‘Who Killed Jill Dando?’ Explained: What Are The Multiple Theories Related To The Murder?


Who Killed Jill Dando? is a new Netflix docuseries that brings up one of the most debated and discussed crimes from the other side of the Atlantic, in the UK. On April 26, 1999, a famous English journalist and TV reporter was shot dead right outside her own house in London’s affluent Fulham area. As was quite expected, the murder received tremendous media coverage and public attention, but it still remains one of the most intriguing unsolved criminal cases in the United Kingdom. Who Killed Jill Dando? essentially brings back the case for newer audiences and provides a solid summary of the entire matter, but without adding any new conjecture to it.

Who was Jill Dando?

Born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, Jill Dando was always a cheerful person who could hold the attention of people, and a career in journalism was almost certain for her. Both her father, Jack, and her elder brother, Nigel, were in the same profession, so Jill’s interest in journalism was not difficult to understand. After beginning work in print media and moving on to some smaller jobs in television, Jill got her first prominent role as a journalist in a show called BBC Spotlight in Plymouth. Because of her easy and free nature, the woman was able to readily mix with people, even the common masses she would have to talk to as part of her work. At the same time, there was also a very professional and dedicated attitude about her, making Jill climb up the rungs of media quite soon.

Once she made her position in BBC, Jill Dando became a TV news presenter, and with time, she was one of the most readily recognized personalities in England. Jill appeared as the presenter on BBC programs like Breakfast Time and BBC One O’clock News. Much of her fame also came after she started hosting the popular crime appeal series Crimewatch in the UK. It makes sense that a rising celebrity would still not be known to many if their field of work is not popular among certain sections of viewers. However, being a TV news presenter is almost like being a regular visitor to every household—a personality who almost breaks the barrier between the program and the viewer and directly tells them about the happenings of the world. Added to the very nature of her job was Jill’s charming personality, which impressed audiences, and in a few years, Jill Dando was an extremely popular individual in England.

Many even considered her the Diana of news media, owing to a very similar hairstyle and nature between the two as well. Therefore, when on the morning of April 26, 1999, news broke of a murder having taken place in Fulham, and the rumored victim being Jill Dando, the English media almost stood still for some time. It was eventually announced that Jill had indeed passed away from a single bullet wound right outside her apartment in Fulham, and there was no clue as to who had committed such a heinous crime.

Who were the initial suspects in the murder?

A few minutes before the media got to know of the murder, the Metropolitan Police were alerted by a woman on the street who initially believed that it was a case of stabbing. Once the police reached the spot and examined the situation, the identity of Jill Dando was confirmed, along with the fact that the murder had been committed with a single bullet fired from a very close distance. As far as the initial suspect or evidence was concerned, the police only gathered from some witnesses on the street that a man wearing a long dark overcoat was seen running away from the spot while another man was seen panting and sweating at a bus stop very close to the place. A third noticeable occurrence was that a traffic officer had been issuing a ticket to a particular parked car—a blue Land Rover—when a man ran into her, creating a distraction in which the car fled as well. This led to the theory that at least two men had been involved in the crime. But the sheer fact that the woman was killed in broad daylight right on the street made almost everyone a suspect and made this investigation a particularly difficult one for the Met Police.

After looking into the usual evidence, the police started to suspect men who were inside Jill’s innermost circle, and a few names struck out. First was her current partner and fiancé, Alan Farthing, a renowned gynecologist. Second, was her ex-partner, Bob Wheaton, who was a BBC senior editor and also Jill’s boss during the whole time. Thirdly, her business agent, Jon Roseman, was also considered an initial suspect. But none of the three seemed to have been involved in the murder only after a little bit of investigating, since they really did not have any motive, and there was nothing to link them to the crime either. Bob Wheaton initially looked more suspicious than the others because he owed a large sum of money to Jill during her death. However, the man cleared this with the police, as he and Jill had bought a house together during their relationship, the mortgage of which she had paid at the time. Since their separation, though, Bob had been paying back the amount, and this was also verified as the truth.

Another piece of information that seemed important to the police was that Jill Dando actually was not living in her Fulham house but was settled with Alan Farthing in a different area of London. She had only gone over to the Fulham house to collect some important fax from Roseman, and it was at this specific time that she was coincidentally murdered. This meant that the perpetrator had very solid information about Jill’s exact daily routine, and therefore, it was believed that he could have been a stalker of the woman. Keeping this theory in mind, the police established Jill’s movements that morning and then checked in with all of the security camera footage from the places. While the woman was seen in each of the locations, nobody seemed to be following her or approaching her in any unnatural way.

