Dando jurors urged to put sympathies aside

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The Independent Online

The jury at the Jill Dando murder trial was yesterday urged not to allow sympathy they held for the television presenter to sway their judgment when considering the evidence.

Michael Mansfield, QC, in his closing speech for the defence, said that Ms Dando had a "place in everybody's hearts" and likened public mourning of her death to that of Diana, Princess of Wales.

He described the presenter's murder as an "epic occasion" worthy of comparison with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Princess of Wales' fatal car crash and said its media coverage had eclipsed Britain's involvement in the Kosovo war.

Claiming that the Crown's case against his client, Barry George, was "non-existent", Mr Mansfield urged the jury to resist the temptation to "make somebody pay" for the murder.

The defence barrister said that allowing sympathy for Ms Dando to sway their judgement would do "no justice" to the 37-year-old's memory.

Mr Mansfield stressed the presumption of innocence in English law and described George's right not to give evidence from the witness box as the "golden thread of British justice".

Mr Mansfield told the jury: "I don't know whether any of you fall into the category of people who can say 'I remember exactly where I was during the Cuban Missile Crisis or when Princess Diana died'.

"And 'I remember what I was doing when the announcement of Jill Dando's death came over television and radio'. Do you remember what you were doing? Some people do.

"In a sense, what happened in this case has assumed the magnitude of these epic occasions because again, quite rightly, she had a place in everybody's hearts and minds and on their television screens.

"She was a central figure in a lot of people's lives such that for several days so significant was this atrocity that it eclipsed on national television and radio on the news the war in which this country was engaged at that time – the Kosovan war."

He said it would be reasonable to expect some jurors to have "very strong feelings" about the case and asked them to be careful not to allow their consideration of the evidence to be influenced by emotions.

To avoid "injustice", he urged the jury to examine the evidence as "objectively and carefully as humanly possible."

Mr Mansfield said that the jury should be able to say: "I am sure that this man pulled the trigger of that single shot."

He told them that if they believed, as the defence has claimed, that the killing was or may have been the work of a professional hitman, they should acquit the defendant.

He claimed that the prosecution was asking them to convict on the strength of unreliable identification evidence.

The court has heard that Ms Dando, 37, was shot dead as she crouched on her doorstep at 29 Gowan Avenue on 26 April 1999.