Dando Murder: `Jill was always surprised at how cruel people could be'

I LAST saw Jill on Tuesday. Actually she saw me first. Someone pinched my bottom. I turned round and it was Jill, grinning. We chatted about her wedding. Everything was great. She had this new antiques programme starting. She was so relieved to be stopping Holiday. I think it had taken her a lot of time to build up to resigning but, once she had made the decision, there were no regrets. She was in high spirits. She was so looking forward to having her life back.

The trouble is it's very hard not to reach for the cliches, but they are all so valid. Jill was about to get married. It was the only gap in her life, the one thing missing, and it was about to be filled. That she should be the victim of such a crime is such an irony. She was so keen to work on Crimewatch. For a long time she had said: "If ever there is a vacancy". I said there wasn't anyone we would look at if she was interested.

She was so remarkably modest. If you went out with her she was always a head-turner. She was always rather surprised about that.

Jill believed in Crimewatch. She wanted to work on it not just because she thought it was a powerful piece of television but because she passionately believed in right and wrong. She was almost in tears on at least one occasion talking to victims. Her sense of surprise at how cruel people could be to each other never left her, even after three years. She would never, ever use black humour about a Crimewatch case. She would always treat each story with reverence.

Jill never pretended to be a heavyweight intellectual. The most astonishing thing about her was that, for someone who was modest about her intellectual prowess, she actually had a lot more brains than people who pretended to be clever. She was quietly quite religious. Cliff Richard was one of her closest friends. She was never someone who was going to be bowled over and change what she fundamentally was simply because she was in this magic rectangle.

She did tell me about a stalker, that she was having hassle. But there was never, ever any sense that she might be in mortal danger - or even physical danger. It was an irritant. There had certainly not been any form of serious confrontation. At least, I think Jill would have told me if there had been.

At her engagement party she was almost diffident, as if she was surprised that someone had asked her to marry him. It was a modest announcement, really remarkably low-key. It was all very warm. She has such a wonderful family. I'm just appalled at what they must be going through now.

The author was co-presenter of `Crimewatch' with Jill Dando

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