Still with no suspect in the murder case, the police decided to take more help from the public, and an episode on the matter was aired on the Crimewatch UK program. A man soon claimed that he had seen the panting and sweating man at the Fulham bus stop, and based on this claim, an electronic sketch of the possible perpetrator was made. The Met Police released this sketch to the public, asking for more help to track the person down. A man named Shackleton responded to the sketch, claiming to be the man the police were looking for. The physical appearance of Shackleton did indeed match the suspected murderer’s, but this lead also turned out to be wrong. Shackleton was a strange person who seemed to take a bit too much interest in morbid objects related to death, but there was no way to tie him to the exact crime scene. Shackleton claimed that he was in the area on the day, but a different man had chased him, due to which he was huffing and sweating at the bus stop.

Who Is Barry George, And How Is He Linked To The Death Of Jill Dando?

While the Metropolitan Police’s decision to open up to the public for help did not work as intended in many ways, it also led them to the only significant suspect in the murder case. The police received a call from a few businesses reporting a man who had come in and asked about whether he could be related to the businesses during the time of Jill Dando’s death. Essentially, it seemed like this person was trying to find and confirm some sort of alibi for himself, and this immediately struck as suspicious. The more the police looked into this man and his apartment, though, the more he seemed shady and suspicious.

Originally named Barry George, the man had used various different alibis over the years. Searching his apartment revealed that Barry was an absolute loner and stalker who secretly followed around women and photographed them from different angles. Along with this extremely strange behavior, the police also found his apartment to be in an extremely dirty state, making them believe that whoever stayed there must have had some psychological struggles. The man was picked up for questioning, during which he completely denied having anything to do with the murder. He even denied knowing Jill Dando, too, despite the fact that many magazines and newspaper clippings of Jill, along with other female news reporters, were found in his apartment. A few undeveloped camera rolls were also found, and when developed, they appeared to be photographs of women taken by the stalker. Among these photos was also one of a masked man holding a handgun, which looked immensely close to the one that could have been used to commit the murder.

Although the exact murder weapon had not been found by the police, the empty bullet casing found at the scene was used to conclude what kind of weapon must have been used. It was this bullet casing and the gun in the photograph that ultimately tied Barry George to the murder. In the man’s apartment, a dark-colored, three-quarter-length overcoat was found, which was quite similar to the one that a witness had claimed to have seen on a man at the crime scene. This coat was sent in for forensic examination, and it was deduced that it had a particle of gunshot residue in one of the pockets. Added to this was the fact that Barry George actually had criminal charges, mostly of sexual misconduct and rape against women, against his name. In July of 2001, two years after the mysterious death of Jill Dando, Barry George was found guilty by the court and jury, and the man was sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, this sentencing did not mark the end of the matter at all. Barry claimed innocence throughout, and in fact, he does so, appearing in Who Killed Jill Dando? as well. Sometime around 2007, an investigative journalist looked into the whole matter and put to the test the veracity of the forensic examination. By this time, developed investigative departments like the FBI had announced gunshot residue to be an inaccurate standard of evidence. Based on the journalist’s work, this followed suit in the UK as well. The court was forced to change the original verdict, and a retrial of the case was announced. Since the murder investigation already had very little evidence, the retrial could not prove Barry George to be guilty, and the man was acquitted of all charges.

What Are The Other Theories In The Jill Dando Murder Case?

After the court case with George Barry was over, there has not really been any other following investigation in the case at all. The murderer of Jill Dando is still unidentified and probably roams free to this day. Although the senior police detective who led the investigation, Hamish Campbell, still strongly believes that it was George Barry who had committed the crime, there was simply not enough evidence to prove it. But owing to the nature of Jill’s work, some other theories had also cropped up at the time, and they still exist now.

First was the theory of a Serbian connection, since Jill was reporting on the ongoing Yugoslav wars and might have gained enemies in the process. The NATO forces had also recently bombed some parts of Serbia, leading to the direct deaths of journalists and common people, and the BBC did receive suspicious phone calls at the time. A man claiming to be a Serbian had called the office and claimed that Jill’s murder was related to her and NATO’s stance about the war. There were theories that some Serbian warlord had sent hired men to kill the woman, but the crime scene did not look like very professional work either. Ultimately, though, no link with any Serbian individual or group could be established at all.

A second theory also considers that Jill might have been killed by some secret admirer or stalker of hers who had grown bitter over the woman for some reason. Although no solid evidence regarding this matter exists either, it cannot be completely ruled out because of the very public and often disturbing situation that women reporters and presenters have to face because of creepy and lecherous men.

A third theory still exists: Jill Dando was probably involved in some secret investigation that would have exposed some very powerful people. A criminal-turned-journalist featured in the Netflix docuseries, Noel Smith, also states this to be the most plausible explanation. According to him and to many others as well, some very powerful criminal gang had hired an assassin to kill the reporter. This was either retaliation against some new investigation or against her earlier Crimewatch program, which had put many behind bars. The BBC denies any such claim, though, as it is highly unlikely that Jill was working on some report by herself, and there is no existence of any such report at all. As unfortunate and unsatisfactory as it is, though, the mystery behind Jill Dando’s murder still remains unsolved.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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