Line of Duty fans detect similarities between TV plot and 1999 Jill Dando murder
THE disturbing investigation at the heart of Line Of Duty’s new series has given millions of viewers a grim case of deja vu.
The latest head-spinning storyline has the fictional anti-corruption unit AC-12 probing an investigation into the killing of TV journalist Gail Vella.
And as episode two of the hit BBC1 thriller unfolded on Sunday night, it bore increasing similarities to the real-life murder of popular telly host and newsreader Jill Dando in 1999.
Both Jill and Line Of Duty’s Gail were killed on their doorstep by a single shot to the head, believed to have been inflicted by a lone gunman. Both were looking into the murky territory of paedophilia among poweful figures.
Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has admitted drawing inspiration from actual events.
They include the shooting by Met Police of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in 2005 as well as the wrongful conviction of Stefan Kiszko.
And viewers of the show, which returned to our screens last week with almost ten million fans tuning in, were swift to point out echoes of real life in the latest plot.
Katie Cherry said: “Line Of Duty — the storyline. A reporter is murdered. Jimmy Saville mentioned. Corruption.
“A fan of reporter mentioned. Can’t help thinking Jill Dando here.”
Former BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw added: “Parts of the plot in Line Of Duty seem to draw on the Jill Dando murder and the arrest of Barry George: The ‘oddball’ with a fascination for celebrities, firearms residue found, a hitman-style killing.”
Police investigating Jill’s murder had few leads to go on. As with Line Of Duty’s fictional murder, it remains unsolved.
We run through some of the key similarities between the two cases.
Clue 1: Suspects
Similarities between the suspects Line Of Duty and the Jill Dando case appear to be deliberate.
An early theory posited by police investigating Jill’s murder was that the culprit was an obsessed fan. It led to them look at Barry George, who lived near her West London home. Locals described him as “odd”.
Officers found he had been known by other names and a search of his home found he had a fascination with the BBC and celebrities, plus newspaper cuttings relating to Jill’s death.
He was convicted in 2001 and jailed but seven years later was acquitted. Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has spoken of miscarriages of justice at talks for the show.
He said: “Barry George, who was convicted and then acquitted of the Jill Dando murder, there are really relevant correlates in the British system.”
The suspect for the Gail Vella murder in Line of Duty, Terry Boyle (Tommy Jessop) is uses an alias: Ross Turner.
A forensic search of his flat revealed numerous pictures on his wall of Gail, who he described as a “nice lady” during questioning.
The character, who has Down’s syndrome, was branded “the local oddball” in the series opener by AC-12 boss Supt Ted Hastings, played by Adrian Dunbar.
Jed was forced to defend the adjective and confirmed the inspiration of the storyline by specifically referencing the Jill Dando case.
He tweeted: “‘Oddball’ has no connotation for learning difficulties. It describes a loner, an eccentric . . . the drama is using the term to refer to the Dando case.”
Clue 2: Evidence
Key evidence in the Jill Dando investigation included gunpowder residue found at the scene of her murder.
Material found in the lining of Barry George’s coat pocket matched residue found in her hair. It was only 1,000th of an inch in diameter and its credibility would be fiercely contested in court.
Senior copper Hamish Campbell said at the time: “I thought that was a striking piece of evidence. What a coincidence. Whoever had killed Jill had the ability to be there on the Monday, had knowledge of stalking and firearms.
“There I was looking at a man who lived locally, had no job, stalked women and had a tendency to lash out when frustrated.”
In 2006, George’s lawyers appealed arguing that he wasn’t mentally capable of carrying out the murder. And it was argued the gunshot residue found on his clothing might have got there via armed officers present for his arrest.
In Line Of Duty, a forensic search of Boyle’s flat found gunshot residue on an “item of outer clothing”. Boyle is arrested by DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) over the Gail Vella murder. She suggests Boyle wanted a sexual relationship with Gail and was angry he couldn’t be with her.
She says: “The findings of images of Gail Vella suggests he is an obsessed fan. The particles of gunshot residue link Boyle to the crime.”
