(AFP) – Aug 1, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — A man jailed for life in 2001 over the murder of a popular BBC television presenter was "overwhelmed" Friday after being found not guilty at his retrial of shooting her dead.
Barry George, 48, was cleared of murdering Jill Dando by the jury at the Old Bailey central criminal court in London.
Dando, 37, was shot through the head on the steps of her west London home in April 1999.
One of the best-known faces on television, she presented the popular BBC series "Crimewatch", among other programmes. She was engaged to be married at the time of her death.
George, an epileptic with mental disability, was "overwhelmed," his lawyer Jeremy Moore told reporters outside court. He is expected to be released later Friday.
His first words on being cleared were: "I can't believe it," Moore said. George did not believe he would be found not guilty, reporters were told.
"He is of course extremely relieved and delighted. He's just re-adjusting to being a free man again," Moore added.
"This is not, however, a time to celebrate. Barry George, an innocent man, has spent eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Those eight years could have been better served by the police in searching for the real killer.
"We are obviously delighted with the outcome today that we feel is the only sensible verdict that the jury could have made on the evidence there was before them."
"I would be surprised if there was not a claim for compensation," he added.
George was jailed for life in 2001 but his second appeal, in November last year, resulted in the conviction being quashed and a retrial ordered.
The second trial began on June 9 this year, with the judge ruling out evidence that a single particle of firearms discharge residue was found in the pocket of George's coat.
Prosecutors said George was a celebrity and gun-obsessed stalker with a grudge against the BBC.
But George's laywers said the prosecution case was circumstantial and there was no direct evidence that their client was the killer.
London's Metropolitan Police force expressed their disappointment at the jury's verdict and said they would reflect on how to proceed.
"We are disappointed by today's verdict, but especially disappointed for Jill's family and friends. However we respect the decision of the court," said Commander Simon Foy, who heads the Homicide Command.
"The investigation into her murder was complex, thorough and professional with more than 2,500 statements taken and 3,700 exhibits recovered.
"It would not be appropriate to comment any further at this time except to say that we will be reflecting upon today's verdict and considering how best to proceed."
The Crown Prosecution Service, which decides whether to bring forward cases, said the evidence was "fit to be put before a jury".
CPS reviewing lawyer Hilary Bradfield said: "Mr George now has the right to be regarded as an innocent man, but that does not mean it was wrong to bring the case."
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