Dando case is 'hanging by a thread', insists defence

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The Independent Online

The case against the man accused of murdering Jill Dando lacks hard evidence and is "hanging by the merest of threads", a jury at the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

A professional assassin, rather than the man accused of the shooting ­ Barry George ­ was the most likely killer, Michael Mansfield QC told the court in his opening address for the defence.

No one saw the murder, only one person out of 12 witnesses could positively identify Mr George, and the only piece of scientific evidence ­ a tiny gunpowder particle ­ may have been contaminated because of an "act of crass folly" by the police, said Mr Mansfield.

Mr George, 41, denies shooting the 37-year-old presenter through the head with a converted pistol at her home in Fulham, south-west London, on 26 April 1999.

Mr Mansfield rejected the prosecution's case, describing it as an "evidential edifice based upon a speck" of gunpowder, which measured half of 1,000th of an inch.He argued that the gunpowder found in a coat pocket at Mr George's flat in Fulham­ which the police say was similar to the residue found on the bullet used in the murder ­ was a common type of primer. He said that in an act of "stupidity" before the coat was examined, it had been taken to a place where other evidence had been held that could have resulted in contamination. "Without it [the gunpowder evidence] the prosecution would have no case at all," he said.

He also saidthere was no evidence that his client had the tools or knowledge to convert a blank firing pistol into a deadly weapon of the type used to kill Ms Dando ­ as is alleged.

On the issue of identification, Mr Mansfield, said: "No one identifies this defendant as the gunman." Mr Mansfield said the shooting "was a crime committed in a professional manner by a professional hitman, planned and carefully executed".