FORENSIC experts yesterday began their attempt to close one of Scotland’s most notorious unsolved cases by beginning work to exhume a family grave in the search for the body of a schoolgirl who vanished more than five decades ago.
• Moira Anderson disappeared in 1957 after going on an errand to a shop near her Coatbridge home
• Her body has never been found but her family have long suspected she was murdered by a convicted child rapist
Moira Anderson was only 11 when she disappeared in 1957 after going on an errand for her grandmother to the Co-op shop near her home in the North Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge.
Her body was never found, and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland ordered cold-case detectives to reopen the inquiry as a murder investigation last year.
The family of the youngster, who have long suspected she was killed by a convicted child rapist, last month raised a legal action before Sheriff Frank Pieri at Airdrie Sheriff Court to exhume eight bodies from a lair where they believe Moira may have been secretly buried.
Experts are exploring the possibility that Moira’s body may have been dumped under a coffin in the grave, which was thought to have been open at about the time of her disappearance. Graveside preparations began yesterday and the exhumation of the family grave in Old Monkland cemetery will begin this morning, although the process could take up to several days to complete.
Local bus driver and convicted child rapist Alexander Gartshore, who died in 2006, has been linked to her disappearance.
Gartshore’s daughter, Sandra Brown, has written a book detailing her suspicions that her late father was Moira’s killer. She said: “I do believe in my heart we’ll find her.”
Moira’s sister, Janet Hart, who lives in Australia, launched a petition to exhume the family plot of Sinclair Upton, an acquaintance of Gartshore’s, believing that he may have dumped her body there in the days before Mr Upton was laid to rest.
Speaking last month after the court ruled in her favour, she said: “I was very emotional. It’s a huge milestone. I just hope this takes us a step closer to getting justice for our wee Moira.”
The Upton family, whose relatives are buried in the plot, have given their consent to the move. Sinclair Upton, whose late great-grandfather Sinclair snr was friendly with Moira’s suspected killer, said: “I just hope they find that wee lassie to give the family a bit of closure.”
He admitted the thought of having his relatives exhumed was “very upsetting,” but added: “If we hadn’t agreed to it, Moira’s family would always be wondering if she was there.”
The sensitive process, overseen by the Crown Office, will be carried out by trained personnel from Strathclyde Police.
The exhumation will be led by Professor Sue Black, director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University, and one of Britain’s top forensic anthropologists.
The cemetery will remain open throughout the period to allow other people to visit the graves of their relatives.