Jill Dando 'killed by celebrity-obsessed stalker'

Television presenter Jill Dando was killed by a celebrity-obsessed loner who stalked women, the Old Bailey heard today.

Barry George approached women in the area of west London where he and Miss Dando lived and tried to find out their addresses, it was alleged.

He had a fixation with celebrities and lived out his fantasy by pretending to be Queen singer Freddie Mercury's cousin, the court was told.

Miss Dando, 37, was shot in the head at close range as she arrived at her home in Gowan Avenue, Fulham, west London, in April 1999.

She had become one of the best known people on television, presenting the BBC news, Crimewatch and the Holiday programme.

George, 48, of Fulham, who was first tried for her killing in 2001, is facing a retrial. He denies murder.

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, prosecuting, said Miss Dando's death was the result of the actions of "a loner, a man acting alone with no rational motive to kill".

He added: "If she had been stalked in the Fulham area then she was not aware of it and she had certainly not been the target of any sort of sustained hate campaign."

The judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, told the eight women and four men on the jury that they should try the case only on the evidence they would hear in court.

George, wearing a blue shirt and tie, sat in the dock with clinical psychologist Dr Susan Young by his side.

The judge said: "The defendant suffers from epilepsy and has psychological problems which may make it difficult for him to follow the proceedings. She is there to assist him in that regard."

Mr Laidlaw said Weston-super-Mare-born Miss Dando was in a settled relationship and had been due to marry doctor Alan Farthing in September 1999.

He said George lived a few streets away from her, had a history of complex medical problems and had told police he had a "personality disorder".

Mr Laidlaw said: "He had a fixation with the famous and with celebrities.

"For many years he lived out the fantasy by calling himself after, and adopting the names of, various entertainers.

"He had pretended to be an SAS soldier and in the years immediately before Miss Dando's death he was pretending to be Freddie Mercury's cousin.

"The defendant appears also to have had a fascination with female TV personalities.

"He took photographs of female news presenters on his television and he had the names of numerous female celebrities written down on pieces of paper and lists at his home.

"His interest extended to the BBC. He would hang around the BBC offices at White City, had BBC cards in his possession and obtained numerous copies of Ariel, the BBC's staff publication.

"There was also an occasion when the defendant had expressed a dislike of the BBC because of the way he thought the organisation had treated his cousin, Freddie Mercury, as he described him."

Mr Laidlaw told the court George had allegedly taken hundreds of pictures of women.

He said: "There is another aspect to the defendant's obsessions and arising from his behaviour, which is of considerable relevance to Miss Dando's murder and in particular to how that was carried out.

"Over the course of many years the defendant, particularly but not exclusively in the area of Fulham, would approach women, engage them in conversation and then seek to discover where they lived and the vehicles they drove.

"He also took many hundreds of of photographs of women.

"Some of the witnesses provide evidence that Barry George, having discovered where they lived, also spent time waiting in the area of and observing their addresses.

"On occasions, that he was present outside watching when they arrived back at their homes.

"One in particular was entirely unaware of the defendant's interest in her until a document containing directions to her home was recovered at the defendant's address after his arrest."

Mr Laidlaw said the "obsessive aspects" of George's behaviour might provide clues to Miss Dando's death.

He added: "These provide a reason why he might have had an interest in Jill Dando and why he might have formed some irrational plan to kill her.

"They raise the question: had the defendant's fascination with female presenters, combined with Jill Dando's link with the BBC, and his belief that that organisation had treated Freddie Mercury badly, resulted in this irrational plan to kill?"