Judge rules out Jo Ramsden kidnap trial: Evidence 'insufficient' to prosecute retired nursing assistant for kidnapping Down's Syndrome sufferer

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The Independent Online
A RETIRED psychiatric nursing assistant who yesterday admitted abductions and rapes involving at least six mentally handicapped women will not face trial for kidnapping Jo Ramsden, a Down's Syndrome sufferer, a judge ruled.

At Cardiff Crown Court yesterday, Mr Justice McKinnon ruled there was insufficient evidence to try Michael Fox, 49, on the charge of kidnapping Miss Ramsden, 21, who went missing from her home in Bridport, Dorset, in April 1991. The body of Miss Ramsden, who had a mental age of 10, was discovered in March 1992 in dense woodland on the Dorset-Devon border.

Fox was questioned by police investigating her disappearance after he was arrested in connection with the other offences. He pleaded guilty to five kidnaps, three rapes and an attempted rape between June 1988 and December 1991 in Weymouth, Dorchester and Bridport. He asked for nine similar offences to be taken into consideration.

Fox, of Charminster, a former nursing assistant at Herrison Hospital in Dorchester, will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court in June.

After the hearing, Detective Chief Superintendent Des Donohoe, the head of Dorset CID, said it was unlikely that investigations into the Ramsden case would continue. He said: 'The public must make their own decision on this case. I'm delighted that this individual will not be on the streets of Dorset for a very long time.'

Richard Ramsden, Miss Ramsden's father, who runs a gift shop in Bridport, said yesterday after hearing the judge's decision: 'It leaves it unfinished. I do not suppose there is very much I can do. It is unsatisfactory for us and the police.' Following Miss Ramsden's disappearance, police investigated sightings of her with a man in a black car in the town without success. The 11-month search ended when her decomposed body was discovered by forestry workers. She was wearing the same clothes as the day she disappeared, and near by police found the red Liverpool FC bag she had been carrying. Her identity was established from dental records, but police were unable to establish a cause of death.

The death shocked Bridport and a memorial service was held last year. Yesterday, Miss Ramsden's family said a memorial garden at the town's Adult Training Centre would be opened by Norma Major next month.

Fox was arrested in March 1991 as a result of investigations into a series of attacks on mentally handicapped women in Dorset. He was later interviewed about the disappearance of Miss Ramsden and again after her body was discovered.

Before retiring on sickness grounds in January 1991, he worked at Herrison Hospital for 26 years, the last of which were as a nursing assistant at a clinic for the mentally handicapped. West Dorset Mental Heath Trust said there had been no indications of suspicious behaviour or misconduct with patients.

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