Middle England mourns one of its own

JILL DANDO's family had wanted her funeral to be private, limited to those who knew her personally. But that could never be the case. She was too public a face for that.

So there were two funerals yesterday in Weston-super-Mare: one for the few who genuinely knew the television presenter, murdered almost a month ago, and one for the thousands who believed that they knew her. They were linked by a loudspeaker set up in a little park just down the road from Clarence Park Baptist Church.

But first, hundreds behind the crush barriers watched as the 100 invited guests, most of whom were sombre in pure black, walked into the stone church, whose door was flanked by bright blue and white hydrangeas and ash-pink roses.

The public had come to pay their respects to the woman they all called "so ordinary and so nice", but many also admitted they were hoping to see a famous face or two.

Cameras came out for Sir Cliff Richard, who many said was very much like Jill. "She had the common touch, and no one else does except perhaps him. They don't have anything to prove to anyone," said Julienne Beckett from Weston. There were also flurries of excitement as Nick Ross, Martyn Lewis, Anna Ford and Jennie Bond arrived.

But it was not a celebrity funeral and, despite the crowds that later lined a four-mile funeral route to the crematorium, it did seem private. The people who came out on this grey and drizzly day were from Middle England and had come to pay their quiet respects to someone they thought of as one of themselves. There were tears, but most were shed quietly.

The hearse, its coffin laden with white flowers, drew up to the church, and the service started on time at 3pm. Only as the church doors closed did those outside go into the park, where the wind competed with the loudspeaker.

Many sang along to the hymns, and everyone stood and listened as the minister spoke. The Rev Roger Collins, who had baptised Jill Dando, gave a moving and very personal address.

He talked of her life in Weston, as a schoolgirl and a member of the church's youth fellowship, and of her excitement at having found the man she wanted to marry. Jill Dando was due to wed Alan Farthing this September and the minister said that Jill had been so thrilled when she had told him the news. "Life was about to enter an exciting, fulfilling new stage, until that fateful moment on Monday, April 26. Jill, the beautiful girl next door, known to every family in the country, was shot dead. And everyone was asking: `Why?' On the one hand the answer to that question lies in the hands of the police. But whatever they find, the larger question remains. I know of nobody who had fewer enemies than Jill."

There were also prayers for the police to find her killer, who shot her once at very close range as she returned to her home in Fulham, west London, after shopping. Almost 500 calls have been received since a special Crimewatch programme this week.

The funeral and the murder hunt seem entwined: the police had said they would be looking for the murderer in the crowd yesterday.

Most of those who came were women, and though none had met her they all said that somehow they knew her. "She had everything. She had a lovely face, a lovely voice, a lovely figure," said one woman who had come from London. "I thought she had a great pair of legs. What I would have given to have them!"

Others said that, as presenter of the BBC Holiday programme, she had been a part of their lives because they

followed her advice. "It will be sad going away now, knowing what has happened," said a woman sitting on top of a stone fence holding two red roses and two yellow roses.

She had taken the day off to come with her sister who was, she said, in floods of tears.

Margaret Hicks, from Merrow in Surrey, said she was not sure why she had come. She had woken up that morning intending to spend the day taking off wallpaper in the kitchen, but then realised that she wanted to come to this funeral.

She used to live near Weston, and came her often with her husband Jim to go bowling. Jim had died 10 months ago.

She got in the car and decided to try to make it to Weston. She arrived just in time. "The only good thing about this terrible massacre is now she is up in heaven with my husband," she said. "Her story is a rewrite of Diana but on a local and personal level."

The church service lasted an hour and then this girl next door was taken to Ebdon Road crematorium, very near the bungalow in Madam Lane where she used to live.

She is sharing a grave with her mother, whose death from cancer in 1985 affected her very deeply, on the very farthest edge of the ground near four large yew trees.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas