Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Disappearance of Moira Anderson 1957

Moira Anderson


It was a bitterly cold snowy  afternoon on Saturday the 23rd of February 1957 when Moira Anderson, 12, left her grandmother’s house at No.207 Muiryhall Street, Coatbridge to travel the short distance to the nearby Co-op on Laird Street to buy some butter. When Moira left her grandmother’s house that day she was wearing a fawn-blue belted raincoat, a navy blue woollen pixie hat with red bands, a blue scarf, brown shoes, a fawn tweed skirt, a blue jumper and a yellow cardigan. She was a slight, pretty girl with fair hair and blue eyes, somewhat of a tomboy who enjoyed swimming and playing marbles, and she would never be seen again.

Moira’s grandmother had asked her to run to the shop at approximately 4pm that afternoon, the Co-op was only a short distance from Moira’s grandmother’s house, less than a 10 minute walk, but there is no evidence that Moira ever arrived there. Police would later interview the manager of the store, along with all the assistants who worked that day, and no one had any recollection of seeing the girl in the store that afternoon.


When Moira failed to return home on Saturday evening, a search party was organised by neighbours and the police. All the surrounding districts were combed and a careful search of Dunbeth Public Park was ordered. Bushes were probed and the slaghills near the nearby iron works were thoroughly searched but there was no sign of the 12 year old. In the days that followed, police would ask all managers of nearby cinemas to carefully search their premises just in case Moira had accidentally been locked in overnight.



Andrew Anderson, Moira’s father, a storeman in one of Coatbridge’s iron works, would tell reporters ‘Moira is a high-spirited little girl, but at no time has she ever given us any bother. We always know where she is and you could almost set the clock with her returning. Like my other two children she has been well drilled not to speak to strangers.’
The local Coatbridge community came together in a desperate search to locate the girl, a group of almost 80 Corporation cleansing workers who had been on strike broke their protest to appear at Coatbridge police headquarters to offer their services in the search for Moira. Scores of people telephoned the police with their tips and sightings of Moira, sending detectives to Shettleston, Gourock even as far as Doncaster, following alleged sighting – all led to nothing. Police were quick to attempt to calm fears, telling reporters ‘We have no reason to suspect foul play.’Townsfolk criticised the effort of the police, and in the absence of hard evidence, suspicion began to fall, unfairly, on Moira’s family.


On the 1st of March, newspapers reported an important ‘break’ in the case, two people, a man and a woman, had come forward to report having seen Moira on a bus near her home at 5.15pm on the day she went missing. Police said of the development: ‘It puts forward the hour of her disappearance by 65 minutes – up until now all we knew was that she had left her grandmother’s home in Muiryhall Street at 4.10pm to go an errand – and it rather riles out the fears previously entertained that she may have been snatched during the course of that errand.’


But the bus sightings didn’t appear to come to much, by March 4th The Evening Times reported that the search for Moira was now ‘a forlorn home’ adding ‘there is little hope that the 12year old…will be found alive.’ Police too had accepted the worst, a senior police officer told reporters ‘You have to apply your common sense to matters like this and considering the time she has been missing, it is unlikely that she is alive, unless she is being held captive somewhere.’ In the days that followed the column inches on the search for the missing 12 year old would decrease before the story dropped from the newspapers entirely.



Had police detectives followed up those sightings of Moira on the local bus, they
would have discovered that the driver of that bus was one Alexander Gartshore, who was on bail at the time facing charges of raping his children’s babysitter. Gartshore had long been suspected of being a ‘flasher’ in local parks, on the 23rd of January, exactly one month before Moira disappeared, Gartshore was charged with ‘having carnal knowledge of a minor and other offences of a sexual nature.’ He would be convicted in April and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Alexander Gartshore
It was not until his estranged daughter, Sandra Brown, discovered this terrible family secret that the search for the truth really began. Recalling events in her book Where There is Evil, Mrs Brown describes how she confronted her father about his failings as a parent. To her astonishment, Gartshore replied that his own father would never ‘forgive me for Moira Anderson.’ He continued: ‘Grandpa was always convinced that I’d done it…He said to me to tell the polis where I’d put the wee lassie….I was the driver of the bus the day she went missing. I told grandpa I didn’t even know her, but she got on my bus, in all that snow. And I was the last to speak to her. I was the last person to see her…’


Horrified by this conversation, and now convinced that her own father was the killer, Sandra began a long campaign to bring her father to justice. When Gartshore was interviewed by police in 1992, he claimed that Moira had boarded his bus to buy a surprise birthday card for her mother in Woolworths. It was indeed Maisie Anderson’s 40th birthday the day after Moira disappeared, but how would Gartshore have known this had he not spoken to Moira (as he claimed to police)?

Despite police suspicions, detectives concluded that they did not have enough evidence to charge Gartshore with any crime, and he died in 2006. In 2013, the case was given fresh impetus when police and prosecutors from Scotland’s cold case unit exhumed a grave in Old Monkland Cemetery where a friend of Gartshore had been buried around the same time that Moira had disappeared. The theory being that Gartshore had used the funeral to move Moira’s body from a ditch and to hide her where no one would think to look – a graveyard. But Moira’s remains were not in the plot.

Despite this disappointment, the renewed press attention that accompanied the search led to two new witnesses coming forward. The first witness alleged that as a young girl in Coatbridge, Gartshore had exposed himself to her and Moira Anderson in a local park in 1956, and furthermore that during this incident he had called Moira by name. Even more importantly, the second witness stated that late in the afternoon on the 23rd Feb 1957, near the Carnbroe bus terminus, he had seen a man ‘dragging a young girl by the arms’. The witness claimed that the girl looked like Moira Anderson, and identified the man as Gartshore. Police stated that both witnesses had ‘credible reasons’ for not coming forward with this information at the time of Moira’s disappearance.

So to this day the mystery remains unsolved, Moira Anderson’s body has never been found and her killer has never been brought to justice.  Gartshore would always deny any involvement in the disappearance, and appears to have taken his secret, if indeed he was responsible for Moira’s murder, to the grave.


1 comment:

  1. No one ever truly gets away with anything. You can bank on that. God, who sees all, will provide justice for this little girl and her poor family.

    ReplyDelete