Experts to exhume grave in search for schoolgirl missing since 1957

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FORENSIC experts searching for the body of a schoolgirl who went missing more than half a century ago will this week reopen a grave they ­believe may contain her ­remains.

Investigators will excavate a family burial plot in a bid to establish if the body of Moira Anderson was hidden there by her killer.

Moira, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, disappeared on 23 February 1957, five weeks before her 12th birthday.

Specialists led by forensic anthropologist Sue Black, of Dundee University, are expected to arrive at Old Monklands Cemetery in Coatbridge ­tomorrow before beginning the exhumation on Tuesday.

Last month, a sheriff granted a petition lodged by Moira’s sisters, Janet Hart and ­Marjory Muir, who both live overseas, to allow the work to take place.

While admitting the proposition of repening the grave was upsetting, Sheriff Frank Pieri said that given there were no objections from the relatives of those buried there, it was right to proceed. While the grave is known to contain eight bodies, radar technology has suggested the ground has been disturbed, ­indicating that another body may have been concealed in the plot.

The grave contains the remains of Sinclair Upton, who died, aged 80, shortly after Moira’s disappearance, and was known to Alexander Gartshore, the bus driver suspected of being her killer.

Gartshore, who died aged 85 in 2006, would have known that the Upton grave was open over the weekend preceding the burial, providing him with an opportunity to dispose of Moira’s body.

He reportedly later told a work colleague that “Sinky” (Sinclair Upton) had done him a “big favour”.

Gartshore was the driver of the bus Moira boarded on a trip to the shops and was the last person known to have seen her alive, but he was never charged in connection with her disappearance.

A month earlier, Gartshore had been charged with raping his family’s 13-year-old baby-sitter. He was later jailed for four years for the offence. No one other than his father, also Alexander, and his daughter, Sandra Brown, are understood to have ever asked him to ­account for Moira’s disappearance.

Gartshore’s father took up the floorboards in his son’s house to check for the schoolgirl’s body. He also went with him to the local depot and forced him to open the boot of his bus.

Many years later, Gartshore’s daughter wrote a book, Where There Is Evil, making the case for her father being the killer.

Brown spoke to him on his deathbed and recorded the conversation. He did not ­admit to Moira’s murder, but ­reportedly said: “She was too bonnie for her own good” and “That lassie haunted me all my life”.

Commenting on the latest search for Moira, Brown, 63, said: “I do believe in my heart we’ll find her.

“The evidence we have only points in that direction.

“I pray for a successful conclusion because, whatever happens, this will be the last act. There is no other avenue to go down. If we fail to find Moira in there in the next few days, I don’t think we ever will.”

Speaking from her home in Australia, Moira’s sister Janet Hart, 69, added: “Our mother and father went to their graves never knowing what happened to Moira.

“My sister and I are growing old. We don’t want to suffer the same fate. We’ll be by our phones, praying for news.

“It would mean everything to be able to give our sister a proper burial and put her to rest after all these years.”