The 1957 Disappearance of Moira Anderson

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Moira Anderson, 11, lived at 71 Eglinton Street in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, with her parents, Andrew and Margery, and her two sisters, Janet and Marjory. 

Moira was a pretty girl with fair hair and skin, and blue eyes. She was considered a tomboy and described as “full of fun.” Moira loved to buy magic tricks and “play fun on everyone,” according to her sister, Janet. She also enjoyed swimming and playing with marbles.

But the young girl also had a serious side; she wanted to devote her life to God when she grew up by becoming a missionary and traveling to Africa.

Unfortunately, Moira Anderson never had a chance to grow up and will forever remain 11 years old.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 1957, was a windy and cold winter’s day with blizzard-like conditions. Around 4 p.m., Moira bundled up and walked to her grandmother’s house a few blocks away on Muiryhall Street. A short while later, she left to buy butter and a birthday card for her mother at the local Co-op grocery store on Laird Street.

Moira arrived at the store only to find that it was closed due to the bad weather, so she decided to wait for a Baxter bus to take her to another store. She was never seen again.

Family members reported her missing when she failed to return home. 

Police Scotland and hundreds of volunteers combed the area looking for Moira but did not find any sign of her. Her family knew she had not run away because she looked forward to her 12th birthday in March.

There were several sightings of the young girl in England and Scotland, but they turned out to be false. However, there were a few confirmed sightings of her in Coatbridge on the day she vanished.

A couple of people saw Moira board a Baxter bus on Alexander Street, near her home on Eglinton. One of them knew Moira but did not see where the girl exited the bus.

The last known person to see Moira alive was Alexander Gartshore, then in his mid-30s. Gartshore drove the bus Moira had been riding. Police now believe he was responsible for her murder. However, 1957 cops never questioned him even though he was the last person to see her alive.

Moira Anderson: pic of Alexander Gartshore, accused of killing Moira by his daughter
Alexander Gartshore. Photo: Peter Byrne/Guzelian (The Scotsman)

Police long-suspected Gartshore was a “flasher” at local parks in Coatbridge. He revealed to family members that he was sexually attracted to young girls, including Moira.

One month before Moira disappeared, Gartshore was charged with the rape of his children’s 17-year-old babysitter and sentenced to 18 months in prison in April 1957.

Gartshore’s daughter, Sandra Brown, suspected her father had killed Moira. In 1993, Brown and a reporter from Glasgow’s Daily Record confronted Gartshore in Leeds, England, about Moira’s disappearance and recorded the conversation. Gartshore had relocated to Leeds with his second family.

Brown believed her father was a member of a pedophile ring that operated in the Monklands area when Moira disappeared.

The two women challenged Gartshore to place his hands on the Bible and tell what he knew about Moira’s disappearance.

He said: “I swear on my children’s lives, I never touched that wee lassie Moira.”

But he did admit to abusing his eight-year-old niece, saying: “I did touch her, but it was never the full thing. Everythin’ else, like.

“But she was a relative, and I liked her ma and pa, so it wasn’t the whole hog.”

Gartshore also admitted that investigators had questioned him for allegedly abusing nearly 125 children.

The women gave the recording to the police, who later brought Gartshore in for questioning. Gartshore gave conflicting statements and knew things only her killer would know. Among them, he said Moira wanted to go to Woolworth’s at 55-57 Main Street because the Co-op had been closed. He also knew that Moira was missing before her family had reported her disappearance to authorities.

However, investigators concluded there was not enough evidence to convict and that he was too old to face charges (he was then 73), even though he admitted Moira got on his bus that night. 

Brown once said her father was “every bit a pedophile as Jimmy Savile.” According to The Guardian, Savile sexually abused hundreds of children and women, some victims as young as two years old. Brown feared her father had other victims besides Moira.

