Barry George was cleared at the Old Bailey on Friday after eight years of trying to prove he did not kill TV presenter Jill Dando.

George, 48, was found not guilty of murder after his second trial and two appeals.

In a statement read by his solicitor Jeremy Moore, George said: “I’m overwhelmed. I want to thank my family, my legal team, my medical team and all the people who have supported me at Belmarsh, Whitemoor and Manchester prisons, and all my supporters.”

Mr Moore said that George’s first words on being cleared were: “I can’t believe it.”

George, an epileptic with mental disability, was originally found guilty of murder in 2001. His first appeal was rejected but a second appeal, in November last year, resulted in the conviction being quashed and a retrial ordered.

The second trial began on June 9 this year, with the judge ruling out evidence that a single particle of firearms discharge residue was found in the pocket of George’s coat.

The judge, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, was told that the speck, although of the same type as found on the victim, could have come from other sources.

On Friday, a jury of eight women and four men rejected the prosecution case that George was the killer who shot Miss Dando, 37, through the head on her doorstep in Fulham, west London, in April 1999.

The jury had been out for less than two days at the end of an eight-week trial.

Now police face the embarrassing task of renewing the search for the gunman nine years after the Crimewatch presenter was murdered.