Although he is yet to be charged, he has been released on conditional bail.
Grilling Joanne over the arrest of Boyle, AC-12’s DS Steve Arnott, played by Martin Compston, points out the gunshot residue is: “below the threshold amount you’d expect if Boyle had been holding the gun.”
Clue 3: Victims
Jill was a respected BBC journalist who presented shows ranging from the Six O’Clock News and Holiday to Crimewatch.
She was shot dead aged 37 outside her home in Fulham, South West London, on the morning of April 26, 1999.
She had stayed the previous night at her fiancé Alan Farthing’s home in Chiswick, West London.
Earlier in the year she died, Jill had appeared on the front cover of Radio Times.
She was named the Beeb’s 1997 Personality Of The Year.
Line Of Duty’s Gail Vella, played by Andi Osho, is a prolific investigative TV journalist on a career high before she was shot dead outside her home.
For her investigative efforts, Gail had been awarded a journalists’ commendation and had featured on the front cover of Impact magazine.
Clue 4: Method
Tragic Jill was shot on her doorstep by a killer who pressed the gun to her head. A forensic study indicated the bullet was from a 9mm automatic pistol.
Investigative journalist Bob Woffinden, who covered the trial of Barry George, said in 2002: “As Dando was about to put her keys in the lock to open the front door of her home in Fulham, she was grabbed from behind.
“With his right arm, the assailant held her and forced her to the ground, so her face was almost touching the tiled step of the porch.
“Then, with his left hand he fired a single shot at her left temple, killing her instantly.
“The bullet entered her head just above her ear, parallel to the ground, and came out the right side of her head.”
Similarly, the character of Gail Vella was shot dead outside her own home after getting out of her car.
The gun was pressed against her head to muffe the sound and reduce debris from the gunshot.
Screen copper Steve Arnott, played by Martin Compston, says: “Gail Vella’s Peugoet 108 was intercepted. As Ms Vella got out of the vehicle, she was murdered with a single gunshot carried out using a hard-contact method, in which the muzzle of the pistol was forced against the back of Ms Vella’s head.
“This technique confines noise and gunpowder.”
Clue 5: The Case
Many theories have been floated over WHY Jill Dando was murdered.
Some claim it was to prevent her exposing a major scandal.
One suggestion is that the slaying was a professional hit ordered by a criminal family.
Its supporters point to the close contact of the gun against to her head, a technique used by paid killers to limit blood loss and residue.
In a 2017 ex-policeman Mark Williams-Thomas spoke to a mystery hitman who claimed he knew who pulled the trigger – but refused to name him.
Another theory said Serbian mafia killed Jill after she fronted a BBC appeal on behalf of Kosovan-Albanian refugees driven from their homes by militia supporting Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.
Detectives also got a tip-off saying Serbian criminals here carried out the shooting in retaliation for a Nato attack on the Radio Television of Serbia HQ which killed 16 staff members on April 23, three days before Jill died.
'SURPRISINGLY BIG NAMES'
But the theory which strikes the greatest similarity to the Gail vella case was that she was about to expose a VIP paedophile ring that, an anonymous friend claimed, included “surprisingly big names”.
On Sunday, Line Of Duty viewers learned Gail had doubts over the findings of Operation Pear Tree, an inquiry into the police and organised crime, which like the real life Operation Yewtree, involved a VIP paedophile ring – including dead sex monster Jimmy Savile.
A producer colleague told how she had been working on a podcast exposing this and “pursuing several senior officers” and digging into “why there’d been a suppression of police inquiries” including Councillor Dale Roach, named as a child sex abuser in series three.
DS Arnott later factored in a burglary and her electronic devices she’d use to make it look like the podcast had been stolen.
An audio clip from the podcast hears Gail saying: “Savile lied to cover them up.
“Some police officers not only accepted those lies, they propagated them. We’re losing our power to challenge lies.”
After one of Line Of Duty’s famous grilling sessions, Ted Hastings claims that another suspect, Carl Banks, murdered Gail “on the orders of organised crime”.
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