CHILD rapist Alexander Gartshore killed 11-year-old Moira Anderson more than half a century ago, prosecutors now believe.
But the bus driver, who was the last person to see her alive, never faced justice and died in 2006, taking his secret to his grave.
Graeme Pearson MSP, a former assistant chief constable of Strathclyde Police, said it will “always be a regret” to those who worked on the case that he was not brought to trial.
Mr Pearson said: “It will remain a mystery why this man was not a significant suspect at the time of the missing person report and initial suspicion of a murder.
“What value the Crown placed on the earlier taped ‘confession’ [by Gartshore]and other evidence is not known.
“But it will always be a regret to those involved that Alexander Gartshore did not face trial during his lifetime.”
Moira’s body has never been found. But prosecutors have taken the unprecedented step of outlining what would have been their case against her murderer.
Gartshore was convicted of raping a 17-year-old babysitter in 1957 – the same year schoolgirl Moira went missing.
She had gone out to buy margarine and a birthday card for her mother on 23 February, during a snowstorm.
The local Co-op store had closed because of the bad weather and she had caught a bus to try to complete her
errand, but was never seen again.
Last January, police exhumed a grave belonging to Sinclair Upton, a friend of Gartshore, who died around the time Moira went missing.
Although that search for Moira’s remains proved unsuccessful, the international media attention it created led to new witnesses coming forward.
One of them was a woman who had been a child at the time of Moira’s disappearance, more than five decades ago. She remembered seeing a man dragging a young girl by the arm near a bus terminus in Carnbroe, Coatbridge.
The girl’s description matched Moira and the woman later picked out Gartshore from a selection of photographs as the man she had seen that day.
Another witness came forward at the same time and said she had been with Moira in a park in the summer of 1956. She told how Gartshore exposed himself to them and knew Moira by name, calling her over to him.
However, these were not the first witnesses who had pointed to Gartshore.
In 1999, convicted child abuser James Gallogley, who was dying in prison, named his former friend Gartshore as Moira’s killer.
And even before then, Gartshore’s own daughter, Sandra Brown, had pushed him on the girl’s death in a conversation that was taped and handed to police.
Although he denied being responsible, he admitted to driving the bus which picked her up, and knew she had been going to Woolworths to buy a card.
Ms Brown became convinced her father was the killer, and after his death in 2006 she wrote a book, called Where There is Evil, about the disappearance of Moira.
Last year, she said her father was “every bit a paedophile as Jimmy Savile” and admitted she fears there are other unknown victims of his predatory behaviour.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, who revealed the conclusion of the Crown Office’s cold-case unit, said he hoped it would be some comfort to the victim’s relatives.
“This will hopefully bring closure to the family of Moira Anderson who have had to wait more than half a century for answers,” he said.
“I would like to pay tribute to the campaigners who refused to allow the memory of Moira Anderson to become
“It is important unsolved homicides are not allowed to become a forgotten file gathering dust on a shelf. The work of the cold case unit will ensure that this does not happen.”
Mr Mulholland added: “Indicting someone for a crime is not the equivalent of finding someone guilty. The trial process is the only place in which guilt or innocence can be determined.
“We are not saying that the suspect is guilty, only that there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to indict him and there would be a reasonable prospect of conviction had he still been alive. It was only after serious consideration of the circumstances of this case that it was decided to place this information in the public domain.”
Gartshore’s daughter Ms Brown declined to comment yesterday, but the Moira Anderson Foundation (MAF), which she set up in the girl’s memory, said the Crown’s conclusion showed how important its work was.
“This landmark decision by the Scottish Crown Office is welcomed by MAF, and underlines the importance of the work we do providing support for
families dealing with the trauma of child sexual abuse,” the foundation said.
“It is always crucial for children who speak up to be believed and supported. Recent events show how even years later, adults find it hard to break the silence if the offender is a prominent figure or a powerful member of society. It is 14 years since Sandra Brown, our founder, broke the silence by writing Where There is Evil, her bestselling book on Moira’s case.
Proceeds allowed the charity to support almost 250 cases, and it is now is expanding into Glasgow and Edinburgh.”