Dando trial man 'showed no sign of obsession'

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The man accused of murdering Jill Dando had no motive in carrying out the shooting and had never stalked or shown much interest in the television presenter while she was alive, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Michael Mansfield QC, who is defending Barry George, 42, said that without any evidence of motive it was hard to see how the prosecution could suggest that his client "entered the frame at all".

The defence barrister mocked the prosecution's assertion that Mr George had an "exaggerated interest" in celebrities and BBC presenters such as Ms Dando, and listed 12 examples of why the murder suspect could not be linked with the 37-year-old presenter. Mr Mansfield pointed out that none of the people with whom Mr George regularly conversed said he was obsessed with Ms Dando.

He argued that the prosecution "can hardly be heard to say that given his willingness to engage people in lengthy and somewhat tedious conversation, that any obsession with Jill Dando had somehow been kept secret". Mr Mansfield continued: "The police have taken witness statements from a number of local residents, some of them have known the defendant for 20 years and spoke regularly ­ there's no evidence that he spoke about Jill Dando."

The trial was told that Mr George, who denies murdering Ms Dando outside her home in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, south-west London, on 26 April 1999, would not be giving evidence before the jury.

The defence has already dismissed the evidential link between Mr George and the murder, arguing that the only scientific evidence ­ a tiny particle of gunpowder ­ proved nothing and may have been accidentally contaminated by the police. The defence claims a professional contract hitman was the most likely killer.

Mr Mansfield said the prosecution case was also "singularly lacking in any evidence that demonstrates a motive. Nevertheless, they have endeavoured to suggest that the defendant had obsessional aspects to his personality, which involved a special or exaggerated interest in personalities and, therefore, Jill Dando. The fundamental flaw in this argument is that there is no evidence that prior to Jill Dando's murder this defendant had any particular interest in her."

He argued that despite the fact that Mr George and Ms Dando had lived within half a mile of one another over a number of years, there was no evidence that he met her or attempted to meet her. There was no evidence that he contacted her by letter, telephone, or in any other way. He did not follow her, or stalk her.

Among all the photographs at Mr George's flat there was none of Ms Dando, the jury was told. Among all the lists relating to organisations and individuals found at Mr George's home there was no mention of Ms Dando with her address and telephone number. There were no videos of her television appearances, Mr Mansfield said. Of the 800 publications found at Mr George's home, only eight pre-dating Ms Dando's death contained articles about her and none of those had been marked up, highlighted, circled, cut-out, put to one side or filed, the court was told.

Mr Mansfield said it was particularly relevant that the police did not find a copy of the edition of the Radio Times magazine for the week in which Ms Dando died, which featured a photograph of the presenter on the front cover.

The trial continues.