Jill Dando: The Murder of the BBCs Sunshine Girl
Almost eight months following Mr. George's arrest, the Dando trial began at the Old Bailey with a bumpy start. Four days after arguments began with prosecutor Orlando Pownall QC and defense attorney Michael Mansfield QC, the proceedings were adjourned by Mr. Justice Gage for unknown reasons. Legal arguments resumed during the last week of April 2001 but were once again delayed until the first week of May. Finally on May 4, 2001, the trial began again with the prosecution building up its case against Mr. George before a jury of seven women and five men. It was the beginning of a trial that would span five weeks and captivate news audiences worldwide.
During the first week in May, the jury learned of the details surrounding the death of Dando and the murder scene. Then they heard about Miss' Dando's history, including her engagement, successful career and accomplishments. Subsequently, the prosecution described the evidence concerning Mr. George, creating a picture of a man obsessed by fame. Mr. George had an intense interest in firearms and the military, gauged by the large quantity of magazines and books found at his house on those subjects. George had also a habit of using false identities throughout his life.
Mr. Pownall told jurors how in 1982 George had joined a pistol club using the name Steve Majors. George's use of the name was in honor of the character Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors in the popular Bionic Man television series, according to BBC News. Pownall also told jurors that George had assumed other famous identities, including that of a heroic SAS soldier who helped end the siege on the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980.
Mr. Pownall spoke of Mr. George's obsession with the BBC, where the defendant worked for a stint as a messenger in 1976. Pownall stated that the defendant had an "unusual interest in the BBC" and would often collect copies of the staff newspaper containing articles and photos of employees. The collection of the articles continued on a weekly basis over a seven-year period. One of the employees often featured in the BBC's staff newspaper was Jill Dando. During a police search of Mr. George's apartment, two cut out Metro newspaper articles referring to Jill Dando's death had been found.
Jurors also learned that although Mr. George had claimed not to have known of Jill Dando, he had displayed enormous sympathy for her following her death. Mr. Pownall said that a member of the local council had remembered Mr. George saying that a memorial should be built for the murdered television presenter and that the defendant had actively sought letters of condolence following her death. During an interview with a journalist on the Dando case, Mr. George claimed to have watched Jill Dando on the Crimewatch television series and was quoted as saying that he thought her to be, "a lovely lady." Prosecutor Pownall told the jury that the journalist's account contradicted a statement Mr. George had given the police. An even more compelling account linking Mr. George to the Dando murder case came from a witness named Sally Mason. Mason had been an acquaintance of Mr. George for 15 years. During a conversation with Mason about the murder of Dando, the defendant had remarked to her that he had indeed been there, although he had claimed on other occasions to police to not have been.