She was truly the “Golden Girl” of British television who had proved herself as a journalist and a presenter of programmes as varied as Crimewatch and Holiday, a court heard yesterday.
Born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, she rose through the ranks of local journalism to co-present the BBC Breakfast News in 1988. In November 1997, a year after the end of a seven-year relationship with BBC news executive Bob Wheaton, she met consultant gynaecologist Alan Farthing. A month later they travelled to Australia together and Ms Dando was soon spending most of her time with him at his home in Chiswick, west London. “It was apparent to all of those who knew them that the couple were deeply in love,” said prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw.
Mr Farthing, who worked at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, and Ms Dando announced their engagement in January 1999. The wedding was set for September 25, 1999, and the couple decided to sell their homes and put in an offer for another property.
Police discovered newspapers carrying reports of the relationship and the plans to marry when they searched Barry George’s home.
Mr Laidlaw told jurors: “Jill Dando is universally described as a genuinely warm, kind and generous woman.
“She was very popular with her colleagues and the public... and had none of the pretensions that are sometimes associated with those who achieve fame.”
He added that Ms Dando “inevitably” received unwelcome attention.
However, the myriad of theories about why Dando was killed have now resurfaced. Dando was shot once in the head outside her home in Fulham, south west London, on April 2, 1999.
The way she was killed led to theories that she might have been targeted by a professional hitman — possibly hired by a criminal imprisoned due to publicity on TV’s Crimewatch, which she presented. George’s defence team described the killing as “meticulously planned” and “thoroughly professional”.
Another possibility was an attack by an obsessed fan. The blonde news reader and TV presenter had reportedly been harassed by a fan in the year before she died. Dando also appeared leather-clad in a provocative Radio Times cover shoot in the week when she was killed.
Could this have tipped a stalker or extreme fan over the edge?
There were suggestions that the killing might have been linked to a charity appeal she fronted for the Disasters Emergency Committee for people in Kosovo.
The theory was that her death could have been revenge for Nato airstrikes on the former Yugoslavia.
Two weeks before she died, Dando reportedly received a letter from a Serb source criticising her involvement.
She might also have fallen prey to a botched robbery or mugging attempt.
Dando had been staying at her fiancé’s house in the days before her death, leaving her own home empty, and one witness reported seeing a man watching the presenter’s house an hour before she was killed.