'Time for town to move on'

IT IS time for Coatbridge to move on ... but the town will never forget the young girl who went missing there 57 years ago.

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Last week the Crown Office named Alexander Gartshore, the man who has been the prime suspect in the murder of schoolgirl Moira Anderson, as the killer.

The sudden disappear-ance of the 11-year-old, who vanished just streets from her grandmother's home, has haunted Coatbridge since 1957.

But now, with the mystery around her death almost certainly solved, the town is preparing to put the story of Moira to rest.

The street where Moira's grandmother lived, Muiryhall Street, remains largely unchanged since her disappearance.

Neighbours, who have raised their own families in the area, remember the time she went missing.

Betty Forbes, 72, was a few years older than Moira at school. She said: "I remember Moira well.

"When I see her photo in the paper, with that bobbed hairstyle we all had, it really takes me back.

"It has been hard for her family, never knowing, and hard for the town as well with rumours about organised paedophile rings.

"If the police are certain that Alex Gartshore is the man that is enough for me. It's not right to dwell."

Moira had been to visit her gran, just a few streets from her family home.

Her uncle sent her to the nearby Co-op to buy margarine but the 11-year-old was caught in one of the worst snow storms Coatbridge had seen. She was never seen again.

Alexander Gartshore, a bus driver, was the last person to see her alive - two witnesses saw her aboard his bus.

But convicted paedophile Gartshore never came forward with the informa-tion and was only implic-ated in the 1990s by his daughter, Sandra Brown.

The Crown Office now says that were Gartshore, who died in 2006, still alive he would be indicted for her death.

William McLelland, 68, is the same age Moira would have been had she lived.

Having grown up in Coatbridge he remembers the time Moira went missing and the aftermath for families in the town.

He now lives in Eglinton Street, where the school-girl had stayed with her mum, dad and two sisters, Janet and Marjorie.

THE sandstone block of flats that was home to the Anderson family is now gone but a nearby park bench bearing Moira's name sits as a reminder to her.

For William, it is not enough that police have named Gartshore as the killer.

William said: "I knew the family - you would see her grandfather walking around all the time - so it was a terrible shock to everyone.

"I worked with the milkman when I was that age and my mother said, 'well, you can't do that now,' and I had a paper round too, that stopped.

"The mothers wanted us kept in. You weren't allowed out and if you did go out then it was in the front garden or the front pavement where she could keep an eye on you.

"This is not closed for me and I don't think it will be closed for many people in the town - not until her body is found. It would be terrific if they found her body.

"You know, I really thought she might be alive somewhere. Or maybe I just hoped she was."

In Laird Street, outside the old shopfront of the

Co-op - now an office - Mabel Daffurn thinks news of the killer is enough.

The 82-year-old said: "It's time to move on. So much time and so much money has been spent on search-ing for that wee girl but, and it may be terrible to say this, keeping dragging the story up again just adds hurt to people left behind.

"Nothing is going to bring that wee soul back. It is only people keeping this alive 57 years after she went missing.

"I remember it well but it's not something that preys on my mind, it's not something that's always there. It's not healthy to keep dwelling on it.

"How long can people keep searching for her? She's gone. That's it, she's gone."

catriona.stewart@eveningtimes.co.uk

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