Moira Anderson was 11 years old when she was sent out on a message by her grandmother on the 23rd February 1957.
It is every parents living nightmare and the disappearance of Moira has sunk deep into the Scottish psyche. If it could happen to her, it could happen to anybody.
Last week, in a legal precedent, the Crown Office named the man they would indict if he was still alive. Which is not the same as being guilty as the man in question has not, and never can be tried and therefore cannot be "found guilty".
But it has brought some closure to the situation. The quote from the Crown Office stated “there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to indict him and there would be a reasonable prospect of conviction had he still been alive.” The Crown Office said it took the "unprecedented" step of making the information public due to the high level of interest in the case.
The man in question is Alexander Gartshore.
The woman who has relentlessly driven the campaign to have him named as Moira’s killer, is Gartshore's own daughter Sandra Brown. The fight for justice has lasted 57 years.
All those years ago Moira got on a bus driven by Gartshore and disappeared. A missing person enquiry was launched but had no real leads at that time.
In 1992/3 Gartshore admitted that Moira did get on his bus and got off at the same time he did but he admitted nothing more apart from the fact he was probably the last person to see her alive. He was arrested in that year but never charged. He was later convicted of raping another 12 year old girl and was jailed for that offence.
In 1999, a friend of Gartshore and a fellow child sex offender called James Gallogley claimed that Garstshore and another man abused Moira but insisted her death was unintentional. In 2005 Gallogley indicated that he knew where the burial site was. The site was searched but no remains found.
In 2006 Gartshore died without ever appearing in court over the death of Moira, he was 85 years of age. He died without admitting any involvement in Moira’s death. He took any secrets he had to his grave.
His daughter is an inspiring lady. She has accused her father of killing Moira and has campaigned endlessly to have him convicted or named as her killer. She set up the Moira Anderson Foundation for the victims of child sexual abuse and is a vocal and committed campaigner against child sexual abuse. In 2006 Sandra wrote a book, Where There Is Evil, where she outlines her theory that her father was responsible for what happened to Moira.
The fact that the police never found her body, or her killer, helped to keep minds focused on her case.
By 2012 Moira's case was reopened as a murder investigation rather than a missing person.
Some fresh evidence came to light as new statements were obtained when the case was reviewed by the cold case unit. It had raised the profile of the case and two witnesses came forward.
Sources state that both these witnesses had good reason for not speaking up before now. I’m not sure what these reasons can be but at least they have now come forward.
One said that they saw a man dragging a girl by her arms on the afternoon of February 23rd. The girl matched Moira’s description. And it was witnessed around the location of the bus terminus. She picked out the photograph of Garstshore as the man she had seen.
The Crown are quoted as saying this was the new evidence which would allow them to indict Gartshore. But the question raised in my mind is how that statement would stand up to robust cross examination. And the beyond reasonable doubt standard.
The other witness said that Garstshore had exposed himself to her and Moira in a local park the summer before Moira’s disappearance, the witness said that Gartshore has referred to Moira by name at that time. Again, why come forward now? But the Crown say that they both had credible reasons for not doing so.
More telling maybe is the fact that family members were aware that Gartshore was sexually attracted to young girls. He had said so himself, and that he was attracted to Moira in particular. In a previous statement, at the time of Moira’s disappearance, he incriminated himself by stating that he knew Moira was missing when he finished his shift at 11pm but she was not reported as missing until an hour later.
In 2012, the Forensic Anthropologist Sue Black was involved in exhuming a grave in Old Monkland Cemetery which had been lying open at the time of Moira’s disappearance. And it was near the bus route that Gartshore drove so he would have been aware of it. A previous investigation with ground penetrating radar had shown an ‘anomaly.’ There were eight people buried in the grave, the anomaly turned out to be a stone.
As yet, Moira’s remains have never been found and another appeal for any info has just been issued.
Gartshore’s daughter, Sandra Brown, has always been convinced her father was a paedophile and might have been a member of a ring that operated in central Scotland over a long period of years.
The Moira Anderson Foundation is a national charity dedicated to supporting those affected by childhood sexual abuse. The services they provide are wide reaching, compassionate and unfortunately much needed.
Nothing can be done to bring Moira back, but her legacy, thanks to Sandra is the Foundation that might just help those suffering now, and prevent those from suffering in the future.