers the delusion through which the stalker projects his own feelings onto the object: She loves me, too." He further explains that the stalker hides his shame with anger, leading to the desire to control or injure the person being stalked. Often, the stalker will attempt to fulfill his fantasy by devaluing the person and controlling the individual through violence.

Dr. Ramsland describes the F.B.I.'s four distinct types of stalkers:

  1. Non-domestic stalker, who has no personal relationship with the victim
  2. Organized
  3. Delusional
  4. Domestic stalker, who has had a prior relationship with the victim and feels motivated to continue the relationship

Ramsland says stalkers tend to be, "unemployed or underemployed," and more intelligent than other criminals.

Therefore, stalkers are more likely to be middle-aged, unemployed, obsessed, psychopathic men. However, one can not and should not myopically view all stalkers as such. Stalkers and their victims are not limited to any particular gender, age, sex, race or culture. Thus, anyone at anytime or anywhere can be stalked. Ramsland does state that although many stalkers do threaten their victims, only a "small percentage carry out their threat." Unfortunately, there is no way to differentiate between those who make idle threats and those who actually follow through.

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