Police have 280 Dando suspects

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DETECTIVES HUNTING the killer of Jill Dando have discovered that a group of young men had become "obsessed" with the television presenter and bombarded her with letters and photographs in the months before her death.

Several of the fans, some of whom plastered their homes with pictures of Ms Dando, are part of a list of 280 "serious" suspects that Scotland Yard have been investigating. But 200 of the main suspects have been eliminated and the police squad trying to track down Ms Dando's murderer is still struggling for a breakthrough. Among the rejected suspects were men with underworld contacts, access to firearms, criminal records, and a history of violent mental health.

Police disclosed yesterday that the listening centre at Government Communications Headquarters is being used as part of the inquiries, probably to bug suspects and intercept telephone calls. Detectives are also analysing about 10,000 calls made on mobile telephones in the minutes before and after the murder on Ms Dando's doorstep in south-west London. One key suspect was seen running away frantically talking on a mobile telephone.

A team of 47 officers has been involved in a massive inquiry since Ms Dando, 37, was killed in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, with a single bullet to the head on the morning of 26 April. While investigating whether she was being stalked, the police identified about 40 to 50 fans who had sent the presenter letters, and in at least one case photographs. Most of the mail, sent to the BBC, was never read by the presenter and remained unopened.

More than 10 former boyfriends of Ms Dando have been questioned as part of the inquiries but all have been cleared. They have also ruled out any possible affairs since she became engaged to Dr Alan Farthing.

Detectives are still struggling to establish a motive for the attack and so far their investigations have revealed no surprise revelations from Ms Dando's past. Her body was tested for drugs, but she was found to be clean.

The investigation is still working on the basis that she was either killed by a stalker or obsessive fan, or was the victim of a contract killing ordered by someone who bore her a grudge.

Detectives are also concentrating on the last two years of her life in the belief that this period is most likely to hold the key to her death. They are combing their way through 486 people listed in her Filofax.

Other evidence collected includes 1,000 witness statements, more than 1,000 documents, 3,500 letters and messages sent to the incident room, tapes from 191 security cameras, more than 1,000 items from the crime scene and 13,700 e-mails sent to the BBC.

Scotland Yard yesterday launched a new appeal for information, emphasising the pounds 250,000 reward being offered.