Jill Dando: TV presenter’s brother Nigel Dando gives his theory on star’s unsolved murder 24 years on
The brother of murdered TV presenter Jill Dando says despite the case remaining unsolved 24 years, he has a theory about who could be behind her death.
The execution style killing of one of Britain’s best-loved broadcasters in broad daylight on her own doorstep in April 1999 shocked the nation, leaving the press, public and police united in disbelief.
One of the biggest homicide investigations in British history – finally resulting in a conviction one year after her murder, only to be overturned seven years on – remains unsolved to this day.
Her brother, Nigel Dando, has told Sky News he believes it was “a random killing” carried out by a stranger, and that the presenter “was just in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Speaking ahead of a new Netflix documentary, looking into the murder and resulting police investigation, Mr Dando said that even all these years after his sister’s death, he is hopeful “the killer is out there watching” and could “come forward… to confess what they’ve done and get it off their chest”.
‘It’s a heck of a story’
Receiving news of the death of a loved one is hard – and all the more so when that death is sudden and violent.
Mr Dando says he hadn’t seen Jill for around three weeks before her death, but then received a phone call telling him his sister had been killed.
He says: “Within a couple of minutes, really, of hearing that Jill had died, half of my brain wanted to grieve for her loss and be close to my dad… He was in his eighties and not in the best of health. So, you had the family side of things.”
However, as a fellow journalist, Mr Dando also had a second part of his mind clicking into gear.
He goes on: “But, you know, one of the leading TV celebrities in this country gunned down on her own doorstep. It’s going to… It’s a heck of a story. And you kind of knew what was going to come down the line.
“I was trying to prepare myself to deal with that, knowing that you had to deal with the media. But trying to protect my dad from any excesses of it.”
It is of course that same power of the story that attracted true crime producer Emma Cooper to the case, and she would go on to spend over a year heading up the three-part documentary.
She explains: “An act that violent with a gun happening in an area of London, that would be outlandish now in 2023. So, to look back at that happening at that time is extraordinary.”
But she says it was also key to remember the person at the heart of the story: “It was very important to all of us that Jill was very present in the series and that we reminded people who knew her and remember her. And also [it was important] we brought it to a new audience of young people who don’t necessarily know about Jill and don’t necessarily know what happened to her and what a huge part she was in all of our lives.”
Who was Jill Dando?
Born in the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, Dando’s first job was as a trainee with her local weekly newspaper, the Weston Mercury, where her father and brother also worked.
Quickly progressing from print journalism to television, her talent paired with a girl-next-door persona saw her rise through the ranks of regional shows to national TV, going on to present Holiday, the Six O’ Clock News and Crimewatch.
Just two years before her death, she was voted BBC personality of the year.
On 26 April 1999 she was shot dead outside her home in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, southwest London. She had been due to present the Six O’ Clock News the following evening.
The many theories about Jill’s killer
One of the theories of a possible motive behind her killing, was that her presenting role on Crimewatch had made her vulnerable to criminals who might bear a grudge against her for her part in bringing them down.
Another was that a Serbian assassin could have killed her, in revenge for NATO bombing, after seeing her front an appeal for aid for Kosovar Albanian refugees.
However, Mr Dando doesn’t believe such theories stand up to robust investigation, calling them “interesting lines of inquiry” but which “never went anywhere”.
Of the Crimewatch connection he says “there was no evidence, it was just someone jumping on the bandwagon”.
And of the theory of links to Serbian mafia – Mr Dando says there was “no real evidence of a Serbian hitman”.
But he does have his own thoughts about who could have been behind his sister’s death.
“My theory before this happened and that’s been reinforced since by watching this documentary, is that Jill was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that somebody walking down the street, holding a gun for whatever reason, spotted her, either knowing her or not knowing who she was, and shot her dead.”
Mr Dando adds that some of the “theories would make great stories in fiction, but… There’s no line that really holds a huge amount of water apart from you know, a random killing, which I think it was.”
Who is Barry George, and how does he fit into the case?
Local man, Barry George, who had previous convictions and a history of stalking women, was arrested for Jill’s murder almost a year after her death, and later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mr George spent seven years in jail, but was later acquitted due to unreliable forensic evidence, leaving the case again unsolved.
