Unsolved Murders

Jill Dando

Age: 37

Sex: female

Date: 26 Apr 1999

Place: 29 Gowan Avenue, Fulham, West London

Jill Dando was shot on her doorstep on the morning of 26 April 1999.

She had died instantly.

She was a presenter of the BBC television programme Crimewatch which was about solving crimes that the police required help with.

A man was convicted of her murder on 2 July 2001 but was later acquitted in August 2008 after forensic evidence against him was discredited. After his conviction he had made three appeals, the first two of which were unsuccessful, but on his third appeal in 2007 his conviction was quashed. He was then tried again on 9 June 2008 but acquitted on 1 August 2008.

Jill Dando was engaged to a gynaecologist that she had met on a blind date arranged by friends and had been at his house on the night before she was shot. She had then returned to her home in Gowan Avenue in Fulham alone in her car on the morning, 26 April 1999, and was shot as she was opening the door.

At the time, although she still owned the house, she only visited it infrequently and was in the process of selling it.

She reached her front door at 11.32am and was then shot in the head. Her body was found 14 minutes later by a neighbour. She was taken to Charing Cross Hospital but declared dead on arrival at 13:03pm.

Another next door neighbour said that he had heard Jill Dando cry out in surprise but described it as though she had been greeting a friend, and said that he heard no gunshot. He said that he had then looked out of his window and saw a man walking off. He said that the man he saw was white, aged about 40 and about 6ft tall with dark hair, clean-shaven and wearing a green Barbour jacket. It was said to have been the only sighting of the possible murderer. The man that saw him said that he looked very respectable.

It was said that Jill Dando had been putting her key in her door when she was grabbed from behind and then forced to the ground so that her face was almost touching the porch step and that she had then been shot in the side of the head once. The bullet had entered her head just above her left ear and had gone parallel to the ground and then come out of the right side of her head.

The police found the bullet as well as the 9mm bullet casing that she had been shot with and said that the gun used was probably a converted replica gun or a decommissioned gun that had been made to work again, which led them to say that it was unlikely that her murder had been a professional assassination as a professional would not have been thought to have used such a poor-quality gun.

It was heard that one of the neighbours had heard the shot.

Soon after her murder there were reports of a man either jumping off of Putney Bridge or trying to do so and the police cordoned off the footpath nearby to search it.

There were a lot of other theories associated with her murder including:

  • That an ex-boyfriend or unknown lover had killed her for some reason.
  • That she was assassinated because of her connection with Crimewatch.
  • That she was assassinated by members of various Bosnian-Serb or Yugoslav groups.
  • That she had been murdered by a fan that had been pestering her. Her brother said that she had complained to him a few days before her murder that she had been pestered by a fan but the police said that they had ruled out that possibility.
  • That she was murdered by the IRA who had chosen her because of her links to the police through the television programme Crimewatch.
  • That it was a case of mistaken identity, although it was thought unlikely as it had happened on the doorstep to her home.
  • That she had investigated a paedophile ring at the BBC and was shot after handing a dossier about it in to the BBC, although it was said that there was no evidence of that.
  • That she was murdered by a business rival.

The man that was initially convicted of her murder was arrested about a year after her murder. He had lived about half-a-mile away and had a history of stalking women, sexual offences and other anti-social and attention seeking behaviour. He was described as an unemployed loner and it was reported by newspapers that he had also plotted to murder Princess Diana, a member of the British Royal family. It was later heard that he had been arrested in the grounds of Princess Diana's home at Kensington Palace in 1983 armed with two knives, a 15ft coil of rope, wearing combat clothes and an SAS gas mask. However, he was not charged and the record of the incident was destroyed after six years. It was heard that when the police later searched his flat in 2000 they found pictures and articles about Princess Diana in his flat along with details of her car number plates. It was also reported in a newspaper that he had at one time been on a Scotland Yard list of potential dangers to the royal family. He later said that the incident had taken place when he had been on his way back from exercises in the Territorial Army and had seen Royal Protection Officers and had hidden from them in the grounds for safety.

It was also heard that he had several previous convictions for sexual assaults and his wife with whom he was married between 1989 and 1994 had said that he would frequently attack her and rape her although she said that she had never noticed any obsession with Princess Diana and said that she was certain that he had not killed Jill Dando.

It was further heard that there were a lot of other bizarre incidents in his life such as him impersonating police officers, directing traffic, leaping across double decker buses in roller skates resulting in a fractured femur and dislocated spine and staging a re-enactment of the storming of the Iranian embassy in London in 1980 at a friend’s house in which he rang the doorbell and ran in firing a blank gun about.

At the time of his trial a photo of him was published widely showing him in a gas mask holding a gun but he later said that it was not a photo of him.

