St Helens StarPaedophile 'would face girl charge' (From St Helens Star)

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Paedophile 'would face girl charge'

St Helens Star: Moira Anderson was 11 when she disappeared from her home in Coatbridge in February 1957 while running an errand for her grandmother Moira Anderson was 11 when she disappeared from her home in Coatbridge in February 1957 while running an errand for her grandmother

A convicted paedophile who died in 2006 would face prosecution for the murder of a schoolgirl more than five decades ago if he were still alive, the Crown Office has said.

Moira Anderson was 11 when she disappeared from her home in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, in February 1957 while running an errand for her grandmother. Her body has never been found.

Prosecutors say a cold case review has uncovered enough new evidence to indict convicted child abuser Alexander Gartshore for the crime if he were alive today.

The Coatbridge bus driver, who was 85 when he died, was the last person to see Moira alive and has long been connected with the case, one of Scotland's oldest unsolved murders.

His daughter Sandra Brown blamed her father for the murder in her book, Where There Is Evil.

The announcement was welcomed by Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, who paid tribute to those who campaigned for justice for Moira as well as the cold case unit and Police Scotland officers.

"This will hopefully bring closure to the family of Moira Anderson who have had to wait more than half a century for answers," he said.

"It is important that unsolved homicides are not allowed to become a forgotten file gathering dust on a shelf.

"The work of the cold case unit will ensure that this does not happen."

Mr Mulholland emphasised that indicting a person for a crime was not the equivalent of that person being found guilty.

He said: "The trial process is the only place in which guilt or innocence can be determined. We are not saying that the suspect is guilty, only that there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to indict him and there would be a reasonable prospect of conviction had he still been alive.

"It was only after serious consideration of the circumstances of this case that it was decided to place this information in the public domain."

The fresh evidence uncovered by the review included statements from two new witnesses.

One said Gartshore had exposed himself to her and Moira in a park in 1956 and had called Moira by name at that time.

A second revealed they had seen a man dragging a young girl fitting Moira's description by the arms near a bus terminus in Carnbroe, Coatbridge, on the day she was reported missing.

At an identification parade the witness picked out an image of Gartshore as the man they had seen.

The witness had a credible reason for not coming forward earlier, a statement issued by prosecutors said.

Evidence shows Moira boarded a bus driven by Gartshore on the day she disappeared.

He admitted to family and police officers that he was the last person to see her alive.

Gartshore had told family members that he was sexually attracted to young girls and Moira in particular, the statement said. He was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing a young girl, it added.

He also incriminated himself by stating that he knew Moira was missing before she was being treated as a missing person.

The cold case review was led by DCI Pat Campbell, who said he hoped the announcement would offer solace to Moira's friends and family.

Mr Campbell said: "Despite the passage of time, she has never been forgotten.

"Her disappearance remained an unresolved case for Police Scotland and as such was subject to periodic review by officers.

"Unfortunately, the whereabouts of Moira remain unknown and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to people again, if you have any additional information which could help us find Moira, please do pass it on.

"The publicity surrounding the reinvestigation resulted in additional information being passed to police and I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to those people who got in touch with us, providing additional lines of inquiry for officers to follow up, which ultimately led to a report being submitted to the COPFS.

"Today demonstrates our commitment to continue to investigate historical homicides and cases. We recognise that no matter how long ago it may have happened, it still impacts on families and communities.

"We will continue to review unresolved cases in the hope that we can reach a satisfactory conclusion, holding those responsible to account and providing closure for families affected by crime."

The Crown Office said it took the "unprecedented" step of making the information public due to the high level of interest in the case.

A statement said: "We reiterate that we are not saying the suspect is responsible for her murder, only that there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to indict him and that there would be a reasonable prospect of a conviction, had he still been alive."

There is still no information about the whereabouts of Moira's body, it added.

In January last year a search of a plot at Old Monkland Cemetery in Coatbridge failed to find her remains.

Police had been investigating the possibility that Gartshore dumped the youngster's remains in the grave of an acquaintance named Sinclair Upton.

Ms Brown, who set up the Moira Anderson Foundation in 2000 to help victims of childhood sexual abuse, has said she believes her father was a paedophile ''in the same mould as Jimmy Savile'', who operated as part of a ring in central Scotland over a number of decades.

Airdrie and Shotts MSP Alex Neil, who campaigned for the cold case investigation into the disappearance, welcomed the development.

He said: "It also confirms what Sandra Brown, who has led this campaign brilliantly, has said all along about Gartshore being the most likely culprit in this dreadful crime.

"Frank Mulholland has done what no previous Lord Advocate has done and he should be loudly hailed for this brave and welcome statement. The Crown Office has been excellent in pursuing this matter in the last few years and Mr Mulholland must be commended for his first-class leadership which will bring a lot of much-needed comfort to Moira's family.

"This is a legal first for the Crown Office to make this declaration but it is absolutely the right thing to do. The great pity is that Gartshore isn't still alive. That way he could have been brought to justice.

"Finally I hope that Moira's family will feel some comfort from knowing that the justice system has at last caught up with the alleged perpetrator of this heinous crime."

A statement from the Moira Anderson Foundation said: "This landmark decision by the Scottish Crown Office is welcomed by MAF, and underlines the importance of the work we do providing support for families dealing with the trauma of child sexual abuse.

"It is always crucial for children who speak up to be believed and supported. Recent events show how, even years later, adults find it hard to break the silence if the offender is a prominent figure or a powerful member of society.

"Giving young people information, in our view, is the best way to help keep them safe, and this is Moira's legacy."

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