Graduate 'paranoid she was punching above her weight' before death

Zoology graduate, 22, found hanging in woodland had become ‘paranoid she was punching above her weight’ with her boyfriend after comment from a stranger in a pub, inquest hears

  • Rosie Johnson, 22, had drunken row with boyfriend the night she was last seen 
  • Had been dwelling on a comment from a stranger who said she was ‘punching’
  • Was working on an island holiday camp where she met boyfriend Brendan Storer
  • Isle of Wight Coroner’s Court heard her body was found hanging in woodland 
  • Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org 

A talented young Zoology graduate went missing and was found hanging in woodland after becoming ‘paranoid’ she was ‘punching above her weight’ in her relationship, an inquest heard today.

Rosie Johnson had a drunken row with her boyfriend on the night she was last seen and had been dwelling on a comment from a stranger in a pub who told her she was ‘punching’.

The 22-year-old, who was working at an island holiday camp where she had met boyfriend Brendan Storer, was also worried about work before she disappeared, the inquest heard.

She was said to be anxious about a mediation meeting at the camp, following a minor dispute with another employee.

The University of Glasgow graduate, whose uncle is Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, was last seen by her room mate at PGL Little Canada on the Isle of Wight, where she worked as an activities instructor.

Rosie Johnson (pictured) had a drunken row with her boyfriend the night she was last seen and had been dwelling on a comment from a stranger in a pub who told her she was ‘punching’

Her friend and colleague Ariane Massey, 27, told the hearing she was sharing a room with Ms Johnson at the time of her disappearance, shortly before 11pm on Sunday, June 23.

Miss Massey explained how Ms Johnson had met Mr Storer when she started working at Little Canada, near Ryde, in February 2019 and they soon became a couple.

She said Mr Storer was a team leader and Ms Johnson would often stay in his room.

But cracks began to show in the relationship after a night out which led to Ms Johnson feeling ‘insecure’.

Miss Massey said: ‘When we were out in Ryde just having a few drinks she told me that this guy came up to her and said she was “punching” to get Brendan.

‘She was annoyed with it and mentioned it a few times. I wasn’t there at the time but she mentioned it to me several times.

The 22-year-old, who was working at an island holiday camp where she had met boyfriend Brendan Storer (pictured), was also worried about work before she disappeared

‘It’s like she couldn’t let it go. She would say it when she was upset – that she was “punching”.’

Caroline Sumeray, area coroner for the Isle of Wight, asked: ‘So she wasn’t capable of brushing off what some random loony said to her?’

Miss Massey replied ‘not really, no’, adding: ‘I think sometimes it made them fall out and – not have an argument – but I know she would get insecure about it.’

She explained that on the night of the comment Ms Johnson had been so upset she stayed out all night and then had to be picked up by Miss Massey and Mr Storer at about 7am, after they finally tracked her down at Ryde train station.

Miss Massey said her friend was covered in scratches from being in a bush and at the time they believed she must have got confused and gone missing after allegedly having her drink ‘spiked’ at the pub.

‘She was very tired, upset and crying. We believed Rosie must have had her drink spiked whilst at the pub in Ryde,’ she said.

‘From knowing Rosie, she didn’t drink so much that she was out of control and to have had gone out all night. It’s not something she would have done.’

On the day she went missing – Sunday, June 23 – some of the workers, including Ms Johnson, went for brunch at a cafe in nearby Wootton Bridge.

Miss Massey said they had about five glasses of prosecco each and then bought a bottle of prosecco each at a Tesco on their way back to Little Canada.

Another colleague Naomi Jackson, 29, said she had a chat with Ms Johnson later that evening while the group played games in the staff room.

On the day she went missing – Sunday, June 23 – some of the workers, including Ms Johnson, went for brunch at Cibo in nearby Wootton Bridge. Pictured, Little Canada

Ms Jackson said: ‘She found it upsetting that people had made comments since she had been with Brendan that he was too good for her.

‘I didn’t realise anybody had said anything to her until she told me.’

She explained that another girl, not named in the inquest, was ‘jealous’ of Ms Johnson because Mr Storer was a ‘handsome chap’ and had ‘made Rosie feel very uncomfortable’.

Later that night, Miss Massey said Ms Johnson was drunk and upset when talking to her boyfriend and told her ‘I’m done. I’m done with Brendan’ before going for a walk at around 11pm.

She said the row was about the mediation meeting Ms Johnson was due to have the next day, as she did not want to do it but Mr Storer had told her she should ‘get it over and done with’.

Ms Johnson, from the village of Strachan, in Aberdeenshire, was reported missing by PGL on Monday June 24, when she did not turn up for work, which was considered out of character.

An extensive search by police and specialist search teams was carried out, largely in the nearby Wootton area.

Isle of Wight Coroner’s Court today heard her body was found hanging in woodland, in the Briddlesford area, at 3.20pm on Friday, June 28.

Ms Johnson (pictured at graduation), from the village of Strachan, in Aberdeenshire, was reported missing by PGL on Monday June 24, when she did not turn up for work, which was considered out of character

A post-mortem examination found the cause of death was hanging and Ms Johnson was identified by her dental records.

A toxicologist found no traces of drugs, medication or alcohol in her blood.

While she was missing, a fellow worker at the 50 acre Little Canada site, had described Miss Johnson as a ‘popular girl’ and said her disappearance was ‘totally out of character’.

The male staff member, in his 30s, said: ‘She’s a pleasant girl. She’s come straight from Uni and she’s a nice young woman.

‘As far as I’m aware she’s popular and this is totally out of character. I do know her boyfriend. Both live here.’

He suggested it was common for relationships to form between camp workers, adding: ‘There’s lots of safeguarding here, not just for the children but for the adults too.’

Coroner Caroline Sumeray ruled Rosie’s death was a suicide as she was anxious about the mediation meeting the next day.

She said: ‘Just because somebody was your friend and they are no longer particularly close to you, doesn’t mean you have to negotiate that through meetings and a formal process. That’s life. You make new friends.

‘However, there was a meeting set up and it was one of several.’

She said while Mr Storer was able to ‘brush it off’ it had ‘clearly bothered’ Rosie.

‘Rosie was distressed at the prospect of having this meeting with Sinead and management the next day. It was a big deal to her.

‘The upshot was she became distressed and focused and fixated on it that night and she said she wanted to go for a walk and clear her head.’

As a result, Mrs Sumeray concluded it was ‘more likely than not’ that Rosie ‘got into a very sad place that night and she did something utterly, utterly tragic’.

She gave a conclusion of suicide.

Regarding the ‘punching’ comment, she that someone had ‘said something to her, something very unkind which played on her insecurities’ and that ‘it did knock her confidence’ though she did not believe it was the reason for Rosie’s suicide. 

  • Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org.

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