Of the 700 long-term missing persons in Scotland, the case of Moira Anderson is the oldest. The year was 1957, a simpler time where children played in the streets and neighbourhoods left their houses unlocked. But the community of Coatbridge would soon be left reeling by the disappearance of this 11-year-old girl.
On 23 February, Moira left her grandma’s and headed to the local shop, a Co-Op less than a 10 minute walk away, to pick up some butter and a card for her mother’s birthday. It was snowing heavily that day, and when Moira reached the Co-Op she found it closed due to the weather. She was last seen boarding a local bus, though tragically she would never make it home. The driver of that bus was a man named Alexander Gartshore.
Just one month prior, Gartshore had been accused of raping his children's 17-year-old babysitter, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison later on that year. Despite witnesses at the time placing Moira on his bus, for whatever reason the lead was never followed up. Interviewed by police a number of times, Gartshore admitted to seeing and speaking to Moira that day.
He incriminated himself yet again in 1993 when confronted by a reporter with the Sunday Mail, admitting on tape that he was sexually attracted to children and even confessing to the abuse of his 8-year-old niece. The recording was immediately passed on to police, but prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to charge him.
Gartshore's estranged daughter, Sandra Brown, has made clear that she believes
her father is guilty and that he admitted as much to her in 1992. Years after his confession, Brown suggested a place that Moira's body could be buried, though the subsequent exhumation provided no further clues. A childhood friend of Moira's, Brown set up the Moira Anderson Foundation in the year of 2000. It has since supported over 500 families through cases of sexual abuse, and she received an OBE for her services to child protection in 2006.
That same year, Alexander Gartshore died at the age of 85, taking his secrets with him to the grave. It would be another 8 years before the authorities announced that, were he still alive, he would have been charged with murder. With a search of a local canal completed as recently as last year, police have not yet given up on Moira. There remains a glimmer of hope that this 60 year old mystery may one day be solved.