Fresh appeal on 30-year-old murder

By James HoreA FRESH appeal has been launched for information to help track down the killer of a mother-of-three, 30 years to the day since she was found strangled.

By James Hore

A FRESH appeal has been launched for information to help track down the killer of a mother-of-three, 30 years to the day since she was found strangled.

Maldon woman Josephine Backshallwas found bound and strangled in a shallow pond in a quiet countryside lane.

A major police investigation was launched, with detectives saying the 39-year-old could have been lured to her death by a man who offered her part-time work as a model.

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Despite a huge inquiry that saw thousands of men interviewed, the investigation drew a blank and Mrs Backshall's killer still remains at large.

Essex Police have now appealed again for people to come forward with any information that could lead to a breakthrough.

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It is believed that Mrs Backshall's killer may have replied to an advert she placed in her local paper asking for work.

Police know she received a call at 1pm on the day she disappeared from a man who asked her to do some modelling work that evening.

The call was made from a phone box four miles away in Great Totham and a meeting was arranged in Witham.

Mrs Backshall left her home in Norfolk Road at 6.15pm on October 29 and was last seen standing next to her broken-down car at 8pm that day in Collingwood Road, Witham.

She was not seen again until her body was found near Bishop's Stortford on November 1, 1974. Her hands had been bound in front of her and she had been strangled with a length of sash cord.

Police said she had been dead for three days. There were no signs of a struggle and she had not been sexually assaulted, with detectives concluding that her murder had been "motiveless".

Mrs Backshall's car, a red Ford Cortina, was later found abandoned in a car park in Collingwood Road, Witham.

Detectives believe Mrs Backshall had met her killer on more than one occasion near the public hall in Collingwood Road, at the town's train station and possibly elsewhere.

In the weeks following the murder police questioned photographers and camera clubs in the Maldon area and elsewhere in Essex - using the one clue they had, that the photographer she had met used the name Pete.

The man was known to have telephoned her at least four times, talking about work in advertising, saying he was a freelance.

Hundreds of officers questioned 6,000 men in total and spent more than 100,000 hours on the case. An artist's impression of a man seen by a neighbour talking to Mrs Backshall in her garden was also used to help inquiries.

A spokesman for Essex Police said the case had never been closed, despite the passage of years, and added: "We would appeal that even after all this time that somebody may have something that they have been withholding.

"This case may ring a bell with somebody who can come forward and we would appeal for them to do so. The slightest bit of information gives us the potential for a breakthrough and, of course, that could result in a major new effort.

"Of course somebody, somewhere, may well be harbouring a secret and they may want to unburden themselves. It could be somebody that wants to confess or somebody who has information as a witness."

Peter Hamilton, who is one of Essex Police's major crime review officers, said developments in DNA technology meant that old crimes could still be solved.

"This case is on the main list, but is not actively being investigated. But if some strong information was to come forward, it could jump it right up the list," he added.

Anyone with information should contact Essex Police on 01245 491491 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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