Although murder is always a serious and often a gruesome business, it is difficult not to laugh at this off-beat ditty. Like the Saxon track "Red Alert
", it sounds more like a news report set to music than a song, but unlike the Sheffield metal kids' offering, "The Barry George Song" does not lack in humour.
On April 26, 1999, the TV presenter Jill Dando was shot dead on the doorstep of her Gowan Avenue home in West London. Within hours this had become a massive story that ran and ran. Strikingly similar to Diana Princess of Wales, Jill Dando was as unlikely a target for a political assassination as one could imagine, but although politicians and especially leaders and heads of state often become the objects of fixation by people with all manner of real and imaginary grievances, lessser mortals in the public eye are not free from such attentions. Probably the most notorious example of this is John Lennon, who was murdered by a psychotic in 1980.
Jill Dando had presented the BBC's Crimewatch
programme - Britain's equivalent of America's Most Wanted
- so one possibility was a hardened criminal who had a grudge against her personally, perhaps holding her responsible for his - or someone's - downfall. Another possibility was a Serbian connection due to her presenting an appeal for Kossovan refugees.
Operation Oxborough had no shortage of suspects, but a year into the inquiry, a man regarded as a "local weirdo" was charged with her murder. Barry Michael George had a reputation for being a fantasist as well as suffering from epilepsy and being of low intelligence. Among other things he claimed to be the cousin of Freddie Mercury, and called himself Barry Bulsara (Mercury's real name).
The case was brought to trial on the most tenuous of evidence; about the only people who believed George to be guilty were those who had a vested interest in doing so, especially the police. Hamish Campbell - the English detective with the Scottish name who led Oxborough - was filmed on at least one occasion saying they had carried out a comprehensive investigation, although curiously when another man confessed to the crime years later he didn't even ask him where he had obtained and disposed of the gun.
Barry George did not take the stand in his defence, and was convicted at the Central Criminal Court on July 2, 2001.
The following year, his appeal was dismissed, but continued lobbying by his family and other people who believed he lacked the mental capacity to plan and execute such a crime resulted in his conviction being referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. A retrial was ordered, and although the police mounted another vigorous case, and again George did not take the stand, he was cleared on August 1, 2008.
The police made noises about reopening the case, but in April 2010, the Ministry Of Justice turned down George's claim for compensation for the time he had spent in prison on the grounds that he had no reputation to defend and that the police had found no evidence pointing to a new suspect - read: "We still think you did it. Get stuffed!"
"The Barry George Song" covers much of this, including the one tiny shred of forensic evidence which may have swayed the jury at the first trial, but which was thoroughly discredited by the time of the retrial.
Although the boys don't try to force the rhymes, they could have taken a bit more care with the lyrics; it doesn't take too much effort to transform the horrible "They couldn't find the bloke who made Dando dead" to the passable "They couldn't find the bloke who shot Dando dead."
Alexander Baron - London, England