POLICE, responding immediately to the shooting of popular TV presenter Jill Dando on her Fulham doorstep in April 1999, labelled it a ‘senseless murder’.
And so they were on the wrong track from day one.
It would have been a ‘senseless’ crime if committed by Barry George, the loner with mental health problems, who served eight years in jail after initially being convicted of killing Dando.
Prosecutors offered no convincing motive for George’s alleged atrocity.
It was merely left to the imagination of the six men and five women who came up with that guilty verdict that it was a product of his admittedly disturbed mind.
Memory being what it is many folk may believe George, known for an obsessive interest in women despite his lack of success with them, had hundreds of photos of Dando at his home. Instead Police found nothing to link him with her save for the fact that he lived in the same neighbourhood.
When George took part in an identity parade, residents who had seen a man walking away from the scene failed to pick him out.
Interestingly, though, it was the physical evidence – circumstantial as well – that both brought about the conviction and led to his acquittal at a retrial.
Gun residue was found in the pocket of a man who had told police he didn’t have an interest in guns.
Later it was found this didn’t directly link him to the timing of Dando’s murder – and he was set free.
I say ‘free’ because, by his own admission, that has never been the case.
Police reportedly followed him everywhere, leading him to quit England for Ireland.
In 2013 his claim for compensation was turned down as he was deemed to be ‘not completely innocent’. In legalese, this means there remains evidence, albeit largely discredited, to link him with the crime.
We can’t fault the Police for the scale of their investigation – the most extensive in this country since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.
But could a clue lie in that initial response. For the vast majority of murders – certainly those carried out in cold blood – are anything but ‘senseless’.
True, it was very difficult to find a personal motive for killing a woman regarded as the darling of mainstream TV.
Whereas we have a tendency – perhaps due to our inherent fear of death – to give instant sainthood to the departed, there was genuinely nothing to dislike about Jill Dando.
Her relaxed charm, professionalism and good looks endeared her to the general public.
Yet when the focus is switched to her role as a presenter of Crimewatch the possibility of a motive is much increased – particularly in the light of what we know now more than 18 years later.
Dando was said to have received information about an alleged VIP paedophile ring and had passed this on to her seniors at the BBC.
This was at a time when the cat was not yet out of the bag and any suggestions, for example, that fellow BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a paedophile would have been met with disbelief and very strong denials.
Could it be that members of the establishment saw the removal of Dando as a way of putting the lid on any further investigation and sending out an obvious message for those who might seek to renew it?
There are interesting links to explore that certainly don’t discount such an amazing claim.
Firstly, the murder of Dando was a very quick, clinical, efficient operation.
She was approached on her doorstep by a man – that’s about as far as we can go from reports of neighbours – who got within a very short distance and then fired a single shot into her head.
There was no evidence of a struggle merely a scream. No witnesses saw the actual incident and very little physical evidence was left, although paramedics played an unwitting part in that.
In other words it has all the hallmarks of a professional assassination – the very antithesis of anything the fumbling George was capable of.
Another interesting question is: how did the killer know Jill Dando was going home at that moment?
Although legally that was still her address, she was actually living almost exclusively with her fiancé Dr Alan Farthing several miles away.
Police tried to provide clarity on this issue by looking at the mobile phone records not only of Dando herself but anyone discovered to be in the vicinity of the shooting.
They came up with nothing.
The one person who definitely knew Dando was calling home was Farthing himself – albeit he may not have been aware of her two-hour shopping detour on the way.
Farthing was questioned on many occasions following the murder but more on the lines of whether there could be any motives for men jealous of his very public engagement to Dando.
There is an interesting ‘establishment’ link her, too, as Farthing has subsequently become a surgeon/gynaecologist to The Queen and helped to deliver Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first child.
I have worries also about Dando’s friendship with Sir Cliff Richard.
He was known to have come into her life during her last year, ostensibly as a fellow Christian and celebrity.
That would have been seen as a very positive sign of Dando’s rise to fame back then but there is now evidence linking the singer to the paedophile ring.
Very few murders are committed by persons unknown with no motive.
Although all murders are ‘senseless’ by definition, there is more often than not a very real purpose behind the evil act.
Police are no longer investigating the death of Jill Dando. Despite the huge money and resources they deployed on this case, I fear they never genuinely did.