Alec Keil had once been imprisoned with convicted pedophile James Gallogly at Peterhead Prison. Keil received a nine-year prison sentence in 1996 for sexually abusing young girls. Gallogly died from stomach cancer in 1999. Keil said he had compiled a 26-page dossier he claimed contained information about a pedophile ring that involved serial killer Fred West, Dunblane gunman Thomas Hamilton, a few judges, and some politicians. Senior police officers reportedly discredited the list.

According to Keil, the men were part of a secret “club” called The Untouchables. The dossier also included the identity of Bible John and detailed Moira’s case. Keil said Gallogly gave him the information before he died. The dossier purportedly identified the location of Moira’s remains and implicated Gartshore and an unnamed accomplice in her death. 

Gallogly allegedly told Keil that Gartshore and the accomplice abused the girl. Moira was initially placed in the seat box of a bus and later found dead. Gallogly said he believed she froze to death and that her death was accidental. Gallogly also claimed the body was later dumped in an area known locally as the Tarry Burn.

Keil wanted £20,000 for the dossier.

Recent Years

There have been several investigations into Moira’s disappearance in the decades since she vanished without a trace. Police have performed countless searches on land and in bodies of water but never found her remains.

Shortly before Gartshore died in 2006, Brown showed him a picture of Moira. According to Brown, he stopped short of confessing but said Moira had been “too bonny (pretty) for her own good.”

After Gartshore’s death, the police announced they were re-opening the case. 

Brown wrote a book, “Where There is Evil.” In the book, she accuses her father of the schoolgirl’s murder. Brown believed that Gartshore initially buried Moira’s body in a ditch but later moved it to the open grave of Sinclair Upton, a friend of her father’s who died within days of the disappearance.

In 2013, authorities exhumed Upton’s grave at Monkland Cemetery in Coatbridge; however, the girl’s body was not there. 

But the exhumation brought national coverage to the case, and new witnesses came forward who had kept quiet since 1957. 

One witness claimed that Gartshore flashed his genitals to her and Moira during the summer of 1956. He had also called Moira by name and beckoned her over to him.

According to The Scottish Sun, “Other witnesses claimed they had sighted a bus similar to the one Moira had boarded parked on a narrow country lane running adjacent to a cattle farm near the copse of trees.”

The bus lights were off, the driver was gone, and the bus had departed by the following morning. The sighting was reported at the time but conveniently overlooked by cops during the investigation.

Another witness reported seeing a man later identified as Gartshore dragging a young girl by her arms near the Carnbroe bus station in the afternoon on Feb. 23. The witness said the girl resembled Moira. Whatever reason the witness gave for not reporting the sighting in 1957 was deemed credible by police, and they confirmed: “she had not read any of the books or literature written on the disappearance of Moira Anderson.”

In 2014, police reviewed the Anderson case, and investigators said that if Gartshore had been alive, they would have arrested him for Moira’s murder.

Brown told The Daily Record: “I was fobbed off for years and treated as if I had horns for suggesting my father was part of a pedophile ring operating in the Monklands area at the time of Moira’s disappearance.

“There could be more cases like Moira’s we don’t even know about because missing kids at that time may have been simply classed as runaways and not properly recorded,” she added.

On the 60th anniversary of Moira’s disappearance, her sister, Janet Hart, traveled back to the U.K. for the first time in 16 years. She revealed that Gartshore had molested her about two years after her sister vanished. 

She was on her school lunch break away from school grounds when a man called her over to his car. The car’s hood was up, and he told her to hold the oil dipstick. When she did, he groped her. She dropped the dipstick and ran, turning back to note his car’s license plate number.

Two police officers visited her school to speak with her, but nothing more came of it. She identified the man as Gartshore.

Three years ago, Police Scotland announced a new witness that detectives from the Cold Case Unit believed to be credible. She was a teenager in 1957 and now lives in France. The woman had contacted Brown about 15 years before. 

The girl was walking back to a remote farmhouse on the outskirts of Coatbridge when she heard a girl scream. 

