The last word for now on Barry George, I think, but there are a couple of points to bear in mind when considering the approach of the tabloids before I look at the Mail and its readers' tremendous and overwhelming sense of compassion and humanity. It's pretty strong meat, some of this, and some of the comments that the Mail has allowed on its website will shock almost anyone. They certainly stunned me. So be warned. I never usually warn people about anything as we're all adults here, but... well, you'll see.
The first thing to remember is that George has been convicted of a sex offence, many years ago, a fact which is in the public domain. This does not, however, mean that he shot Jill Dando. Seems simple enough, but is it?
The Mail runs an interview with a woman who was attacked by George, in which she describes what happened when he attacked her. The story includes this rather bizarre sentence:
But the Old Bailey jury were not permitted to hear the details of his vile attack on Miss Xxxx as she reached home - as it may have prejudiced his trial.
If it had been a rape trial then possibly - debatably - there may have been a case for informing the jury of such evidence. But rape isn't murder. And George wasn't convicted of rape, only attempted rape. So why should the jury have known about an unrelated offence, given that there was no sexual element to the Dando murder? And would it have changed their minds anyway?
Again, from the story:
It is hard to equate this glimpse of George the determined sex attacker with the man portrayed in court and by his family as a victim.
Underneath which there is a photo of George. Presumably the picture editor was asked to find the most sinister-looking one of the lot.
It's only hard to think in those terms if you're stupid and regard people as being stupendously simplistic creatures who exhibit exactly the same behaviour all the time. Of course mentally ill and vulnerable people can commit crimes, and extremely unpleasant ones at that. Who's saying they can't? Yet the details of these cases don't really portray George as a schemer either. He confessed when challenged about this sex attack in quite a different way to his denials of the Dando murder, for example. It's never been about whether George was a good man but whether he committed the particular crime of murdering Jill Dando for which he was imprisoned. Whether he tried to get into Kensington Palace or not, or had a photo of Anthea Turner or not, isn't really relevant: was he there, did he pull the trigger, did he do it? Those are the questions the jury asked, rather than 'is he a bad man and therefore shall we just convict him of another crime anyway?' which appears to be what the Mail would have preferred that they had asked, as opposed to doing their duty correctly.
The second thing to bear in mind is that George has sold his story to a newspaper, the News of the World. Other newspapers would have been aggrieved to have lost out in what they themselves called a 'bidding war' for his story. When newspapers are aggrieved, they go after people. It's not personal: it's just business on the newsstands.
Hence this in another Mail story on George:
Publicist Max Clifford has also predicted that George, who has been described a loner and the 'local nutter', could earn another £500,000 as the media clamour to secure his exclusive story.
The Mail wouldn't have been part of this 'media' then. No, but they did speak to George's victim. Fair enough, you might say, to provide another insight into this case, and that's a valid point, but I wonder if this woman knew that her story would be opened up to the Mail's messageboard morons when she told it? Sex crime victims are guaranteed anonymity by the legal system and must decide to waive that if a newspaper requests it. The Mail could have run the story and kept her anonymous. Did she ask to waive her anonymity or did they ask her? And did they tell her that underneath her story of trauma would be comments like this?
Why say "rape"? - maybe it was just 'surprise sex'. And he did say sorry.
- Brian Brianson, Aberdeen, 2/8/2008 12:53
Jesus. Fucking. Christ. I said the other day I was pleased the Mail was letting more comments through, but honestly. Seriously. What the fucking hell is this? You didn't have to go from heavy moderation to letting absolute cuntery like this through, did you?
Is she sniffing the compo.
- will smith, Rochester England, 2/8/2008 14:08
Why can't they leave the poor man alone. He's suffered enough. Now it looks like all sorts of women will be jumping on the bandwagon saying he did this or that. They are just after some fame and money.
- Steve, Worcester, England, 2/8/2008 15:35
This isn't quite as appalling, and does contain a grain of truth, amid the usual distasteful stuff familiar to Mail readers concerning the truth or otherwise of rape accusations. As a convicted sex offender George is already the lowest of the low in public estimation - it would be nigh-on impossible for him to sue successfully for libel if someone did make up an accusation or embellished a story about him. However, there is no reason to doubt this particular woman's account of events.
Back to the utter evil:
Why didn't she report it earlier.Coming out the woodwork now so she can have a bit of compensation from him.Ka ching!
- Mark, Wigan, 2/8/2008 15:41
Yuck. Presumably the Mail have paid her for her story and I haven't heard her mention compensation at all. What do these people have against someone claiming back money for someone who has committed a crime against them anyway? What's wrong with compensating people for things? Should everyone just pull their socks up after being raped or attacked?
