THE family of missing schoolgirl Moira Anderson has launched a legal bid to open a grave where they believe her body was secretly buried.
Janet Hart, the sister of the 11-year-old who vanished more than 55 years ago, has lodged a formal application to dig up a lair at a cemetery near to where she was last seen.
In recent years, evidence has emerged suggesting Moira’s remains may have been hidden in a grave at Old Monklands cemetery near her home in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.
Ms Hart, 67, who lives in Australia, has applied for an exhumation order at Airdrie Sheriff Court.
The investigation will involve the exhumation and reinterrment of eight bodies.
They are Elizabeth Upton, who died in 1908; Joseph Thom, who died in 1923; Margaret Upton, who died in 1951; Sinclair Upton, who died in 1957; Elizabeth McNeilly, who died in 1976; Peter McNeilly, who died in 1978; Hugh Winterbottom, who died in 1985; and Mary Winterbottom who died in 1995.
Anyone wishing to object has been asked to contact the court and a hearing on the application is scheduled for next month.
Moira’s disappearance is one of Scotland’s longest-running mysteries.
No trace of her was ever found but it is believed that she was abducted, probably by a paedophile, who murdered her then disposed of her body. She disappeared on 23 February 1957, after being sent on an errand to the local Co-op in Coatbridge by her grandmother.
Earlier this year, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland ordered cold-case detectives to reopen the case as a murder rather than a missing persons inquiry.
The prime suspect for Moira’s abduction and murder is paedophile Alexander Gartshore, who worked as a bus driver near the schoolgirl’s home.
Gartshore, now dead, was named as Moira’s killer in a deathbed confession by a fellow convicted child abuser.
Gartshore’s daughter, Sandra Brown, has investigated Moira’s case for decades and wrote a book outlining how her father almost certainly murdered the schoolgirl.
Ms Brown has told how she believes Moira’s body was somehow hidden beneath the coffin of a man who died three weeks after her abduction. Moira’s sisters, Ms Hart and Marjorie Muir, have provided items to be used in compiling a DNA sample for comparison.
At the time of Moira’s disappearance, Gartshore, who is believed to have been driving a bus which the girl boarded, was on bail after being arrested over the rape of his family’s 13-year-old babysitter. In 1992, officers questioned him but he denied any involvement and charges were never brought. He died in 2006.
Speaking in 2009, Ms Hart said she would like her sister to be buried next to her parents.
She said: “I really hope that this brings the closure so denied to us for 51 years. It’s not too much to ask that my little sister have her final resting place not in an unmarked grave, or in someone else’s grave, but with her loving parents who grieved for their lost daughter daily, until they too were laid to rest.
“I have hopes that Scottish justice will prevail, too late for Moira’s murderer to be charged, but for Moira to be found and placed with her parents.”
Ms Hart’s bid for the exhumation has been supported by the Moira Anderson Foundation, a charity set up by Ms Brown to support victims of childhood sexual abuse.
It is understood all of the families of the people buried in the lair have already given their permission for the work to be carried out.