It was also heard that when the police searched his flat they had found rolls of camera film with hundreds of pictures of women on them, but he later said that the fact that they were undeveloped proved that they were harmless.

When he was arrested he told the police that he was stalking other women at the time of Jill Dando's murder and that between 10.30am and 12.33pm he had either been at his local disability centre or stalking a particular woman. He said 'I walked with her for a bit and from her perspective, maybe it was unwanted attention. But she didn't make that clear. It didn't seem like she was telling me to go away. If she'd told me to leave, I'd have done so straight away.'.

After the man was released he took out a libel action in the High Court for reports they had written in the newspapers including The Sun and the News of the World for which he received substantial damages.

When the police first started to look at the man as a suspect they put him under surveillance and later arrested him on 25 May 2000 and then charged him on 28 May 2000. During their surveillance they had watched him following 38 women, but he said that he had been asking them if he could wash their cars.

The main evidence for the prosecution was a speck of firearm residue that was found in a pocket of a blue cashmere coat that was found at his flat that was later found to match a speck found in Jill Dando's hair, but he said that he had been to a firework display in November 1998 and that it might have come from there, but he also added that he thought that his coat was contaminated whilst it had been in the possession of the police.

It was also heard that the police had found newspaper articles at his flat about Jill Dando, but the man said that he had hoarded about 800 newspapers and that he had never heard of Jill Dando before.

The theory that she had been shot because of her work on the television program Crimewatch was also widely reported with a particular researcher saying that she was killed on the orders of a Mr Big in the criminal underworld as a message to others not to take on organised crime. The researcher claimed that after going through more than 52,000 documents in the Jill Dando files he had found an intelligence report that stated that two men were identified in Islington that were said to have killed her on behalf of a prominent crime family that had targetted her because of her role in Crimewatch investigating crime. The man said that the intelligence report stated that the two men that had shot Jill Dando had then disposed of the murder weapon in a canal in Islington. However, the researcher said that the detective had ordered no further action into the men because they had already charged the man that was later convicted. It was said that the crime family had targetted Jill Dando because she was carrying out research on them.

Another theory relating to the criminal underworld was that she was murdered by a Spanish barman that had shot her because of her role in convicting Kenneth Noye who was associated with the Brinks Matt gold bullion robbery and who was convicted for a road rage murder that was solved with help from the efforts of a Crimewatch TV appeal. Kenneth Noye was convicted for the murder of Stephen Cameron in 2000 who he stabbed in 1996 on the M25.

The theory that she had been targetted by a Bosnian-Serb or Yugoslav group was based on the theory that following the bombing of a Serbian TV station by NATO during the war she had been seen as a high-level personality fronting a TV appeal for Kosovan-Albanian refugees. The appeal had gone out several weeks before her murder and was said to have enraged Serb paramilitaries. It was noted that her murder bore similarities to the murder of Slavko Curuvija who was murdered in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia on 11 April 1999, two weeks before Jill Dando was shot.

The theory that Jill Dando had alerted staff at the BBC about a paedophile ring involving big name stars involved in organised abuse and had been killed as a result of it was also widely considered. It was heard that an unknown source had said that when Jill Dando had raised the concerns no one wanted to know, and that no investigation was ever carried out. The source had also said, 'I don’t recall the names of all the stars now and don’t want to implicate anyone, but Jill said they were surprisingly big names. I think she was quite shocked when told about images of children and that information on how to join this horrible paedophile ring was freely available. Jill said others had complained to her about sexual matters and that some female workmates also claimed they had been groped or assaulted. Nothing had been done and there seemed to be a policy of turning a blind eye.'. The source said that Jill Dando had compiled a file of complaints but that the list was returned to her by senior management. However, it was said that the BBC later said, 'We’ve not seen anything that substantiates these claims.'. It was also said that Jill Dando had joined a campaign to help children spot paedophiles in 1998 and had received death threats resulting in the BBC being put into lock down and armed guards put on patrol at Television Centre in London.

However, theories that she had been assassinated in an organised hit were generally thought unlikely because she had not been living at the Gowan Avenue property at the time and that there was no way to have known that she would have been there at that time. It was also noted that CCTV evidence was found showing her movements earlier in the day in shops and it was said that nothing indicated that she was being followed. It was also noted that the bullet that she had been shot with had been fired with a converted or re-activated firearm and was not likely to have been used by a professional hitman.

It was heard that it was thought that her killer had staked out her house for at least an hour before she arrived. The police said that they had reports of a smartly dressed man with a mobile phone outside her house that had been wearing black framed spectacles in an apparent attempt to disguise himself.

Her murder was a high-profile case that has continued to attract theories with investigations regularly revealing new leads, such as the February 2017 article in Hello Magazine stating that a hitman had claimed to know who had murdered her.

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