Garden search for woman missing 43 years

POLICE have started searching a garden in the hunt for a teacher who went missing nearly 43 years ago.

Detectives fear the remains of mother-of-two Ellen Elizabeth Ruffle may be buried at the property.

She lived at the address in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, with husband Norman and two children before she went missing, aged 34, in November 1969.

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A team of experts from the Home Office and Strathclyde Police yesterday began a search of the gardens of the property and a double garage using specialist sonar equipment.

The search is expected to last several days and the garage, which was built soon after Mrs Ruffle vanished, is expected to be a main focus for officers.

Norman Ruffle, who lives in the Borders area, has been helping police with their inquiries.

Superintendent Andy McKay revealed the investigation was part of a cold case review and the Ruffle family had maintained regular contact with police.

He said: “We regularly review long running cases and the search is a result of that. This is a suspicious missing persons inquiry into Mrs Ruffle disappearance on 14 November, 1969.

“She was last seen at her home address in Motherwell and is alleged to have taken personal possessions with her, but left her two children.

“We suspect because of the passage of time and the fact there has been no trace of Ellen since that she may have been the victim of criminality. Her disappearance was totally out of character and she had two children she adored.

“Given that she was last seen at the home address we are carrying out a detailed search for any evidence relating to her disappearance in the house, the front garden and the rear garden.”

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The initial search was concentrated on a slabbed patio area at the rear of the house.

A white and yellow tent was also erected in the front garden where a search was to take place. The sonar equipment will be used to detect areas of disturbed soil and ground.

Mrs Ruffle, a former primary teacher, lived at the house in Annan Glade with her husband, son Graham and daughter Rosemary. Graham was just 18 months and Rosemary was four when she vanished.

Police launched an investigation at the time, but found no trace of her. The family moved to South Africa in June 1970.

Officers had approached the current owners of the house at the weekend to say they were planning to carry out excavation work. The house has had several owners and the current residents have been moved to a temporary address.

Five years ago, Mrs Ruffle’s son Graham, 44, launched a public appeal for information to help trace his mother, who would now be 77 years old. At the time, he said he was convinced she was still alive.