Jill Dando’s former Crimewatch co-host Nick Ross has hailed her “remarkable legacy” as friends of the murdered television presenter gathered to mark almost 20 years since her death.
Ms Dando’s former fiance Alan Farthing, her cousin Judith Dando and then-colleague Fiona Bruce all paid emotional tributes to the television presenter.
They were joined by the Countess of Wessex, a trustee of the Jill Dando Fund, at an event in London in her memory.
The 37-year-old, then one of the BBC’s highest-profile stars, was shot outside her home in Fulham, west London, on April 26 1999.
Following her death, an institute was set up in her name at University College London, said to be the first in the world devoted to crime science.
Ross said the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science is a legacy of which those who knew and loved Ms Dando could all be proud.
Speaking at the Royal Society on Wednesday evening, he said: “We all know there’s a blaze of publicity about Jill this month, a BBC documentary, lots of press coverage.
“Sadly most of the attention is about the manner of Jill’s death.
“Tonight is about her life, it’s to celebrate her life and her remarkable legacy, a major department in a world class university that bears her name.”
He added: “What we all know is that Jill is still after 20 years hugely admired and greatly missed and she leaves behind a legacy of which all of us can be intensely proud.”
Part of the institute’s work focuses on new ways to cut crime and increase security, drawing on the university’s experience across related disciplines, including architecture, economics, engineering, geography, medicine, psychology, statistics and town planning.
It now has more than 30 staff and dozens of researchers.
Those who had known Ms Dando recalled fond memories of her and spoke of their pain at her loss.
Sir Cliff Richard, a close friend of Ms Dando, paid tribute by video message from Barbados.
He described her as a “beautiful, funny, intelligent but above all a genuinely nice, kind and thoughtful human being”.
Mr Farthing said he had initially been reluctant to speak at the event due to the emotion of the occasion.
He said: “Jill was admired by those, many of those who had never met her. She was respected by those who worked with her and she was loved by everyone who knew her.”
Mr Farthing, who has since married and fathered two sons, said Ms Dando had been “denied” having a family of her own, something he said was “so unfair, so unnecessary and so pointless”.
Bruce thanked Ms Dando for helping to show her she could have a varied career, presenting shows she loved, from the serious to the more lighthearted.
She said: “Jill led the way for me, not just in the programmes that I did but also in how I could do them. She showed that you can do the news and you can still show your humanity, your warmth, your sense of fun.”
As her voice appeared to break with emotion, she added: “I think, more often than I suspect you might realise, would I be presenting the programmes that I love, combining just recently Question Time and the news with something like the Antiques Roadshow and other programmes I’ve made over the years if it wasn’t for Jill?
“I don’t know for sure but I know that she helped make it possible for me. She broke the mould. And I would love to talk to her about it and get some advice and to thank her but of course I was never able to do that, so in a small way I’m doing that now. So Jill, I owe you. Thank you.”
Barry George was arrested on suspicion of murder in 2000, one year after Ms Dando was killed.
Mr George was convicted and imprisoned for eight years, then acquitted and released after a retrial.