Speaking about Mr George’s original conviction, Mr Dando says: “At the time I thought that the police had got the right person, and a jury agreed with that sentiment because he was obviously found guilty and jailed for life. But the legal system moves on.”
But Mr Dando does have one concern – that Mr George chose not to give evidence, at either his trial or re-trial.
Mr Dando says: “I would just liked to have seen him tell a jury exactly what he was doing on that day, because he’s never actually explained where he was. It’s all a bit jumbled up. It would have been interesting to have heard him explain where he was, and for him to have been cross-examined about his movements on that day.”
While the conviction against Mr George was quashed, he has been unsuccessful in his attempts to gain compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
Mr George is also a contributor to the Netflix documentary.
Executive producer Emma Cooper says she felt it was vital to have Mr George’s side of the story in the film, to present “as clear of a rounded picture of all the events as possible from as many different perspectives as possible”.
In the documentary, she asks Mr George outright, “Did you kill Jill Dando,” to which Mr George answers, “No”.
She says: “I thought it was important to ask, I thought that the audience would expect that of us to ask him a straight question. And so, we did.”
One of the biggest homicide investigations in British history
Mr Dando says he bears no anger towards the police over the lack of a conviction, calling the investigation “a difficult job” and adding: “I don’t have any negative feelings towards the police at all with their inquiries. I didn’t at the time, and as the years have gone on, I don’t.”
As the documentary shows, while Dando’s fame ensured that news of her murder travelled far and wide, it also played a part in hindering the investigation.
Mr Dando says officers were inundated with people trying to “do the right thing” by offering up information, and the result was an avalanche of tips “overwhelming all the potential lines of inquiry that came in”.
While the investigation was moved into “an inactive phase” nine years ago, Met Police told Sky News detectives “would consider any new information provided” in a bid “to determine whether it represented a new and realistic line of enquiry”.
Offering further information around the combined reward of £250,000 which was initially offered for information leading to an arrest, the Met told Sky News, “Any discussion about any reward would have to take place in the event that new information came to light.”
Mr Dando says he is still approached in public – in the supermarket, at the carpet shop – by people “wanting to talk about Jill” and “how they remembered her”.
Jill was just 37 when she died, and five months away from getting married to her fiance, Alan Farthing.
Mr Dando says: “She was on an upward trajectory… Whether family life would have taken over from her broadcasting career or whether she could have juggled the two. Who knows what would have happened, where she would have been today.”
Will we ever get an answer?
Ms Cooper says: “It’s really important for a shared audience to look back at that and for new people to discover what happened. And for older people to be reminded about it and to be reminded of the fact that it is still unsolved.”
The film documents aspects of the investigation that most – including some of Jill’s family – have never heard about before.
Other contributors to the film include Dando’s ex-partner, television producer Bob Wheaton, her agent Jon Roseman, and former detective chief inspector Hamish Campbell who headed up the murder case.
Ms Cooper says: “If somebody could see something that could jog a memory that has been unclaimed for 20 years, that would be an amazing outcome for all of us.”
Mr Dando too, has hopes – even if they are vanishingly slim – that the documentary could lead to some sort of answer for himself, and all those who loved and knew Jill.
He says: “We’ve lived for 24 years not knowing who did it, but maybe more importantly, why they did it. Why would you go up to a stranger and do what you did? I just don’t know. So, it would be nice to have some closure from that point of view to know why that person pulled the trigger.”
He goes on: “Maybe even the killer is out there watching this documentary and their conscience, even after all these years may be pricked and it may just encourage them to come forward to confess what they’ve done and get it off their chest.”
Who Killed Jill Dando? is released on Netflix on Tuesday 26 September.
Hollywood writers reach ‘tentative’ deal to end strike over AI and compensation
A “tentative” deal has been reached to end a long-running strike by writers in Hollywood.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced the deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group which represents studios, streaming services and producers in negotiations.
A statement from the WGA said: “We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language.
“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
Most of the writers’ demands have been met
After 146 days on the picket line, Hollywood’s writers are finally ready to put pen to paper and sign an agreement with the studio bosses who pay their wages.
My understanding from speaking to sources on both sides of the standoff, is that most of the writers’ demands have been met with this deal, including greater royalty payments and assurances about the role of Artificial Intelligence in future TV and filmmaking.
If approved by the Writers Guild of America members, which seems all but guaranteed, it will bring an end to the second longest strike in the union’s history. It is also the broadest industry strike in decades, with more than 100,000 actors joining them on the picket.