Brown said: “She told me she came off the bus in the town center and walked back to the farmhouse, which was owned by a family friend. The road she had to walk along turns into a farm track and is very isolated. She heard a scream and then saw footprints, which she didn’t understand because no one would be on this lonely farm track late at night in the snow.

“She told the couple in the farmhouse, but felt they dismissed her concerns even though she thought it should have been reported to the police.”

The Sunday Post

In March of this year, Jim Clark, 73, Gartshore’s cousin, came forward and said Gartshore had confessed to Gartshore’s father, Sanny, that he killed Moira. Sanny never came forward because he wanted to protect his wife, Jenny, from the “heartache of having a son revealed as a child killer.”

Clark said he had postponed going to the police because he felt “it wasn’t my secret to share for many years” and that he did not know where her remains were buried. As he grew older, Clark decided it was time to tell investigators. 

There’s no doubt that Police Scotland missed out on several opportunities to solve this case and locate Moira’s remains. Her disappearance endures as one of Scotland’s longest-running mysteries in the country’s history of crime.

The search for Moira Anderson’s remains ongoing. 

Brown, now 72, established The Moira Anderson Foundation in 2000. According to the foundation’s website, the organization is “dedicated to supporting children and adults affected by childhood sexual abuse.” The organization has helped thousands of victims of past and current sexual abuse.

Suggested reading: “The Vanishing” by Douglas Skelton, adapted and updated from “No Final Solution” (no longer in print). I found this lengthy, in-depth article after I wrote mine. There are many details and information not available elsewhere.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

While it’s clear who is likely responsible for Moira’s disappearance and murder, I chose to write about it because I wanted to tell her story.

I chose not to use Skelton’s article as a source because he worked hard to investigate and research the case, so I felt I should link to it instead. It’s worth the read, trust me. But my thoughts section of this article is mostly based on my research.

Why did Moira’s family allow an 11-year-old child to walk several blocks in a snowstorm? I’m not laying blame here, but the weather was nasty that day. Skelton reported that her grandmother was ill and that her parents sent her there to see if she needed anything. An uncle was at her grandmother’s house when she arrived and sent her to the store for butter. 1) The uncle should have gone to the store or fixed something else to eat, and 2) Moira could have bought those things after the storm ended or the next day.

Why didn’t the police question Gartshore after finding out he drove the bus Moira had boarded that day? That’s a no-brainer, and I’m not even a cop. 🤦‍♀️

I wonder if Gartshore had some connection to the police in the 1950s and beyond. Maybe he had a longtime friendship with a cop. Maybe Brown was correct about the pedophile ring.

A pedophile ring often involves people of authority or political power. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to believe Brown is correct in that her father belonged to one. If he did, there might have been police officers involved, too, who helped him cover up Moira’s murder.

I never saw why Brown believed her father had killed Moira, but I may have overlooked it. There’s no doubt she became obsessed with proving it as if she was related to Moira. It doesn’t appear that Gartshore had abused her, which surprises me a bit.

I don’t know if I believe Keil because he wanted to profit from the dossier. And while everything in it could be true, he should not have attempted to sell it. The dossier info regarding the pedophile ring does make sense and coincides with Brown’s theory, but we will never know if the info was true. Keil mentioned Fred West, who committed horrific crimes with his second wife, Rosemary. Interestingly, West’s first wife was from Coatbridge, and the couple moved there in the early 60s. But he was not in Scotland in 1957, as far as I can tell.

I assume the “unknown accomplice” was likely Gallogly, although that was not clear. He was a pedophile, so it’s not surprising that he knew Gartshore. Birds of a feather flock together, as they say.

I was talking to my husband about this case, and he made an interesting point. As cold as it was on Feb. 23, there’s no way Moira’s killer could have buried her; the ground would have been frozen. So either the killer took the body and hid it somewhere until he could bury it, or he disposed of her remains another way. The latter would explain why the police never found Moira’s remains. It’s just a thought.

Sadly, I don’t think police will ever recover Moira’s remains.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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