Obituary: Jill Dando

THE COVER of this week's Radio Times shows a 37-year-old woman at the prime of her professional career and about to take the most significant step of her personal life. Jill Dando was moving on from the Holiday programme, where she had become part of the nation's consciousness, synonymous with entertaining, yet insightful, reports from around the world, to her new series, Antiques Inspectors. The move was in part because she planned to marry her boyfriend, Alan Farthing, in September. She told the magazine that "getting married this autumn was certainly an additional incentive to spend rather more time in England".

Jill Dando was born in Weston-super-Mare in 1961. When she was a few months old, she was diagnosed as having a hole in the heart. She received major surgery at the age of three, from which she made a complete recovery. At Worle comprehensive school in the Somerset resort she was, by all accounts, an unremarkable schoolgirl with an uncommon interest in television: she once wrote to Jimmy Savile asking him to fix it for her to appear on TV. After taking her O levels, she moved to Broadoak Sixth-Form Centre where she became head girl in 1979.

Her single-mindedness steered her straight from A levels to a journalism course at the South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education and a job on her local newspaper, the Weston and Somerset Mercury. In terms of her later career, the time she spent as a print journalist there was relatively languid, though she did became an accomplished member of the local amateur dramatic society.

In 1985 Dando's potential as a broadcaster was spotted by John Lilley of BBC Radio Devon. Her appointment as a reporter marked the start of a highly productive and successful career with the corporation. She became presenter of the station's breakfast programme, and was soon signed up by BBC South West's television news magazine, Spotlight.

Her ability to glide seemingly effortlessly from one medium to another was a testament to her professionalism and sheer hard work, unimpeded by the kind of complicated personal life that often blights the career of rising stars. In 1986, when she was 24, her mother died after an 18- month battle with leukaemia; her father still lives in Weston-super-Mare.

Dando's personal and professional roles converged when she moved to network television in 1988, aged 26. Bob Wheaton, then editor of Breakfast Time, recruited her initially as an occasional stand-in presenter on the BBC1 morning news magazine. As her presenting shifts became more regular, she began a long and occasionally stormy relationship with Wheaton that was to last for most of the Nineties.

BBC executives spotted her potential for other, higher-profile shows. In 1993 she rejuvenated the long-established Holiday programme by bringing a mix of journalistic integrity and genuine charm to travel television. She thrived on punishing filming schedules - 80,000 miles or more in a year - combined with regular stints as BBC1 newscaster and Crimewatch presenter.

Her fellow Crimewatch presenter, Nick Ross, said yesterday, "You will only ever hear kind things about Jill, because there were only ever kind things to say about her." This sentiment is echoed throughout the television and travel industries, and beyond. When Tony Blair expressed his deep shock at her death, he was speaking for a nation which regarded her as an adopted and adored sister.

I met Jill Dando only once while travelling, but the encounter was telling. In 1994 I was on holiday at a resort in Jordan when a coachload of tourists, plus film crew, suddenly turned up. Dando was making a film about a high- speed holiday dash, and was obliged to work in real time to fit in with the tour operator's schedule. Under intense pressure to get everything right on the first take, she remained both shiningly professional and resonantly human - as modest, decent and dignified off camera as she was on screen.

Throughout her rise to fame, Dando remained down-to-earth and caring; she worked hard for charity as well as for the BBC. Recently, her personal life became ascendant; in January this year Dando's new boyfriend, the gynaecologist Alan Farthing, proposed to her. She accepted, and the couple had planned to marry in a church ceremony in September after her stint presenting the Holiday spin-off Summer Holiday.

Only very rarely does a broadcaster become so much a part of our lives that the mere mention of the name is enough to conjure up an instant and wholly positive image. Jill Dando achieved this in a television career that lasted barely a decade.

Jill Dando, broadcaster: born Weston-super-Mare, Somerset 9 November 1961; died London 26 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?