French court claims Jill Dando may have been 'murdered by mistake'

The mystery surrounding Jill Dando's death is explored in Unsolved Crimes.

The mystery surrounding Jill Dando's death is explored in Unsolved Crimes. - Credit: Archant

The killing of former Mercury reporter and BBC personality star Jill Dando may have been a case of 'mistaken identity', it has been reported.

According to claims made in a French court, 'another blonde BBC journalist' at the time was the intended target for the assassination

A report in the Mail on Sunday (June 26) said: "A French fashion mogul, accused of multiple counts of sexual assault, hired a Russian hitman to murder presenter Lisa Brinkworth after she went undercover to expose his agency."

BBC publicity photos of Jill Dando.

BBC publicity photos of Jill Dando. - Credit: Archant

This would cast a fresh perspective on the murder case that went cold after Barry George was acquitted for her death in August 2008.

The Mail reports fashion boss Gerald Marie hired the killer to 'deal with' Ms Brinkworth, and 'may have mistaken Jill for the real target given striking similarities in their appearance and occupation'. Jill and Lisa also lived in the same area of London at the time.

Weston-born Jill Dando began her career at the Mercury in the 1980s before becoming one of the most recognisable faces on British television – being named BBC Personality of The Year in 1997.

Jill Dando mercury reporter. Picture: WESTON MERCURY

Jill Dando at the Weston Mercury office in 1981. - Credit: Archant

She was also the face of popular shows such as Crimewatch, Holiday and the BBC 6pm news bulletin.

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At the age of 37, Jill was shot on her doorstep in Fulham, London, on April 26, 1999. Her murderer remains unknown to this day and the famous case has led to much speculation and conspiracy on the circumstances surrounding her death. 

Mr Marie is currently before a French court at a trial on alleged sexual assault and rape claims made by at least 11 women. The 72-year-old strenuously denies all allegations. 

One of his accusers is Lisa Brinkworth who says Mr Marie assaulted her in 1998 while she went undercover to 'expose sex crimes in the fashion industry'.

Jill Dando's brutal murder went on to be the largest murder enquiry conducted by the Metropolitan Police.

Jill Dando at Weston Hospicecare opening of new inpatient unit.

Jill Dando at Weston Hospicecare opening of new inpatient unit. - Credit: Archant

Barry George was convicted of her murder in 2001, and remained in prison for almost eight years before he was acquitted at a retrial after the police was accused of drawing 'too much attention on his background and lifestyle' than the evidence of his alleged crime.

In 2008, the court was told Mr George had a 'severely impaired' mental ability which puts him in the bottom one per cent of the population.

Jill Dando's legacy has lived on in Weston where a garden in Grove Park was built in memoriam. News centres in hundreds of school's across the country, and in Africa, have also been built to continue her journalistic legacy.