Cold case team hunt for schoolgirl Moira Anderson’s body 55 years on

DETECTIVES are to reinvestigate the disappearance of a schoolgirl more than 55 years ago in a case being treated as murder for the first time.

DETECTIVES are to reinvestigate the disappearance of a schoolgirl more than 55 years ago in a case being treated as murder for the first time.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has instructed a cold case team to look into the death of Moira Anderson, who vanished in a blizzard in February 1957.

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Campaigners claim Moira was buried in a freshly dug grave by the bus driver who was linked to the mystery. Her family are now planning to petition a Scottish court to gain permission for the contents of the burial site to be exhumed in the search for her remains.

Moira, 11, had left her home in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, and taken a bus to the local shops but was never seen again. Driver Alexander Gartshore was the last person to see her alive after she boarded his bus.

He was imprisoned for raping a 12-year-old babysitter two months later and though arrested in 1993 over Moira’s disappearance, was released due to lack of evidence.

The Lord Advocate spoke last week to Moira’s family and campaigners, including Central Scotland MSP Alex Neil, who fought to have the case reopened. Strathclyde Police Serious Crime Review Team, set up in June 2011 to examine unsolved murders, has been asked to make the case a 

Moira’s sister Janet Hart, 68, who lives in Sydney, Australia, said: “I am shell-shocked that, after 55 years, Moira’s case is now being treated seriously as a murder inquiry instead of just a missing person.

“I am praying this is the last hurdle before we get some kind of closure and finally find out what happened to Moira.

“Nothing will ever bring her back but this latest development is hugely encouraging.”

The family believe Moira’s body is hidden in the same grave as a friend of prime suspect, Gartshore. He died in Leeds in 2006, aged 85.

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In the days after Moira’s disappearance, a grave was dug for one of Gartshore’s friends and he is said to have joked that the dead man had done him “a big favour”.

Gartshore was exposed as the likely killer by his own daughter, Sandra Brown.

She wrote a book, Where There Is Evil, published in 1998, accusing him of the 

Brown used proceeds from the sales to help set up the Moira Anderson Foundation, which supports families affected by child sexual abuse.

Gartshore’s friend, James Gallogley, who was convicted of child sex offences in 1997 and died in Peterhead prison in 1999, told an inmate that Gartshore and another man sexually abused Anderson at the bus depot after subduing her with chloroform.

Before his death, Gallogley wrote a 15-page confession claiming her death was not ­deliberate and the killers did not know what to do with the body, before detailing where it had been buried.

In 2005, a dig was held on the spot where Gallogley claimed Moira was buried, and although no body was found a separate search of another area by radar suggested the schoolgirl’s remains may be buried in the same grave as Gartshore’s friend.

Sandra Brown said: “For five years we have been fighting to get the exhumation of the grave since a radar survey that indicated there was a possibility of an unauthorised burial.

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“I have not rested in the fight to get the truth about what happened and finally the Lord Advocate and the police are taking this case seriously and treating it as a murder case.

“For years, this case has been treated as a missing persons case but what has just happened is that there has now been a move in the status of the case from missing persons to murder.

“It feels that for the past 55 years it has been an uphill struggle to convince the authorities that this is a serious murder case. There hasn’t really been huge enthusiasm for this case for years and it is thanks to local councillor Michael Coyle and MSP Alex Neil, who have been very proactive in pushing for this to be reopened.”

Yesterday Alex Neil, MSP for Central Scotland, said the developments were “a big breakthrough in the Moira Anderson case and it is significant it is being treated as murder, and not still a missing persons investigation. The new cold case unit only deal with murders and this will finally be investigated properly.

“I’m delighted that this Lord Advocate has done what no previous one has done about this case.”

He added: “With the kind of forensics we have now there might be the possibility of getting answers that weren’t possible even five or ten years ago.”

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The Lord Advocate confirmed that the case will now be dealt with by the COPFS cold case review unit. COPFS understand that the Moira Anderson Foundation now intends to petition to the court for exhumation of a burial site.

“COPFS will liaise with the foundation in relation to their petition.”

Timeline: from missing to murder

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Feb 23, 1957: Moira Anderson, 11, vanishes after boarding a bus in Coatbridge. Driver Alex Gartshore is the last person to see her alive.

April 18, 1957: Gartshore is imprisoned for 18 months for raping a 12-year-old babysitter.

Oct, 1965: Gartshore leaves his wife for a bus conductress and moves to Leeds.

Feb, 1992: Gartshore’s daughter Sandra Brown confronts him about Moira. He denies murder.

March, 1993: Gartshore is arrested in Leeds but released due to lack of evidence.

Aug, 1997: Gartshore’s friend James Gallogley, 66, is jailed for child sex offences in Glasgow.

Feb, 1998: Brown publishes Where There Is Evil, naming her father as Anderson’s killer.

April, 1999: Gallogley writes a 15-page deathbed confession admitting he, Gartshore, and another man killed Anderson.

March, 2005: Dig is held, but no body found.

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April, 2006: Gartshore dies aged 85, telling Brown: “I regret everything to do with Moira” but not admitting guilt.

Sep, 2007: Radar examination of existing grave suggests her remains are there. Five-year family battle for exhumation of the grave.

July 2012: Lord Advocate switches case from missing person to murder investigation, with the new cold case squad to re-examine it.