Fatal attraction

Click to follow

The story was extraordinary in every respect. On the one hand, Barry George, who claimed to be everybody from Freddie Mercury's cousin to to a member of the SAS; on the other, Jill Dando, travel-show host and Crimewatch presenter, one of the most popular and unaffected television personalities in the country. At a time of great happiness, just months ahead of her planned wedding, she was gunned down on her own doorstep in west London.

The trial itself was equally lurid, with suggestions from George's lawyers that the real murderers were Serb assassins, angry at the bombing of Belgrade. The truth, however – the jury decided yesterday – was simpler and sadder. George, a born-again Christian, was an obsessed stalker of hundreds of women. This tragedy seems to be a grim reflection of the madness of celebrity culture.

That culture apparently killed Dando, even as she tried to escape it. It is easy to see that this obsession with celebrity is unhealthy, for those on the inside and the outside alike. As yesterday's case made clear, the sickness can also be lethal.