Who killed Jill Dando? The theories behind one of Britain's biggest unsolved cases 25 years after her death

25 April 2024, 16:41 | Updated: 25 April 2024, 16:51

Who killed Jill Dando? The theories behind one of Britain's biggest unsolved cases 25 years after the journalist's murder
Who killed Jill Dando? The theories behind one of Britain's biggest unsolved cases 25 years after the journalist's murder. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The murder of television presenter Jill Dando in 1999 remains one of the UK's most high-profile unsolved crimes.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

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

The Crimewatch host 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.

Still unsolved, the murder remains one of the largest criminal investigations in British history with hundreds of suspects.

LBC has compiled some of the main theories behind Ms Dando's death:

Gowan Avenue, Fulham, London, where Jill Dando was shot dead in 1999
Gowan Avenue, Fulham, London, where Jill Dando was shot dead in 1999. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned as New York court orders retrial in landmark #MeToo case

Read More: Laurence Fox ordered to pay £180,000 damages to two people he labelled 'paedophiles' on social media

Barry George

George, now 64, is the only man to ever be put on trial for Ms Dando's brutal murder.

George, who has autism and was judged at the time to have an IQ of 75, lived near the presenter's home and had a history of sexual offences and stalking women. A day after the murder police received an anonymous tip-off regarding a "mentally unstable man" who lived some 500 yards from the murder scene.

Gun holsters, a list of firearms, and news media coverage of Ms Dando were all found in his flat following a police search. There was also a photograph of a man holding a handgun and wearing a gas mask - which George denied was him.

Police discovered a particle of gunshot residue in his inside jacket pocket. This led to a guilty conviction and he spent eight years in prison.

But after a series of appeals helmed by his sister, Michelle Diskin-Bates, George's conviction was quashed in 2008 and the gunshot evidence was dismissed.

George always denied having ever met Ms Dando, insisting at the time: “I never met her in my life, didn’t know who she was. The police, over and over grilled me about it.”

Michael Mansfield KC, who defended George, said of Ms Dando's unsolved murder: “The file should still be open. They should be looking.”

Mystery lover

In the weeks following Ms Dando's death, theories evolved suggesting that Ms Dando may have been killed by a jealous ex-partner or mystery lover.

Her personal life was subject to scrutiny in the wake of her death and her romantic relationships were detailed - including with television producer Bob Wheaton who she had lived with before the relationship ended.

Following her death police analysed Ms Dando's phone calls, and diaries, and interviewed her close friends.

Each of the men identified as having formed a romantic relationship with Ms Dando were eventually ruled out of the investigation.

Dando was described as having a "very Lady Chatterly" relationship with South African game warden Simon Basil - who was a suspect for a short period.

Police also discovered some of Ms Dando's brief flings. These were thoroughly investigated but there was no credible evidence to suggest that anyone romantically linked to Ms Dando was involved in her death.

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

Barry George in Netflix's Who Killed Jill Dando?
Barry George in Netflix's Who Killed Jill Dando? Picture: Alamy

Serbian hitman

The theory that came to prominence in the immediate aftermath of Ms Dando's death was that she was killed by a Serbian hitman.

Ms Dando had presented a Kosovo Crisis Appeal just twenty days before her death and helped to raise £1 million for refugees in the Balkans.

Her agent said following the presenter's 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 also said it received threats over the phone to Jill, including one from a Serbian man saying he killed Ms Dando. Police attempted to investigate the call but it was unable to 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." Lord Tony Hall, former director general of the BBC was subsequently offered police protection.

Criminal gangs

Another theory was that Ms Dando was killed by an actor from a criminal gang or a professional hitman as revenge for working on Crimewatch.

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.

Jeremy Moore, Solicitor to Barry George outside the Old Bailey in London after Mr George was cleared of murdering Jill Dando
Jeremy Moore, Solicitor to Barry George outside the Old Bailey in London after Mr George was cleared of murdering Jill Dando. Picture: Alamy

Mistaken identity

One of the more recent theories about Ms Dando's killing came to prominence in the court case of French former Elite Model Management boss, Gerald Marie.

Court papers alleged Marie wanted undercover female journalist Lisa Brinkworth "dealt with" for exposing and covertly filming his firm for a BBC programme.

Marie was also accused of sexual assaults and rapes involving 11 women.

The theory suggests that Marie ordered a member of the Russian mafia to "deal with the problem" but the hitman killed the wrong target - instead shooting Ms Dando.

Jimmy Savile

In recent years theories have emerged that paedophile Jimmy Savile was behind her killing on the pretense that the journalist had been investigating a paedophile ring at the BBC in the 1990s.

The theory gained particular traction following the release of the Netflix documentary Who Killed Jill Dando?.

But the private investigator who helped expose Savile in 2012, Mark Williams-Thomas, has dismissed the claimes.

Writing on X in September last year he wrote: "A few people on here suggesting that #JillDando was killed for investigating Savile and what she knew.

"Those that think this, take a minute to apply common sense to the argument. I was the one that exposed Savile got a mountain of evidence against him - exposed it full to the world leading to many people being arrested including high profile people- tried / or managed to kill me.

"Thats because that theory has absolutely no sense to it," he concluded.