George must wait for result of Dando murder appeal

Barry George, the man serving life for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, will have to wait to see if he has succeeded in his courtroom bid for freedom following the end of his appeal today.

Barry George, the man serving life for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, will have to wait to see if he has succeeded in his courtroom bid for freedom following the end of his appeal today.

At the close of the second day of the hearing, three judges in London announced they were reserving their judgment, which will be given at a date yet to be decided.

George, 42, was present in the dock as the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, sitting with Mr Justice Curtis and Mr Justice Henriques, said: ‘‘We will get our judgment out as soon as we can.’’

He was found guilty in July last year of the April 1999 shooting of the 37-year-old BBC Crimewatch presenter on the steps of her home in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, south west London.

A jury at the Old Bailey convicted him by a majority of 10 to one after deliberating for more than 30 hours.

The appeal judges were told today that the jury at George’s trial was ‘‘perfectly entitled to reach the safe conclusion’’ that he and no other murdered Jill Dando.

Orlando Pownall QC, for the Crown, said that criticisms made of the handling of the case by trial judge Mr Justice Gage were ‘‘without foundation’’.

‘‘At every stage of the trial, he sought and - we will endeavour to demonstrate achieved fairness,’’ he said.

Mr Pownall rebutted claims by Michael Mansfield QC, for George, that the conviction was unsafe because identification evidence used at the trial was inadmissible and should have led to the proceedings being halted.

He said: ‘‘The judge’s rulings in law in respect of the applications made to stay the proceedings for abuse of process, the admissibility of the evidence, and a submission of no case to answer, cannot be faulted.

‘‘This is not a lurking doubt case.

‘‘Based upon a careful consideration of all the evidence, the jury were perfectly entitled to reach the safe conclusion that this appellant and no other murdered Jill Dando.

‘‘In the light of the compelling circumstantial and other evidence, it is further submitted that there is no basis whatsoever for this court to interfere with the jury’s verdict.’’

Mr Pownall said the Crown disagreed with the suggestion that the identification evidence in the case was ‘‘tenuous’’, adding: ‘‘The identification evidence in this case was the foundation stone upon which the Crown constructed the arguments it advanced to the jury.’’

If the jury was sure that the identification of George by two witnesses and the partial qualified identifications of the other witnesses were accurate, they were entitled to ask themselves by reference to the other significant strands of evidence whether there could sensibly be any other contender.

If, on the other hand, they could not be sure, then they were bound to acquit.

Against the evidence of identification the jury ‘‘were entitled to look at the circumstantial evidence and it was there, we submit, in abundance’’.

There was no evidence that someone had carried out a contract killing, said Mr Pownall. The suggestion that there was a Serb or some other professional assassin nearby was ‘‘totally absurd’’.

The jury was also entitled to take account of George’s fascination, ‘‘if not obsession’’, with celebrities and his fascination with firearms and matters military.

Mr Mansfield had said the Crown had not been able to put a single document before the court which indicated that prior to her shooting Barry George had an obsessive interest in Jill Dando.

He also raised the possibility that jurors might wrongly have continued deliberating on George’s guilt or innocence while staying in a London hotel during their five days of deliberations.

On that point Mr Pownall said: ‘‘This court is entitled to conclude in the absence of evidence to the

contrary that the jury respected the directions given and furthermore that experienced staff at the Central Criminal Court, well used to taking jurors to hotels, would have ensured that such discussion did not take place.’’

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