The family of the man wrongly convicted for the murder of Jill Dando in 1999 want the Met Police to investigate claims she was killed in error by a Russian hitman
The family of Barry George, wrongly convicted of Jill Dando’s murder, say they have no faith the Met Police will probe bombshell claims she was killed in a case of mistaken identity.
Now documents submitted to a Paris court suggest Jill may have been killed in error in 1999 by a Russian hitman who meant to target another BBC journalist.
Court papers claim the killer was hired by French fashion mogul Gerald Marie, who had been accused of multiple counts of sexual assault, to murder journalist Lisa Brinkworth.
Ms Brinkworth wrote in the Daily Mail last month how she had allegedly been sexually assaulted by Mr Marie while going undercover to expose his agency, Elite Model Management.
Lawyers reportedly argue the mix-up may have been due to the similarities in the appearance of the two journalists, their occupation, and the fact they both lived in the same area of London.
It was also stated that Jill’s fiance, Alan Farthing, had been Lisa’s doctor.
Lawyers in the documents refer to a conversation witnessed by former Elite executive Omar Harfouch in which Mr Marie allegedly ordered a member of the Russian mafia to “deal with a problem”.
The documents from French law firm Bourdon Associes reportedly say: “Shortly thereafter… a BBC journalist, Jill Dando, was shot dead in April 1999.”
Michelle told the Mirror: “If this can be proved then it is huge.
“But that’s going to leave the Dando family, who were always told by police they had the right person, to realise how badly they were let down.
“There are two families in the middle of a turmoil. If this is true, how could police have got it so badly wrong? We’ve had to live with this every single day.”
Barry was denied compensation for wrongful conviction in 2013.
Michelle added: “The biggest thing for Barry would be that if this is proven, will he get the compensation he deserved?
“We never believed police believed he was guilty, we know serving officers that don’t believe he did it.
“We need to see this story play out. Barry will not be ‘free’ unless they have 100% proof somebody else did it.
“Do I have faith they will fully and properly investigate this latest story? No I don’t, not at all.”
She called for an “outside police force” to investigate the case. However Mr Marie claims links with the Dando case have been “made up so as to try and get the statute of limitations removed” – referring to French laws which meant that sexual assault had to be reported within three years, and rapes within 10.
One of his legal team said yesterday: “It’s fanciful nonsense aimed at suggesting that Lisa Brinkworth was in fear of her life and so was too scared to report the alleged attack within a reasonable time limit.
“In fact, Lisa Brinkworth made no effort to report any kind of sexual abuse at the time and only started to take action decades later.”
Ms Brinkworth claims she was kept in a safe house after the broadcasting of her exposé on the BBC’s MacIntyre Investigates programme, presented by journalist Donal MacIntyre. Ms Brinkworth also claims that the BBC did not want her taking legal action, according to the legal papers.
They say Lebanese businessman and politician Mr Harfouch, now 53, was with senior Elite management at a Paris restaurant in 1999 when they discussed the MacIntytre programme.
Marie is said to have told the others “we’re in the s**t” after learning that the undercover exposé about Elite was about to be broadcast.
Ms Brinkworth, then 31, pretended to be a fashion model, and Mr Marie is alleged to have said: “I got tricked.”
He is then said to have described Ms Brinkworth as a “huge problem”.
Vitali Leiba, an Elite agent allegedly with strong links to the Russian mafia, is said to have replied: “Consider it done.” Mr Harfouch claims this was an oblique reference to “making [Brinkworth] disappear”, according to the legal papers.
The Harfouch testimony is being used by lawyers for 15 plaintiffs, including Ms Brinkworth, to try and get the statute of limitations thrown out.
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In a file sent to Paris prosecutors, William Bourdon, Amelie Lefebvre and Anne-Claire Lejeune refer to “the fear of physical reprisals, going as far as a contract killing, preventing a filing of a complaint within the required time frame by Lisa Brinkworth, who accuses Gerald Marie of sexual assault in her report.”
The lawyers’ report adds: “They are therefore requesting, in an unprecedented approach, an extension of the limitation period, paving the way for a future trial.”
Ms Brinkworth wrote of the incident with Mr Marie in a nightclub: “He became more persistent, demanding I sleep with him.
“Our documentary showed Marie propositioning me for sex for a million lire. But what came next wasn’t aired. To my horror, he walked over to my chair, straddled me, and repeatedly thrust himself into my lower abdomen, simulating sex.”
A Met Police spokesman said: “The investigation into the murder of Ms Dando remains open, as with all murder investigations.
“We will always explore any new information which may become available.”
Mr George was convicted in 2001 of shooting dead Jill, 37, on her doorstep. At a 2008 retrial he was unanimously acquitted when a tiny particle of gunpowder residue found in a jacket pocket – instrumental in his conviction – was found to be so small it was inadmissible as evidence.
He now lives in Ireland.