So now they come crawling out the woodwork at the mention of compensation.....
- Jo, Paignton, 2/8/2008 16:08
If Mr George is in line for compensation watch out for hordes of traumatised women to come out of the woodwork with lurid tales of how the scheming oddball ruined there lives. Nothing can make up for what they went through - apart from large sums of money that would help bring closure (and early retirement).
- Chubbarow, Nottingham, England, 2/8/2008 16:48
It funny how she is so traumatised now there is the chance to make some money.
- Afro Lady, wolverhampton, 2/8/2008 17:08
Six other comments have been deleted, which must mean they were even more appalling than those. Seriously, was the victim who waived her anonymity told that her story would have all the numpties of the internet saying this shit underneath it? Did the reporter mention that when they interviewed her? Did anyone think that an account of a sex offence was perhaps not the ideal story to allow idiots off the net to comment on freely? No? The Mail really hasn't got the hang of this post-moderation yet, has it? It's utterly repugnant.
Not just for this woman, though, but for George himself. You'll remember this little gem from the other day:
If we had the death penalty we would not now be letting this weirdo free.
- Jeffrey Marshall, London, United Kingdom, 01/8/2008 22:55
John in the comments to that post said he interpreted that as possibly being a comment against the death penalty. I'm not so sure, but it would be foolish of me to discount that completely. Let's look at some of the other comments on that story:
Well I hope he will be suitabily compensated for the state ruining this man's life. It seems the police just want a conviction, especially in a high profile case like this. Anyone will do, especially someone who hasn't the wherewithal to articulate his innocence.
- Bob, Belfast, 1/8/2008 14:34
Interesting to compare and contrast the attitude towards compensation from readers of the story about George and about that victim of the sex attack. Although to be fair there are a few like this:
Hey! Don't worry folks, you'll be funding Barry George's compensation. Enjoy his freedom.
- Alan, Denmark, 1/8/2008 16:53
It's the kind of story to twist Mailites in knots. On the one hand, convicted sex offender = evil, but on the other, police = evil, but on the other, compensation culture = evil burden on the taxpayer. A difficult calculation.
This is another case to abolish trial by juries!
- Ray Morgan, Newport, Gwent, 1/8/2008 14:49
Does he mean the first trial or the second one? Abolish trial by jury if you don't get the result you think you should get - and then what? What if judges had decided that George hadn't done it - abandon trial by judges?
Here's an interesting one that's got through under the new system:
A few days ago when we talking about the dna database, we regularly heard, 'the innocent have nothing to fear.' Would those people like to comment on this now.
- Robert, Formby, 1/8/2008 15:05
But back comes the hate, basically someone accusing George of having done it, Express-style:
Convicted by jury, appeall dismissed by judges, good evidence ruled out, and eventually a gullible jury found to give the right result. I would be very disappointed if this case had been about a member of my family that was murdered and I am sure some of you gullible handwringers would feel the same!
The police will anounce they are not looking for anyone else in the case dispelling the myth that they have failed to catch the killer of ms Dando!
I sincerely hope he is not awarded any compensation as in my opinion his freedom in more than enough!
- andy hall, bradford england, 1/8/2008 15:37
Yes, eight years in jail? Pah! Who cares, so long as you get out in the end? All's well that ends well, eh? Indeed:
I would happily do 8 years in prison for a crime i didn't commit if it will make a millionaire (which it certainly will for this particular simpleton).
- Dan, Glos, 1/8/2008 15:45
Happily do eight years in jail? What do these people think jail is - have they believed everything they've read about cosy cells, TV with Sky Sports and so on that's been printed in the Mail? You don't get that shit if you're doing life for murder. But Dan in Glos isn't isolated:
how is it he is quite a bit plumper after eight years in prison?? i feel desperately sorry for the poor man, but surely the idea of prison its that it caters only to the most basic of human needs? otherwise how is it punishment? you hear everyday about playstations and luxuries, access to higher education facilities. whats going on?
- berla, england, 1/8/2008 19:20
You hear that shit in the Mail. That's why you're a thick cunt.
am very disappointed. He has consistently lied in police interviews and also lied about his whereabouts that day.Unbelievable
- Lindsay, Stoke Uk, 1/8/2008 16:14
What? If we jailed people for lying then half of the Mail's staff would be in the bloody slammer.
And finally, because this is an absolute peach for a bit of light relief after all that horrible stuff earlier:
If he did not do the crime then who did?
- David, London, 1/8/2008 16:15