Police begin new search to finally solve Moira Anderson case

Police forensic officers begin the search of the Monkland canal near Coatbridge, 60 years after Moira Anderson went missing. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
Police forensic officers begin the search of the Monkland canal near Coatbridge, 60 years after Moira Anderson went missing. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
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It was a bitterly cold February afternoon in 1957 when 11-year-old Moira Anderson left her grandmother’s house in Coatbridge to run an errand.

The schoolgirl was never seen by her family again.

Moira Anderson was 11 when she was reported missing after failing to return to her grandmother's house in Coatbridge in February 1957. Picture: Strathclyde Police/PA Wire

Moira Anderson was 11 when she was reported missing after failing to return to her grandmother's house in Coatbridge in February 1957. Picture: Strathclyde Police/PA Wire

Now, six decades on from her disappearance, Police Scotland have launched a major search operation in the hope of discovering her final resting place.

A section of the disused Monkland canal at Carnbroe, a housing estate between Airdrie and Coatbridge, has been closed to the public while forensic experts from across the UK examine the site.

Officers suspect that convicted paedophile Alexander Gartshore, who died in 2006, was responsible for Moira’s death.

He was driving a bus boarded by the schoolgirl during a snow storm on the day she went missing but was never charged.

Police, led by Detective Superintendent Pat Campbell, are now acting on new witness statements that link Gartshore to the canal in North Lanarkshire.

The waterway closed to traffic in 1952 and the section in question has changed little in the six decades since. It is one of six locations in the Coatbridge area that police plan to examine over the next two weeks.

Det Supt Campbell said today he was “optimistic” that vital evidence could now be found.

Specialists in sonar scanning, ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry are to scour the area to identify any “anomalies” which divers will then investigate.

Det Supt Campbell added that teams will be looking for skeletal remains as well as any jewellery or clothing that may have survived.

“This was an area Alexander Gartshore frequented,” Mr Campbell said.

“We know he was familiar with the area and it was near to the bus route that he would have been on at that particular time.

“It’s also about 900m from the last sighting of Moira on February 23 1957, which was within the Carnbroe area.

“Again, there was a further sighting on the morning of February 24 of a male moving towards the canal with a large sack or bag.

“There’s various strands that make this area high priority for us just now.

“The land round about (the canal) has not changed much in 60 years.

“We remain optimistic that we can recover her remains and bring closure to her family.”

A plot in Old Monkland Cemetery was previously searched by experts but failed to find Moira’s remains. Police had been investigating if Gartshore dumped the youngster’s body in a grave of an acquaintance.

Anderson had left her grandmother’s house in Muiryhall Street, Coatbridge, at 4.10pm on Saturday, February 23, 1957, to buy margarine from the nearby Co-op.

She was reported missing to the police later that night and has not been seen since by her family.

Strathclyde Police and laterly Police Scotland have periodically investigated her disappearance.

The case was reviewed by an investigation team led by Dep Campbell in conjunction with the Cold Case Unit at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

As a result of new evidence, COPFS concluded that Gartshore would have been indicted if he had still been alive for Moira’s abduction and homicide.

In January 2014, COPFS publicly stated that Gartshore would have been indicted for Moira’s murder as there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence.