Sister of man acquitted of Jill Dando murder says life has 'never been the same since'

Sister of man acquitted of Jill Dando murder says life has 'never been the same since'
Michelle Diskin Bates with her brother Barry George outside the High Court in London in 2009 after he was cleared of murdering TV presenter Jill Dando. Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA

The sister of Barry George, who spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter, Jill Dando, has written a book in which she thanks Irish people for their support during her campaign to have her brother freed.

BBC Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando, 37, was shot dead outside her home in Fulham, London on April 26, 1999.

Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for her murder in 2001 but was later acquitted after an appeal and retrial. The case remains unsolved.

Michelle Diskin Bates, who lived in Ballincollig, Co Cork for 40 years, conducted a lengthy campaign to have her brother Barry released from prison.

Jill Dando.
Jill Dando.

She told The Opinion Line on Cork's 96FM that she first heard her brother was a suspect in the case after she turned on the radio prior to leaving her house.

"I was getting ready to go to a ladies bible study being held in Ballincollig. I thought, 'I will turn the radio on and just have a few minutes of a listen and I will go.' And the news came on and they said that somebody had been arrested for Jill Dando's murder.

My initial thought was 'thank goodness for that. That poor family.' The next sentence was his name. That instant my life took a total change and it has never been the same since.

Michelle called her mother who told her to pray for her brother. Those words she said heralded in years of turmoil and pain.

Ms Diskin said that Jill Dando was a "one-off" broadcaster of immense talent and that police were naturally keen to solve her murder.

"A whole year after her death they didn't have anybody. They had a phonecall from a local disability centre. Barry had gone to one of those that morning.

"He was anxious and he wanted to be seen and he thought he would be seen immediately. That got him agitated. Barry has Asperger's syndrome which is a type of autism. He wasn't acting outside what was normal for him.

"The disability centre probably wouldn't have taken any notice at all only Jill Dando was killed that day. They reported their misgivings about his behaviour and a year later the police decided to check him out. There was no evidence against Barry."

She insists her strong faith in God was the only thing that got her through the tough times. She said Paddy Hill of the Bermingham Six and the Miscarriage of Justice Association helped her to fight the case.

Michelle said she looked at the evidence as dispassionately as she could and setting all emotion aside she knew that there wasn't a chance that her brother was guilty.

Barry had been one of those people who had slipped through all the cracks. When they brought on a forensic medical team that was when he was diagnosed with as many disabilities as he has.

"They said this was a clean getaway crime. If he had done it he probably would have fallen down in shock from an epileptic fit. He couldn't have walked calmly away."

She said she could never have got through the dark times without the support of her children, her faith, and the help of friends and family in Cork.

Ms Diskin Bates said she decided to write a book to provide solace to other families who are facing miscarriage of justice cases.

Barry George has not received any financial compensation for his wrongful incarceration.

Michelle now resides in the UK but Barry is still based in Cork.

Michelle says he has made friends in the city and that people have been good to him.

"Stand Against Injustice" is available in Veritas bookshops. It can also be purchased online.

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