Campaigner Sandra Brown has welcomed news that a lair at a Coatbridge graveyard is to be exhumed in the search for missing schoolgirl Moira Anderson.
Sheriff Frank Pieri granted permission last Thursday for the plot at Old Monkland cemetery to be dug up in a bid to solve the 55-year mystery of the Coatbridge youngster’s disappearance.
Now the resting place of Elizabeth Upton, Joseph Thom, Margaret Thom Upton, Sinclair Upton, Elizabeth McNeilly, Peter McNeilly, Hugh Winterbottom and Mary Alexander Carson or Winterbottom, who died between 1908 and 1995, will be dug up early in the new year.
Sandra – who has campaigned about the case alongside Moira’s older sister, Janet Hart – was at Airdrie Sheriff to hear the verdict, and told the Advertiser: “This is definitely really welcome news.
“We feel this is the final chance and the last avenue left to find Moira, and I don’t believe it will be a fruitless search.
“I feel we’re beginning to see the finishing line and that we’re moving towards a conclusion and closure for Moira’s family.
“Now we have the festive season to gather our thoughts, let the news sink in and think about poor Moira; and now we hope there will be closure after all this time.
“It will be a very involved operation and we’re hoping there will be reasonable weather in the new year so that it doesn’t delay things.
“We’re hoping that we won’t see another anniversary of Moira’s disappearance pass, on February 23, without knowing where she is; it will be bittersweet if we find Moira, but we hope that’s the outcome.”
Eleven-year-old Moira disappeared from her hometown in 1957 and was last seen alive by bus driver Alexander Gartshore, Sandra’s father.
Sandra believes he was responsible for Moira’s death and that her remains were hidden in the grave at Old Monkland cemetery when it was open for a burial a month after her disappearance.
She has spent years researching the case and established the Moira Anderson Foundation in her name to provide counselling and support for those affected by childhood sexual abuse.
Coatbridge-born Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, Scotland’s top law officer, had the case reopened earlier this year, this time as a murder investigation rather than as a missing person inquiry.
Sandra added: “We’ve had a lot of support from politicians, and it’s had a huge effect catching the attention of Frank Mulholland.
“My view is that nothing I’ve said about my father has been fantasy, and it seems to me that there’s a willingness now to address what her sisters and I have been saying for a very long time and that we’re really being taken seriously.
“I was amazed and dumbfounded when I heard the sheriff’s decision; it’s a case without precedent.”
The exhumation petition was launched in July, following 2007 radar surveys which showed “abnormalities” indicating the possibility of an unauthorised burial.