Dando Murder: A car alarm bleeped, then came the attack

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The Independent Online
JILL DANDO parked her convertible BMW 320i shortly after 11.30am in the tree-lined street in fashionable Fulham, west London, where she lived.

Cautiously she set the vehicle's alarm and turned towards her two-storey home unaware her attacker lay in wait. Within seconds, her scream shattered the peaceful morning.

"I heard her come back and her car alarm bleep. Forty seconds later, I heard a scream," said next-door neighbour Richard Hughes, 32.

"It was more of a surprise scream as if she had turned round and seen somebody. I opened my shutters and saw a man walking off down the street. He was walking briskly. He did not look at all flustered."

The BBC presenter was barely alive when Mr Hughes found her collapsed in the doorway of the terraced house at 29 Gowan Avenue, still clutching her car keys.

"She was unconscious and covered in blood," he said. "I took a look at her. She was not breathing. Somebody called the emergency services, I think it was two ladies walking down the street and I realised this was serious."

A man suspected of being her attacker was described as tall, dark-haired and in his late thirties or early forties. He was seen walking towards Fulham Palace Road. Clean-shaven and carrying a mobile telephone, he was well-groomed enough to raise little suspicion in the affluent middle-class borough.

Some witnesses said he was wearing a suit, others described a Barbour- like wax jacket.

Gradually a shocked crowd gathered around Ms Dando. A doctor living nearby came to help and a passer-by, Cecilia Hockley, interrupted a friend's coffee morning to call emergency services.

Charlotte De Rosney, the hostess, said the woman left minutes later with one of her guests, Vida Saunders, to try to help.

They returned 45 minutes later, shocked and pale. "Apparently she was not moving though they did not touch her," said Mrs De Rosney. "She had just slumped into the doorway. There was no sign of movement. No sign of anything. I had heard nothing. The first I knew was when they came to my door."

Within six minutes of the woman's call, by 11.50am, the paramedics were on scene, attempting to treat Ms Dando's terrible head injuries. A second ambulance arrived seconds later with an emergency helicopter medical team.

Ms Dando was taken to Charing Cross Hospital but was declared dead at 1.03pm. A consultant, Hugh Millington, said the ambulance arrived at 12.30pm, and added: "All efforts by ambulance paramedics and hospital staff failed to save her."

Yesterday the man she had planned to marry in a few months time, consultant gynaecologist Alan Farthing, 35, had to identify her body before she was transferred to the mortuary for examination.

The murder investigation being led by Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell, of Scotland Yard. Officers cordoned off the street and more than three dozen police were making door-to-door inquiries. Forensic experts were checking the scene and Ms Dando's car was towed away for further examination. Officers confirmed there was no sign of break-in at her house.

Ms Dando once joked that she was a perfect neighbour because she was so rarely home. She was a workaholic whose appealing disposition meant she was constantly in demand, and she had spent the past seven years travelling the world for the Holiday programme. The demands of Crimewatch and the Six O'Clock News left her little time to enjoy the bustling wine bars and elegant restaurants of her neighbourhood.

When she was at home, neighbours remembered her as an unpretentious woman who would rarely pass by without a friendly word.

Jennifer Felgate, 44, said Ms Dando would regularly stroll down to the local shops to carry buy her groceries. "Everyone would just stop and say, `Hello' and she would turn and say, `Hi'," she said. "Everyone was on first-name terms, it was always Jill, not Miss Dando. She was totally natural. Always smiling and happy. Just like you see on TV."

The star had bought the Victorian terraced home, now worth close to pounds 400,000, five years ago.

But neighbours said she had spent less time at the house over the last few months, choosing to stay over at the Chiswick home of Dr Farthing, the man with whom she had planned to start a new life.

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