Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jill Dando: The Murder of the BBCs Sunshine Girl

The Defense

On the fourth week of the trial, the defense attorney Michael Mansfield QC told jurors that there was evidence that Dando had been assassinated by a professional Yugoslavian hit man. He suggested that her death was caused in retaliation for NATO bombings in Belgrade. His claim was further supported by a National Intelligence Crime Service report, which ordered the death of the famous television presenter. "Miss Dando's murder was a hit ordered by Arkan, the leader of the Tigers," Mansfield said. The arguments made by the defense, focusing on the hit man theory, extended into the fifth week. Mansfield also told jurors that there were threatening phone calls received by Television Centre in London and BBC Belfast in the days following Dando's death. The caller had been said to have had a foreign accent and had referred to Dando's murder ws personalities with being future targets. In a rebuttal against the prosecution's earlier statements, Michael Mansfield told the jury that evidence linking Mr. George to the crime was "non-existent" and that the prosecutors failed to produce a motive, weapon or witnesses who saw him commit the murder.

Mansfield presented a witness who claimed to have seen a man in a Range Rover car parked near Dando's house on the morning of the murder. The witness, a traffic warden, told the court she had noticed the man waving at her while talking on a mobile. She told the court that when she had first approached the car, she did not see the man and was startled when she eventually noticed him. She believed the man on the phone in the car had been attempting to attract her attention. There was no evidence presented by either side that connected Mr. George with a Range Rover vehicle.

Following closing statements by the defense and prosecution, Mr. George's fate lay in the hands of the jury. On July 2, 2001, the jury returned after five days of deliberation. Barry Michael George had been found guilty of the murder of Jill Dando and sentenced to life in prison.

Newspaper articles (BBC News: July 3, 2001)
Newspaper articles
(BBC News: July 3, 2001)

According to British law, previous convictions of the defendant could not be told to the jury to prevent prejudicing the case. The BBC News reported what the jury had never learned — that Barry George had been previously arrested for crimes, some of which were assaults against women. In 1980, George had been fined for the impersonation of a police officer. That same year, he was arrested for the molestation of two women. One of the women had been attacked by Mr. George in an elevator, a crime for which he was later acquitted. The same year, Mr. George had been arrested for indecent assault of a second woman. She had told the judge at the hearing that he had followed her for several weeks prior to the attack. Mr. George was convicted for indecent assault in 1982 and of attempted rape in 1983.

What jurors had also not learned throughout the trial proceedings was that Barry George had been arrested in 1983 for trespassing on the property of Diana, Princess of Wales. Mr. George had been found armed with two knives, rope, combat paraphernalia and a gas mask. George had been seen loitering near the grounds around Diana's home a total of four times during the same year before he was turned away from the area. Therefore, Mr. George was a more threatening and disturbed character than what his defense team had initially portrayed. Based on Mr. George's prior criminal records from before the Dando charge, it was evident that stalking and other violent acts were not unknown to him. According to The Mirror newspaper who had interviewed the former wife of Mr. George, the marriage was described by the Japanese national as "violent and terrifying." The marriage lasted from 1989 until the couple's divorce in 1994.

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