Who killed Jill Dando? The main theories behind Britain's biggest unsolved murder

26 September 2023, 09:30

TV ''golden girl' Jill Dando
TV ''golden girl' Jill Dando. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By StephenRigley

The murder of Jill Dando 24 years ago remains one of Britain’s biggest unsolved crimes.

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TV journalist Jill Dando, was shot dead on her doorstep by a single bullet in the head, at 11:30am on April 26, 1999. The keys of her BMW convertible were still in her hand.

Jill Dando was killed by a single bullet in her doorstep. Her murder has never been solved
Jill Dando was killed by a single bullet in her doorstep. Her murder has never been solved. Picture: Alamy

Dando was found outside her home in Fulham 15 minutes later by a passer-by and was rushed to Charing Cross Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 1:03pm.

Her death sparked one of the largest criminal investigations in Britain since the case of The Yorkshire Ripper, and saw 1,393 potential suspects, 500 hours of CCTV footage, a £250,000 reward and the quashed conviction.

Read More: Jill Dando killer 'wanted five minutes of notoriety' says brother, as he dismisses 'professional hit' speculation

Here are the main theories behind the death of TV's 'golden girl', Jill Dando:

Barry George
Barry George. Picture: Alamy

Barry George: The only man to ever be put on trial for Jill Dando's murder - who had his conviction quashed

George was the only man to ever be put on trial for Jill’s murder.

The loner lived near her home and had a history of stalking women and sexual offences. George spent eight years in prison for Dando's murder before his conviction was quashed in 2008 after several appeals.

Just a day after Dando's killing, police received an anonymous call concerning a 'mentally unstable man' who lived just 500 yards from the presenter's home.

A search of his flat revealed part of a gun holster, a list of firearms, and news media coverage of Jill. There was also a photo of a man holding a handgun and wearing a gas mask, but George denies it is him.

A particle of gunshot residue in his inside jacket pocket led to a guilty conviction. After an appeal spearheaded by his sister, Michelle Diskin-Bates, the gunshot evidence was dismissed and the conviction quashed.

Top lawyer Michael Mansfield KC, who defended George, says: “The file should still be open. They should be looking.”

A mystery lover

In the wake of Dando's death, there was a string of theories that she may have been killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend or an unknown lover.

Dando had a number of public relationships and had lived with television producer Bob Wheaton before the relationship ended, due to reports that he tired of her frequent absences as she travelled the world due to her BBC1 Holiday programme. 

Dando also enjoyed, what she described as, a 'very Lady Chatterly' relationship with Simon Basil, a South African game warden - who became a suspect for a short period, but ruled out by police.

In early 1999, Dando was engaged to be married to surgeon-gynecologist Alan Farthing and had been returning from his house in Chiswick on the day of her death.

But amid these publicised affairs, police discovered Dando had briefer flings. But the leads were thoroughly investigated and produced no credible evidence to suggest that anyone romantically linked to Dando was involved in her death - and all the men were cleared.

Read More: Jill Dando's brother reveals his theory behind the presenter's unsolved murder

Read More: Hopefully 24 years is not too long and Jill Dando can get the justice she deserves

Jill Dando presenting Crimewatch
Jill Dando presenting Crimewatch. Picture: Alamy

A Serbian hitman

Just 48 hours after Jill was killed, the theory appeared that the TV presenter was killed by a Serbian hitman.

Twenty days before her death, she had presented a Kosovo Crisis Appeal that had raised more than £1million in 24 hours in support of those refugees fleeing the Balkans.

Days before the murder, NATO bombed a TV station in Serbia, killing 16 employees. Jill’s agent Jon Roseman said: “We had a lot of mail, but not usually threatening. Then we received a letter that mentioned the appeal she had given earlier that month for Kosovo. It seemed to be somewhat threatening.”

The BBC had started to receive phone threats, including one from a Serbian saying he had killed Jill. Police tried to investigate but the call could not be traced.

"Your Prime Minister (Tony) Blair butchered 17 innocent young people," the unknown caller said."He butchered, we butcher back. The first one (Jill Dando) was yesterday. The next one will be Mr Hall."

As a result Mr Hall, now Lord Hall and director general of the BBC, was offered police protection.

Allegations arose in 2012 that Dando was one of two journalists executed by a Serbian hitman in a revenge attack. A Serbian widow claimed that her tv presenter husband and Dando were both targeted by the same killer after insulting  Milosevic's regime.

George's barrister Michael Mansfield told the court that the National Criminal Intelligence Service had a report suggesting Dando's killing was in retaliation to the Radio Television bombing.

He said that the serb warlord Zeljko Arnautovic, known as Arkan, had put out orders to kill the then BBC director general Sir John Birt. "His security had been stepped up as a result - so the target was switched to the unguarded Jill Dando,'"The Mail on Sunday reported.

London hitman

Of the many theories delved into, one is that Jill was murdered in cold blood by a criminal operating in the drugs underworld, or a paid hitman.

In 2015 former Surrey police detective Mark Williams-Thomas, who is now an investigative journalist, suggested that Dando had been murdered on the orders of a London underworld Mr Big, who sent the message to others as a warning to take on organised crime.

After trawling through 52,000 documents in the Dando files, Williams Thomas said he unearthed an intelligence report naming two men from north London, who may have acted for a major organised crime gang. 

The two were said to have broken the gun allegedly used as a murder weapon, into four pieces, before throwing them into a canal in Islington. 

The report was seemingly inconclusive and stated that one of the men was later identified and the detectives found no link to the crime family, while the other was never found.

Main theories behind who killed Jill Dando 24 years ago
Main theories behind who killed Jill Dando 24 years ago. Picture: Alamy

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