Hollywood will not fully bounce back. Until actors return to work, filming on shows like the Last Of Us and Stranger Things, which have been on hold for months now, cannot resume. But talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Saturday Night Live, which don’t rely on actors, could resume filming as soon as this week.
Speaking to people on the picket line, they framed this strike action as about more than just Hollywood. Some said AI was not just “anti-creative” but that it presented an existential threat not just to their craft but to humankind.
This deal will be seen as a major victory in securing protections over their TV and film credits and payments in the wake of AI.
The three-year contract agreement – settled on after five days of renewed talks by negotiators from the WGA and the AMPTP – must be approved by the guild’s board and members before the strike officially ends.
Read more on Hollywood strikes:
How much of a threat is AI?
The terms of the deal were not immediately announced.
The statement added: “To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorised to by the Guild.
“We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.”
The agreement comes just five days before the strike would have become the longest in the guild’s history, and the longest Hollywood strike in decades.
About 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on 2 May over issues of pay, the size of writing staffs on shows and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creation of scripts.
In July, the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union started its own walkout which is yet to be resolved.
It said in a statement: “SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency and solidarity on the picket lines.
“While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members.
“We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”
David Tennant and Catherine Tate appear in surprise Doctor Who trailer alongside a star studded cast
Doctor Who fans were given a surprise on Saturday – with a new trailer showing the return of two beloved characters.
Just as viewers were about to be transported in the ballroom for the first Strictly Come Dancing live show of 2023, they took a quick detour via the TARDIS.
Tennant was one of the most popular Doctors after the show was revived, with his exit – alongside companion Catherine Tate – leaving many fans heartbroken.
But in a surprise twist at the end of the last series, Jodie Whittaker’s character regenerated into David Tennant’s iteration of the Doctor – who played the iconic Time Lord between 2005 and 2010.
Fans had been expecting to see Ncuti Gatwa, who was announced as the new Doctor earlier this year.
Both Tennant and Tate are returning this November for three episodes as part of a 60th anniversary special of the show.
Sex Education star Gatwa will then take over the role, with his first appearance as the 15th Doctor Who set to take place over the festive season. Gatwa is seen at the end of trailer, smiling and opening his eyes.
The new trailer saw Tennant and Tate reunited, with the latter regaining her memory and the pair fighting against a host of new villains.
At one point, Tennant says: “I don’t believe in destiny but if destiny exists then it is heading for Donna Noble. If she ever remembers she will die.”
The brand new trailer features Neil Patrick-Harris – he will play the Toymaker, an all-powerful enemy last seen in 1966.
Elsewhere, Jemma Redgrave reprises her iconic role as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.
Show runner Russell T Davies said: “This is just the start, as the fever starts to burn. We’re heading for a November full of Doctor Who surprises, for fans and new viewers alike. Stay alert!”
The show will premiere exclusively on the BBC for the UK and Ireland. Disney+ will be the exclusive home for new seasons of Doctor Who outside of the UK and Ireland.
Kids’ TV is dying but it is evolving – and could create a new golden age
CITV – the channel that gave us Fraggle Rock, Danger Mouse and Rainbow – has left our terrestrial screens. CBBC – home of Blue Peter and Newsround – plans to follow.
Meanwhile real-term investment in children’s TV by public service broadcasters has dropped by 30% in the last 10 years.
And while Sky has bucked the trend by launching an ad free kids channel, overall, the future of kids TV is looking bleak.
But figures show young people are still watching TV – albeit in a different way. Recent BARB viewing data shows that while the average amount of broadcast TV minutes of children’s TV channels watched by four-year-olds per week has declined by 62% since 2019, viewing has risen by 30% in the same period, demonstrating the “streaming first” trend in children’s viewing habits.
So, if kids are ditching linear viewing in favour of streaming, some might say that public service broadcasters moving their content online makes sense. Others would rightly argue that not all children have access to the internet.
And then there’s the question of what kids are actually watching online. It’s an “explosion” of choice the longest-serving female presenter of Blue Peter, Konnie Huq, doesn’t think it’s necessarily a good thing.
Huq tells Sky News: “Kids will always go for the biggest, fastest dopamine hit… We live in a world of instant gratification culture and actually delayed gratification is much better for happiness and mental wellbeing in the long term.
