Next week marks the 65th anniversary of the disappearance of beloved Coatbridge schoolgirl Moira Anderson – and police have confirmed it remains a “live investigation”.
Moira Anderson Foundation charity founder Sandra Brown has spent more than 30 years trying to prove her own father was responsible for Moira’s death.
But her persistent regret is how the body of Alexander Gartshore’s young victim has never been found.
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Sandra was only eight when Moira vanished without a trace in the middle of a blizzard on February 23, 1957.
But as the 65th anniversary of one of Scotland’s biggest cold-case murders approaches, 73-year-old Sandra is more determined than ever to prove beyond any doubt that her dad was responsible for the 11-year-old schoolgirl’s abduction and death.
Despite major efforts, police have never been able to find the remains of Moira.
Sandra, whose dad abandoned his family when she was a child, was spurred into a 30-year quest for the truth after he made a chilling confession at a family funeral in Coatbridge in 1992.
She said: “It is obviously hugely disappointing and a matter of enormous regret that, despite everything, Moira’s remains have never been found.
“My father escaped justice twice and we would dearly love to be able to see Moira properly laid to rest and to give her family that final closure.”
Bus driver Gartshore was on bail for sexual offenses relating to another young girl when Moira vanished.
He had been allowed to work again while he awaited trial and was driving the bus which bright and bubbly Moira boarded. She was never seen again.
Gartshore kept secret any involvement in her disappearance for more than three decades until he revealed at a family funeral: “My father never forgave me for Moira Anderson.”
Sandra, from Coatbridge, who had little previous contact with her father, started digging into his background.
The discovery of his previous sexual convictions, together with compelling circumstantial evidence she unearthed, convinced her to report her concerns to the police.
She not only confronted him with the allegation that he was a cold-blooded child killer but also took on the Scottish Police and Scotland’s Lord Advocate – as well as members of her own family – in her quest for justice.
She said: “It has been a traumatic experience and there have been new revelations and disclosures in the last couple of years.
“A cousin, Jim Clark, coming forward just last year and revealing that my father had admitted to my grandfather about killing Moira and that he too had known about it was devastating.”
The circumstantial evidence against Gartshore in 1957 was compelling. He was known to have been driving the bus Moira boarded the day she vanished.
She had left her grandmother’s house to run a quick errand to the local Co-op at about 4pm.
It’s thought she found the shop closed due to the blizzard and, for some reason, perhaps because she had been planning to go to the cinema with her cousins later on, had decided to get the bus into the town centre.
Sandra insists there can be little doubt that the “botched police investigation” fell far short of expectations, even by the policing standards of 1957.
She said: “It seems inconceivable now that, despite Moira having been spotted on a bus by a number of witnesses, the driver of that bus and the conductress were never interviewed by detectives on that basis alone.
“But the fact that my father was already facing child sexual abuse charges makes it incomprehensible that police failed to home in on him as a suspect.”
Sandra has kept in close contact with Moira’s sisters, Marjory and Janet, who now live in Australia.
She said they remain hopeful that, with Police Scotland’s cold case team still committed to the investigation, they will eventually achieve closure.
Sandra added: “That Moira has never been properly laid to rest and that her family, sisters Janet and Marjory, have not been able to draw comfort from that after all these years is heartbreaking.”
It could be just one phone call or piece of evidence that makes the difference to the Moira Anderson investigation.
Police say they are determined to find her remains, which could finally conclude that Gartshore was responsible for the 11-year-old’s death.
Prosecutors are so convinced he is the killer that in 2014 they issued a statement saying that, if he had still been alive, he would have been indicted for Moira’s abduction and murder.
Detective Superintendent Suzie Chow, who heads Police Scotland’s Homicide Governance and Review – cold case – unit, says it “remains a live investigation.”
She added: “I would appeal to the public for any information which will assist with recovering Moira’s remains.
“Any new information or intelligence which is passed to police will be assessed and investigated thoroughly.”
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