Unsolved Murders

Jo Ramsden

Age: 21

Sex: female

Date: 9 Apr 1992

Place: Bridport, Dorset

Source: www.independent.co.uk

Jo Ramsden went missing from her home on 9 April 1991 and was found in a woodland on 12 March 1992.

She was found in woodland about 12 miles from her home, by two forestry workers by the A35 near Lyme Regis on the Dorset-Devon border. The police said that whoever dumped her body there would have had local knowledge.

When she was found she was wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing on the day she disappeared.

Jo Ramsden was said to have had the mental age of a 10-year old.

She was last seen with a mystery man, who he press nicknamed Mr Zig Zag after his pattered sweater.

Mr Zig Zag was described as having fair-hair.

A suspect that had admitted the abduction and rape of at least six other mentally handicapped women was later identified, but it was heard that there was not sufficient evidence to charge him. He was a retired psychiatric nursing assistant. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

At the time of her disappearance she had been working with young children at the leisure centre, working there every Tuesday.

On Tuesday 9 April 1991 at about 9.45am, she had been working at the leisure centre. The teacher there had been pre-occupied with gymnastic exams and couldn't give Jo Ramsden as much attention as usual. She said that Jo Ramsden wasn't meant to come along that Tuesday as she was taking exams with the older children but said that she was welcome to stay, but said that there was not a lot that she could do.

However, the teacher said that she felt that Jo Ramsden was feeling a little uncomfortable as she didn't know what to do next and said that here were some occasions when she saw Jo Ramsden rocking, but said that she thought that it was more to do with the fact that she was in a situation that she hadn't expected, and not because she didn't want to be there. However, she said that she then went over to her and arranged for her to give each of the girls there a ball.

It was noted that Jo Ramsden would usually leave the centre at about 12.30pm for lunch and it was heard that one of the children there saw her go. She said that she saw a man facing the notice bard, Mr Zig Zag, and then saw Jo Ramsden pass by.

It was said that everyday Jo Ramsden would go for lunch at the adult training centre about half a mile away from the leisure centre.

An instructor at the training centre said that when she spoke to Jo Ramsden when she arrived, Jo Ramsden told her what had happened that morning but said that she was perfectly all right and said that they all had lunch that after that Jo Ramsden went off to work as per normal, at about 1.25pm and that that as the last time they saw her.

She was next seen at about 1.50pm heading back to the leisure centre by several people One woman said that she saw Jo Ramsden at about 1.50pm standing on the pavement when she saw a man with fair hair, Mr Zig Zag, walking along the pavement towards her. She said that Mr Zig Zag, then spoke to Jo Ramsden, stating that he had his hands in his pockets and didn't touch her. She said that when Mr Zig Zag spoke to Jo Ramsden, Jo Ramsden looked at him over her shoulder and that they then walked off together up the road. The woman said that from the way that they were talking that she assumed that the man, Mr Zig Zag, was perhaps a helper from the adult training centre or a member of her family or a friend.

It was noted that all of the witnesses who saw Jo Ramsden after she left the training centre said that the man that she had been with had been wearing a patterned jumper.

Another woman said that she had been driving along the road at the crossroads with Skilling Hill Road when she saw Jo Ramsden holding Mr Zig Zag's hand waiting to cross the road and said that she thought that it was odd that she should be holding someone’s hand. The woman said that Mr Zig Zag definitely looked like he might have been a social worker, noting that he looked intelligent and not sinister at all.

Another man said that as he was coming back from the leisure centre, just coming out of Watton Park, about five minutes after the woman had seen Jo Ramsden crossing the street with Mr Zig Zag, said that he saw a car coming up the  hill and said that when he looked inside he thought that he saw Jo Ramsden in the passenger seat with a man driving. He said that he thought that one of the staff must have been taking Jo Ramsden swimming or something as they were heading in the direction of a swimming pool. The car was described as a black hatchback car with a dark grey interior and had hollow headrests.

It was noted that that was the last definite sighting of Jo Ramsden and she never returned to the leisure centre that afternoon.

When the police described Mr Zig Zag, they said that he was in his late 20's, about 5ft 5in, and had fair, receding hair. He was noted for his brightly patterned jumper with a zig zag pattern.

During the police investigation, the police noted that Jo Ramsden was an avid Liverpool fan and that she had been carrying a red Liverpool shoe bag with her at the time that the police were hoping to trace.

In 1994 the retired psychiatric nursing assistant was convicted of five charges of kidnap, three of rape, one of attempted rape and asked for three kidnaps, three attempted kidnaps, two indecent assaults, and one attempted rape to be taken into consideration. He was a 50-year old man and had been charged with kidnapping Jo Ramsden in 1992 when he was 48 years old, but the charges were dropped. After he was convicted in 1994 the police said that they were going to question him again over the murder of Jo Ramsden.

The man had been living in Charminster, Dorset. It was said that he had carried out the sex attacks on mentally handicapped women in Dorset between June 1988 and December 1991, targeting five women, three in Weymouth and two at Herrison House hospital near Dorchester where he had been working until he retired on medical grounds. It was noted that all of the man's victims had been kidnapped and then taken to isolated spots where they were assaulted and then abandoned.

The man’s defence said that he had seen abused as a trial and that that had played an important part in his offences, but noted that there were no aggravating features often associated with rape, such as weapons having been used, sadism, and that none of his victims had been injured.

At his trial it was suggested that he had been suffering from mental issues, but the court heard that the medical reports found no form of mental disorder and that it was determined that he was 'bad and not mad'.

The man who was sent to Broadmoor and then later transferred to a medium secure institution, Chadwick Lodge, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire in 2003, denied that he kidnapped and murdered Jo Ramsden.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Craig Seton. "Hunt launched for killer of Down's syndrome woman." Times [London, England] 13 Mar. 1992: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Sep. 2012.

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