George forced to wait as judgment reserved in Dando murder appeal

BARRY George faces a wait to find out if his appeal against his conviction for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando has been successful.

George, aged 47, was present in the dock of the Court of Appeal in London yesterday as the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips and two other senior judges reserved their judgment in the case on the third day of the hearing.

They did not give a date for the ruling, but Lord Phillips said the court did not anticipate that it would be reserving its judgment “for a good length of time”.

It is George’s second legal challenge over a jury’s 2001 verdict that he shot the 37-year-old BBC News, Crimewatch and Holiday presenter on the steps of her home in Fulham, south-west London, in April 1999.

The new appeal centres on scientific doubt cast on the significance of a microscopic speck of firearm discharge residue (FDR) found in George’s coat.

Lord Phillips asked Orlando Pownall QC, for the Crown, in the event of the appeal being allowed would he be seeking a retrial. Mr Pownall said that he would.

In closing submissions, Mr Pownall emphasised: “This case was not, and never has been, based on a speck of dust.

“Of course, I accept that the firearms discharge residue formed an important part, but it was not in itself the crown’s case.” He argued that there remained a “compelling circumstantial” case against George.

George, who lost his first appeal in 2002, lived about half-a-mile from Ms Dando’s home.

He has always denied being her murderer.

Lord Phillips, sitting with Lord Justice Leveson and Mr Justice Simon, has been told that a Forensic Science Service report concluded last year that “it would be just as likely that a single particle of discharge residue would have been recovered from the pocket of Mr George’s coat whether or not he was the person who shot Ms Dando nearly a year previously”.

William Clegg QC, making his closing arguments on behalf of George yesterday, posed the question: “Were the jury inadvertently misled into thinking that the evidential weight of the firearm discharge residue was greater than it was? The answer must be yes.”

Afterwards, George’s sister Michelle Diskin said: “It is very difficult, we can’t second-guess what the judges might do.

“Obviously, we would want an acquittal (rather than a retrial) but we have to go with the judicial system,” she said.

Earlier, Mr Clegg said: “There is no doubt, in truth, the crown at trial were saying that the particle of FDR came from the shooting and got into the pocket (of George’s coat) when the appellant shot Jill Dando.

“That was their case, which the evidence cannot support,” he said.

The scientific evidence, he argued, was “deeply flawed from the very beginning because nobody understood the essential neutrality of the evidence”.

He added: “Nobody understood that it was equally likely to have come from a wholly innocent piece of contamination as from a discharged firearm 12 months previously.”

The QC told the judges: “We say that the jury and, for that matter, the judge, were clearly misled over what was being presented as a very important part of the crown’s case.”

He added there was “no identification evidence in this case identifying the appellant as the killer”.

To suggest that it was a strong identification case was a “myth”.

Mr Clegg told the judges: “I have already indicated that we do not shrink from a retrial.”

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