Dando Murder: The mourning struck a strange note in the context of country at war

"IT'S JUST like Princess Diana," was one comment reported from inside BBC Television Centre yesterday after Jill Dando's murder. And as tributes came in from sources as elevated as the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and Sir Cliff Richard, an extraordinary sense of national mourning did seem to be taking shape.

Apart from the much-quoted physical resemblance between Ms Dando and the princess, words of regret from charities and schools she had helped bolstered the impression of a similarity. Office workers were said to be gathered around radios and TVs, following the developments. Tears were being shed.

The Jill Dando Internet site even became an impromptu book of remembrance, as fans left tributes at the rate of two "hits" per second.

While friends spoke of a genuinely nice, grounded person and a fine professional who never got carried away with her own celebrity, it all nevertheless struck a strange note in a country at war abroad and in fear of racist bombings at home.

Tony Blair took time away from preparing his Commons statement on the Nato summit to frame a suitable response. "He was deeply shocked. He had met her both professionally and socially at Downing Street and in common with many people he found her totally charming and highly talented," a spokesman reported.

From Buckingham Palace, the Queen was said to be "shocked and saddened". Ms Dando had helped the Duke of York to promote the Fight for Sight charity, of which he is patron, and he was also particularly saddened by the news, a spokesman said.

Sir Cliff Richard, a close friend and fellow Christian, spoke from Copenhagen where he is on tour. "I'm finding it really hard not to wish Jill's killer an horrific death. I'm absolutely shattered," he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said: "Jill Dando was a hugely popular broadcaster. It is a terrible irony that, after all her work defending the victims of crime and help in pursuing criminals, she should fall victim herself to an horrific crime."

In the Commons, Jack Straw spoke of the "tragic and appalling loss". His statement on the Brixton and Brick Lane nail bombings came later. In response to Sir Norman Fowler, the shadow Home Secretary, who raised the subject, Mr Straw said: "She was someone who was at the height of her powers. She had done a huge amount personally in the fight against crime by her role not least in Crimewatch UK and therefore this makes her death all the more poignant."

BBC Director General Sir John Birt said: "This is devastating news. Jill was loved by her audiences and by everyone who worked with her at the BBC. Jill's public and private persona were one and the same. She was always warm, generous natured and cheerful - a good companion on and off screen."

It was a theme expanded on in typically blunt style by John Humphrys, the TV and radio presenter. "For most of us who appear on telly half a dozen times it does something to you and some of us get airs and graces, we become prima donnas. But that didn't happen to Jill," he said. "She was an entirely natural person, just a completely normal unaffected person and viewers spotted that."

BBC director of television Alan Yentob said: "She was a natural television performer and outstanding journalist as well. She connected with audiences, she was an incredibly warm human being.

Chief Superintendent David Hatcher of Kent Police appeared for years alongside Ms Dando on the Crimewatch UK. He said: "Her involvement with Crimewatch was as much for the victims as for society, so it's unbelievable she should have died in this way. I know the whole police service will be galvanised to find her killer."

Ms Dando was held in particularly high esteem in the West Country, where she did her journalistic training and continued to do charity work. The Bristol Evening Post, where her brother Nigel is the chief reporter, last night issued a commemorative edition.

Fellow Six O'Clock News presenter Martyn Lewis was in the newsroom when the news broke. He described the "bewilderment, tears and quiet anger" among her colleagues.

One of the most touching tributes, however, came from Andrew Harvey, who worked with Ms Dando on breakfast television. He last saw her at her engagement party in January. "Jill was obviously the star of the party but you never felt that," he said. "She spent the whole evening not waiting for people to come up and talk to her but rushing around taking photos of her friends so that she would have a memento," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - OTE £60,000

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Inbound Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Inbound Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent