Desperate detectives assigned an attractive undercover policewoman to try to trap Barry George into confessing to Jill Dando’s murder.
The female officer, codenamed Sonia, chatted up the loner in the hope he would let slip something incriminating.
Previously unseen images – part of the round-the-clock police surveillance of George – show him on the streets at the time, including the day in May 2000 when he spoke to Sonia at an internet cafe.
Lead investigator Hamish Campbell knew honeytraps had been discredited during the case of Colin Stagg who was charged with the 1992 murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common.
His trial in 1994 collapsed over honeytrap evidence.
Mr Stagg went on to win a police apology and £706,000 compensation from the Home Office.
George was arrested and charged a fortnight after his chat with Sonia. He was then wrongly convicted of murdering the popular 37-year-old TV presenter.
During the hour-long conversation with the undercover officer, George freely admitted he had been linked to Jill’s killing, saying: “I was a witness to a situation and basically pursued as a suspect later.”
He added: “They took a statement as a witness, went to the court, got a search warrant, done our place, just short of ripping the place apart.
"I’m in trouble, you know. They were searching, allegedly, for guns, ammunition, clothes.
“It’s only ’cos we have a place in Fulham... I elaborate even more when I tell you a name, Jill Dando.”
George slated the police, saying: “It seems cruel – you can’t just go round doing that without having some evidence. It’s disgraceful.”
He added he had tried to help officers by reporting he had seen a car going up and down the road around the time of the murder.
The honeytrap had not thrown up any concrete leads.
But the secretly recorded conversation gave weight to the picture of him as an oddball fantasist who was obsessed with celebrities.
George spoke of his interest in the military – a pastime that became part of the case against him.
But he seemed happiest talking about his dream of being part of the showbiz world.
He lied to Sonia that he was rock singer Freddie Mercury’s cousin.
George then used the star’s real surname, Bulsara, in an email address he gave to Sonia so the pair could stay in touch.
The Met police surveillance had revealed he spent hours at internet cafes chatting to strangers online.
Sonia, whose real identity was never disclosed, talked to George in Kensington, West London – less than 500 yards from the incident room where Campbell was running the Dando case.
Jill, who presented BBC show Crimewatch, was shot dead on her doorstep in Fulham, West London, in April 1999.
George, who lived a few minutes from her house, was charged a year later.
And our investigation has uncovered a record card on George, from Met police files, which goes a long way to explaining detectives’ attitudes towards him.
It lists previous convictions including indecent assault. In 1981 he received a suspended three-month jail term for the sex attack.
He was also fined in 1980 for impersonating an officer.
In March 1983 he was jailed for 33 months for attempted rape under another of his aliases – Steve Majors, which he borrowed from TV series The Six Million Dollar Man.
The card noted he used the name Paul Gadd – the real name of pop singer Gary Glitter, later exposed as a paedophile.
Under unusual features, the police record said: “Eyebrows meet... Teeth broken... Talks with a lisp. Simple.”
George had an IQ of 75, well below average.
By calling him “simple”, police show they were aware of his vulnerablity, somebody who perhaps could be trapped into incriminating himself.
Barrister Michael Mansfield, who represented George at his first trial, said the use of a honeytrap raised grave questions over the original police probe.
Mr Mansfield said: “It has all the hallmarks of a desperate investigation.
“They did it because they had made all sorts of assumptions. It discloses the fact in this investigation the police pre-determined what they wanted to find.
"They wanted a loner, they wanted Barry George.
“It seems they have a suspect in mind then try to get the evidence to fit.”
Weeks after the honeytrap, the Met sent two detectives to the headquarters of Microsoft and Yahoo in California to search for incriminating emails on George’s accounts.
But documents suggest that no fresh leads were found.
It is thought the details gleaned in the honeytrap were not used in the trial.
A Met police spokesman said: “We fully investigated the circumstances into the murder of Jill Dando.
“Two trials took place and the investigation was subject to an internal new information comes to our attention then this will be investigated.”