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Jill Dando: Barry George’s lawyer does not think real killer...
William Clegg KC insists Barry George would have made ‘a very improbable assassin’ (Picture: Courtesy of Netflix)
The top lawyer who represented Barry George in the retrial which saw him cleared of murdering Jill Dando does not think the killing will ever be solved.
But William Clegg KC, a veteran defence barrister of well over 100 murder trials, is certain his old client could not possibly have been responsible.
The murder of Ms Dando, the beloved BBC presenter famous as the face of some of its flagship shows including Crimewatch and Holiday, shocked the nation.
Her killer approached from behind as she got to the front door of her home in Fulham, west London, on the morning of April 26, 1999.
After forcing her to the ground, the assailant pressed a pistol to her head and pulled the trigger, leaving behind not a single trace except the spent bullet casing.
Bereft of clues, Mr George, a failed Territorial Army recruit who called himself Barry Bulsara after the real name of Freddie Mercury, came under the spotlight the following year as ‘the local nutter’.
He was convicted of murder two years later on the basis of a tiny speck of gunshot residue found in his coat pocket which prosecutors said came from the same gun used to shoot Ms Dando.
However, Mr Clegg could see from his very first dealings with Mr George that he would have made ‘a very improbable assassin’.William Clegg KC represented Mr George at his second appeal and retrial (Picture: Ray Tang/REX/Shutterstock)
Speaking to Metro, the barrister said: ‘He was pathetic. He was clearly challenged in some ways.
‘You only had to look at the conditions in which he lived in his flat to realise he couldn’t really look after himself.’
In the new three-part Netflix docuseries ‘Who Killed Jill Dando?’ viewers are taken inside Mr George’s home using footage from the police search following his arrest.
Black bin liners can be seen piled on top of each other, while there were newspapers strewn across the floor and insects crawling on the surfaces.
Initially instructed to assist in asking the miscarriage of justice watchdog to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal, he then appeared in the subsequent appeal and retrial.
He recalled: ‘The appeal turned on the evidence of the firearms experts who gave evidence in the Court of Appeal.
‘In the first trial the expert said the presence of the particle made it more likely that he was the gunman than if he didn’t have the spec on him.
‘And in the Court of Appeal the expert evidence was that it made it no more likely he was the gunman. That’s quite a significant shift.’
On how his tactics differed from those of Mr George’s defence team in the first trial, he explained: ‘There were two areas I thought were perhaps not worth pursuing in the same way.
‘The first was they tried to establish that the particle of discharge residue had got on to Barry’s coat by contamination in the laboratory. We didn’t go down that road at all.
‘I think the mistake in doing that was a) they could prove that didn’t happen, so it was never going to get anywhere, and b) there’s a sort of psychological approach that the jury thinks if it didn’t come from the police it could only have come from the gun being discharged at the time she was shot.
‘In fact, it turned out the evidence of the particle was excluded on the basis it didn’t prove anything.
‘The second thing was that they suggested the Serbian gunman theory.
‘Again, the difficulty with that is that psychologically to a jury they say was it a Serbian gunman or was it Barry George?
‘Once you can discount the Serbian gunman it sort of tends to get your thinking back to it being Barry, whereas our approach was we haven’t the faintest idea who did it, but it couldn’t have been Barry.’Barry George, who was convicted and then cleared of the murder, describes in the docuseries how he was made to feel ‘persecuted’ and made a ‘scapegoat’ (Picture: REX/Shutterstock) The show depicts Ms Dando as ‘the golden girl of British television’ who was ‘second only to Princess Diana in terms of public affection’ (Picture: The Sun/Shutterstock)
Mr Clegg said he was ‘a difficult client in the sense that he had a great tendency to go off on a tangent’ adding: ‘He would start arguing about something that didn’t matter or become obsessed with some part of the case that really wasn’t important.
‘So, it was very difficult to get him to focus on what really mattered, and indeed difficult to get instructions from him in some ways
‘He would have been a disastrous witness, there’s no doubt about that, so we decided we were not going to call him and he accepted that in a sense he wasn’t that important in the case because we were putting the prosecution to proof, and they couldn’t prove it.’
Asked why he is still so sure Mr George was not the gunman, Mr Clegg told Metro: ‘I just felt it was clearly a professional shooting – a professional hit.
‘He was somebody who I don’t think had the intelligence to be able to have pulled off such a professional assassination. I mean, it was quite a meticulously planned shooting.
‘[Ms Dando] returned to her home on the morning of her death from her fiancé’s house and was clearly not followed, the police could prove that conclusively through CCTV evidence of her drive through London.
‘So, the only possibility is that the person who shot her was waiting for her in her tiny front garden, and nobody knew when she was going to get back. So, the almost inevitable inference is that the person must have been hiding there for some considerable time and was not seen by anybody.
‘It was a busy street with a school at the end and parents taking their kids to school up and down the street and I don’t think Barry would have had the capacity to have been able to hide himself effectively for any length of time and also not to leave any clue.
‘There was no forensic link to anybody left at the scene. I mean, if Barry had done it he would have left half a cheese sandwich or something.
‘It was just so well-planned, but then to disappear without anyone seeing you – again, I just think it was quite beyond him.’
The lead detective in the case, detective chief inspector Hamish Campbell, tells the docuseries he still believes Mr George is the killer.Lead detective Hamish Campbell remains convinced they got the right man (Picture: Courtesy of Netflix)
Mr Clegg said: ‘Well, I’m not hugely surprised because it’s the nature of people who investigate crimes to convince themselves of the correctness of their conclusions.
‘He obviously thought Barry George had done it I assume otherwise they wouldn’t have arrested him and prosecuted him.
‘The pressure that a case like that gives to the police is enormous, and there was huge pressure on them to make an arrest and get a conviction.
‘In the end, it’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy really.
‘Rather like the famous Sherlock Holmes quote once they’ve exhausted every possible line of inquiry whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the person who did it.
‘I think that’s what leads them in a sense down a road to arrest the wrong person
‘And of course, they did the same thing with Rachel Nickell and Colin Stagg – huge pressure, and the pressure is so great that they end up arresting the wrong person.
‘They did it with Joanna Yates, the murder in Bristol, and they arrested Mr Jeffries, the schoolteacher.
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‘The police don’t want to arrest the wrong person, they want to arrest the right person, but they end up convincing themselves that the only possible suspect they’ve got must have done it because no-one else did, which of course is an approach which is hugely problematic.’
The barrister insisted ‘no murder could have been better investigated by the police’ and questioned what more any new inquiry could hope to unearth.
‘Short of obtaining some fresh evidence from somebody who claims that the actual killer has made some admission or something like that, I don’t see where they can go,’ he said.
Asked if he thinks the real killer will ever be brought to justice, he added: ‘No, I don’t actually. I think it would be very unlikely after all this time for the real killer to be apprehended.’
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