“And kids, obviously they’re not old enough to always make the right judgement calls.”
Huq – who is a mother-of-two herself and now works as a children’s author and screenwriter – recognises the needs for government legislation to hold streaming companies to account for the content they’re putting out. But she also recognises the limitations of people trying to control a seemingly infinite web.
She says: “It’s hard for laws, legislation, parents, schools, and the control culture to keep up with the changes that are going on.
“So, it’s important to make sure that you know what your kid is seeing, because on YouTube, for instance, your child could be watching one thing, but then different suggestions pop up unselected, unbeknownst to you. So, a few programmes hop away could be something that you might not be comfy with your child watching.”
The Online Safety Bill – a new set of laws to protect children and adults online – is due to come into law later this year.
And at the Royal Television Society Convention earlier this week, the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer announced new plans to bring unregulated online channels under Ofcom content rules on traditional TV to ensure children and vulnerable viewers are protected from inappropriate or harmful material.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport told Sky News: “The shows we watch as children shape the way we see the world, staying with us forever.
“From Thomas The Tank Engine to Shaun The Sheep and Horrible Histories, the UK is home to some of the world’s best children’s shows. Over 845 kids programmes have benefitted from the government’s generous animation and children’s tax reliefs, increased in this year’s budget, leading to more than a billion pounds of investment.
“The upcoming Media Bill will require mainstream on-demand streaming services to follow a new video-on-demand code protecting children from harmful or inappropriate content and we’re consulting on bringing unregulated online TV channels under Ofcom’s rules to deliver consistent protections.”
However, with investment in kids TV at its lowest level since 2012 (Ofcom’s Media Nations Report found that real-terms investment in children’s TV by public service broadcasters fell from £114m in 2013, to £80m last year) many would argue that investment just isn’t enough.
Spending on original kid’s content in the UK has been slashed following the 2006 ban on advertising junk food to children.
And the Young Audiences Content Fund – a £44m fund designed to help support children’s programming on channels including ITV and Channel 5 – was scrapped by the government last year.
Former CBeebies series producer Jon Hancock, who is now managing director of kids and family production company Three Arrows Media, calls the ditching of the fund “a difficult pill to swallow”, particularly because it was such “a monumental success”.
Set up by the government, and administered by the BFI, the fund was created to help stimulate more commissioning of UK-specific content in public service broadcasters outside of the BBC (which is funded by the licence fee).
The BAFTA-winning producer says the fund “helped the likes of Channel Five commission some fantastic award-winning content and to have that scrapped as it was 18 months ago was a devastating blow to the children’s industry”.
Huq too also says the loss of original, sometimes boundary pushing content, is a blow to British children’s viewing.
“Kids programming has often been ahead of the curve, before grown up programming has even caught up with it. And you know, that comes to so much diversity, when you’re looking at stuff like gay rights, things you wouldn’t necessarily assume kids TV even touched with a barge pole or had a hand in, kids TV was always at the forefront.”
As for BBC‘s plans to stop terrestrial broadcasting of its children’s channel CBBC – home to shows including Blue Peter and Newsround – in the future, Huq feels the broadcaster could be missing a trick.
“There’s less and less of these shared viewing experiences, which is why I think some of these Pixar films do so well these days, in that teatime viewing isn’t really a thing and everyone seems to just be watching their own thing on their own device. There is no family viewing as such.”
The BBC told Sky News: “We have said we won’t close any of our children’s channels before 2025 at the earliest, and we will maintain them for as long as they deliver value, and our audience needs them.
“Children’s content is a priority for the BBC and we are the major investor of original, culturally relevant British content for ages 0-12 – more than any other streamer or broadcaster in the UK and we still have the two leading linear channels for them.”
So, while Bob The Builder and Horrid Henry have been forcibly evicted from their CITV terrestrial home, and plonked into ITVX Kids, Blue Peter at least has a temporary reprieve, and won’t weighing anchor quite yet.
Time will tell if the evolution of kids TV to online will crush its creative spark or whether the challenge of standing out in a crowded marketplace will inspire innovative new shows and approaches – a new golden age of children’s TV.
But as kids become the curators of their own content – the good, bad and ugly – might we do well to consider whether we’re handing over too much responsibility to our youngest – and arguably most important – viewers to consume whatever, wherever and whenever they want?
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