Dando murder conviction unsafe, court is told

THE trial of Barry George, the man jailed for life for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, should have been halted because identification evidence against him was inadmissible, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

George sat in the dock of the London courtroom as his QC Michael Mansfield made submissions to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, and two other senior judges that the conviction was “unsafe”.

George’s sister Michelle Diskin, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, listened with other supporters as he spoke once to identify himself to the court.

Mr Mansfield said the Crown’s claim that it had a compelling and powerful case against George was a “misdescription”, telling the packed court: “It is, in fact, the reverse.”

George, 41, from Crookham Road, Fulham, denied murder but was sentenced to life imprisonment in July last year after being found guilty of the April 1999 shooting of the 37-year-old BBC Crimewatch presenter on the steps of her home.

A jury at the Old Bailey, after deliberating for more than 30 hours, returned a guilty verdict by a majority of 10 to one.

Opening George’s appeal against conviction yesterday, Mr Mansfield argued the trial judge, Mr Justice Gage, should have ruled the identification evidence inadmissible. The only way of preventing the “prejudice that occurred” was that the trial judge should have “stayed the proceedings”.

Mr Mansfield said that once the prosecution case had finished, the judge should then have stopped the trial as there was “no case to answer”.

It was not a case in which there was a “series of solid identifications capable of supporting the other”, he said.

The most that could be “squeezed out of this lemon” was the evidence of a local woman called Susan Mayes who said she saw George, in Gowan Avenue about four-and-a-half hours before the murder for “five or six seconds”. He said her identification evidence was “poor”.

Mr Mansfield submitted that what happened in George’s trial on identification “subverts everything this court has stood for from 1907” in relation to protecting the innocent against mistaken identification.

Counsel further claimed the judge “erred” in directing that a firearm particle was capable of corroborating or supporting the identification evidence.

The trial focused on a piece of forensic evidence, with the prosecution claiming a single speck of firearms residue found in his coat pocket lining linked him to the shooting.

But his defence team said the particle was completely unreliable as evidence and could have got there as a result of contamination.

The hearing was adjourned until today.

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