Glasgow & West Scotland

Families hope exhumation will answer Moira Anderson mystery

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Media captionThe BBC's James Cook reports on the mystery that has haunted Moira's family for half a century

Three families are hoping the exhumation of a burial plot in North Lanarkshire can lay to rest a 55-year-old mystery over a missing schoolgirl.

Moira Anderson's relatives believe the 11-year-old was murdered and her body hidden at Old Monkland Cemetery.

The family of Sinclair Upton, who was buried there in 1957, have consented to their plot being excavated.

For relatives of Alexander Gartshore, the search may confirm whether the child rapist committed another heinous crime.

Moira's tortured family have not known what happened to her since she left her family home in Coatbridge on 23 February 1957.

The 11-year-old, who was five weeks short of her 12th birthday, was running an errand for her family to a nearby Co-op store when she vanished during a blizzard.

She was last seen on board a bus driven by Gartshore, who was jailed later that year for raping a 17-year-old babysitter.

Despite decades of appeals, the schoolgirl was never traced.

The case remained cold until 1999, when child abuser James Gallogley named his former friend Gartshore as the murderer.

Gallogley was said to have made the confession to another inmate while he was dying in Peterhead Prison.

Father accused

After Gartshore's death in 2006, his daughter Sandra Brown, a former friend of Moira, published a book in which she accused her late father of the schoolgirl's murder.

She said she believed Gartshore had initially buried the child's body in a ditch but later moved it to an open grave at Old Monkland Cemetery.

Image caption Forensic Anthropologist Sue Black is leading the examination of the grave

Mrs Brown, who later received an OBE for services to child protection and set up the Moira Anderson Foundation, believes her friend's body lies in the burial plot of Sinclair Upton, a former acquaintance of Gartshore.

The paedophile is later said to have remarked that Mr Sinclair "done him a favour".

In 2007, a radar scan of the burial plot found anomalies in the soil that would be consistent with another body being buried there.

Mrs Brown and Moira's sister, Janet Hart, who lives in Australia, then launched a petition to get Mr Upton's grave exhumed.

The case finally took a decisive turn in 2012 when Scotland's top law officer, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, told police to re-open it as a murder inquiry.

In December last year, a sheriff granted a request from Moira's relatives to open the grave.

With the exhumation now under way, the families of Mr Upton and Gartshore - and above all, that of Moira Anderson - will be hoping for answers.

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