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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own