Netflix’s Who Killed Jill Dando? makes us privy to the tragedy that shook the entire United Kingdom and vividly recalls the aftermath of it, which left entire law enforcement agencies perplexed and stranded in the dark. To date, it hasn’t been ascertained who killed the famous BBC personality in broad daylight on her doorstep. It was an audacious act, and bizarrely, nobody could be found with a motive.
The investigating officers floated several theories for almost a year after the murder, but every time, some loophole appeared, which nullified the entire narrative, and the police force had no option but to start over. From a psychopathic loner being responsible for the murder to the Serbian organized crime syndicate having a role to play in the scheme of things, the police and the media entertained each and every possibility, but to date, it remains a mystery as to what happened on that fateful day. Generally, in a case, an investigating officer finds out the people who knew the victim, and then they try to ascertain a probable motive, but here, the entire country knew Jill Dando, and it could have been anybody who had carried out the hit. So let’s find out what the documentary tries to say, whether the police officers missed out on some details, and if the person they considered to be the prime suspect was behind the murder or not.
How did Barry George become the prime suspect?
The investigating officers, after looking into every probable suspect and joining the dots for almost a year, once again had to start from scratch, and that’s when they realized that back in the day, they had gotten a call from a local service organization, HAFAD, reporting that a man had come to them to ask if they could vouch for him that he was present with them when Jill Dando was murdered. It seemed like this man was looking for an alibi, and that’s when Hamish Campbell, the spearhead of the investigation, and his team of 16 officers became interested in him. They went to this man’s home and found a lot of magazines and BBC materials that had pictures of Jill Dando and other female media personalities.
There were undeveloped camera rolls found in his house, and the police found out that he used to stalk women and click their pictures. There was a picture of him too in the lot, in which he was wearing a mask and holding a gun, which the police speculated could be the murder weapon. There was also an overcoat procured from his house, and it was quite similar to what a witness had seen a man wearing on that day, whom she believed to be the probable killer. No doubt Barry was a suspicious character, but keeping pictures of women at his home did not prove anything, and Hamish Campbell and his team needed something more direct. The forensics report came, and that’s when the detectives got their hand on the biggest piece of evidence that turned the odds in their favor. Gunpowder residue was found in Barry’s overcoat, and on the basis of it, the prosecutors made their case, and the trial for the murder of Jill Dando finally commenced, more than a year after she had been killed.
Was the jury right in convicting Barry George?
The best move Barry’s sister, Michelle Diskin, made was to hire the best legal representation that they could get. As soon as Barrister Michael Mansfield KC took charge of things, Hamish and his team knew that they were going to have a very tough time proving the conviction in court. Michael Mansfield knew that, apart from the gun residue found on the overcoat, the prosecutor did not have any evidence that could link his client to the murder. According to Mansfield, it was a professional job carried out by someone in Eastern Europe, specifically Serbia.
After the NATO attack in Belgrade, it was said that a lot of Serbian right-wing groups wanted to take revenge, and killing Jill Dando was their way of retaliating. But again, there was no substantial evidence that corroborated the theory, and Hamish Campbell was very sure that it was the work of a loner and not a crime syndicate. Michael Mansfield was very confident, but somehow, the jury ruled against Barry, and he was found accused of the murder of Jill Dando. Well, in this case, any lawyer would have said that it was a weak judgment, as it wasn’t proved beyond doubt that Barry murdered Jill. Yes, he was involved in a lot of suspicious activities; he was a stalker; he had some very serious acquisitions put on him in the past, but still, nowhere could it be proved that on that fateful day, he had walked up to Jill Dando’s house and shot her point blank.
Also, in his psychological analysis, the experts said that Barry was not an intelligent man, to put it subtly, and it was impossible for him to create such an intricate strategy and kill such a famous personality and then stay quiet for a year and not leave any sort of trail behind him. For 8 years, Barry stayed in jail, and even the fellow inmates who saw him there gave their testimony in his favor and said that he couldn’t have murdered anyone. A woman named Susan Mayes had seen Barry on the same street where Jill stayed on the day the crime was committed, but then again, this was circumstantial evidence, and a judgment couldn’t be passed on the basis of it. Michelle kept fighting for the cause of her brother, and according to her, the jury had committed the biggest blunder. Even Michael Mansfield was of the opinion that the court had put an innocent man behind bars, and the real perpetrator still roamed free, maybe feeling proud of the fact that he had duped an entire system.
Did Barry George kill Jill Dando?
Michelle Diskin reached out to Raphael Rowe, an investigative journalist who had also gone through a similar ordeal when he was wrongfully convicted of murder and burglary. It was he who went all the way to the United States of America, and found out, after talking to many ballistics experts, that the gun residue wasn’t a reliable piece of evidence. That’s when Barry’s case was reopened, and the British court overturned their decision and came to the conclusion that he was not guilty. There was a lot of hue and cry in the media, and everybody had an opinion about whether Barry was innocent or not. But the thing about the legal justice system is that it cannot rely on opinions. It does not matter what the truth is, as long as you cannot prove it. We believe that during the trial, the jury made a wrong decision, not because we believe that Barry was innocent but because there wasn’t evidence that could prove that he was not.
Hamish Campbell still feels that they let go of a perpetrator, but you cannot keep someone in prison just because, according to you, he has killed someone. The entire theory about Jill Dando being killed by a loner had no basis at all, and it was something that Hamish Campbell felt from the beginning. It could very well have been a Serbian gang, some other crazy fan, or someone who felt threatened by the investigations carried out by Jill Dando in the Crimewatch TV show. That’s why media trials could prove to be hazardous, as they take into account perceptions and opinions, whereas in a trial, there is no space for such things, and only hard and solid facts are admissible.
Where Is Barry George Now?
The police shut down the case after Barry was released from prison after 8 years, though according to the procedure, they should have carried on with the investigation. After getting acquitted, Barry moved to Ireland because he knew that if he stayed in Fulham, the media and society would not let him live in peace. Maybe Jill Dando’s killer still roams free on the street, or maybe it was Barry George all along, but it became a case where probably the truth would never be known.