By David Lister
The possible release of a deathbed confession could solve the mystery of Moira Anderson's death
MEMBERS of an alleged paedophile ring said to have been involved in one of Britain's most notorious unsolved murders — the killing of Moira Anderson — could be identified under Freedom of Information laws.
Nearly 50 years after the 12-year-old girl vanished during a blizzard, campaigners believe that a decision on whether to release a deathbed confession, including a graphic account of the killing, is about to be made by the Scottish Information Commissioner.
They hope that the document will enable them finally to locate Moira's remains and to end a mystery that has baffled detectives. In February it will be 50 years since the bubbly tomboy disappeared in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, while on an errand to buy butter for her grandmother. Nobody has been convicted.
But the Scottish Information Commissioner told The Times last night that a decision on whether to release a 15-page handwritten document said to identify senior police officers, figures from the Crown Office and Scottish Office as members of an alleged paedophile network was in its closing stages.
At one stage the paedophile network was said to have included Fred West, the serial killer, who lived in Coatbridge in the early 1960s. He did not have any role in Moira's murder.
A spokesman for Kevin Dunion, the commissioner enforcing the 2002 Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, said that one of his officers had finished investigating the case and that a recommendation had been passed to the commissioner. He said: “We cannot confirm precisely when this decision will be issued, but I can confirm the decision is in the closing stages.”
Mr Dunion will have to decide whether to uphold a ruling by Strathclyde Police last year not to release the confession on the ground that doing so may prejudice a future prosecution.
It was asked to publish the document by Sandra Brown, who grew up near Moira and has led a campaign to expose her killers. She has accused her late father, Alex Gartshore, a bus driver in Coatbridge at the time of Moira's disappearance, of being her murderer.
Mrs Brown said yesterday that she hoped the confession would be made public, and vowed to embark on a landmark legal action if the commissioner backed Strathclyde Police's refusal.
Under Freedom of Information laws, the commissioner's decisions can be appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, though no case has yet got this far. Six appeals are waiting to be heard by the court.
According to legal experts, a decision to release the document could have huge ramifications for future police investigations. Even though many of those named are likely to be dead, it is highly possible that some are still alive and could face prosecution in the future.
Few have seen the confession, written by James Gallogley, a former friend of Gartshore who was jailed for ten years in 1997 for abusing five girls in Coatbridge.
He wrote it in 1999 as he lay dying in Peterhead prison, saying that he wanted to “come clean” about his knowledge of Moira's murder. It is said to contain a list of alleged paedophiles, including “legals and high-ups”, claiming that they were involved in the abuse of children in the 1950s and 1960s across Central Scotland.
According to the document, handed to police by a former cellmate of Gallogley, Gartshore and at least one other man are said to have abused Moira after she boarded his bus on the night she went missing.
They are said to have sedated her with chloroform and molested her before hiding her in the seat box at the back of the bus, where she died of cold during the night. She was then dumped in a spot called Tarry Burn, an area that has never been searched properly. Gallogley wrote: “What [people] don't know is there are worse living there than me, and who have done worse than anything I have.”
Mrs Brown, 57, believes that police may be more willing to release Gallogley's statement after the death in April of her father, the prime suspect in Moira's killing. Gartshore, a convicted paedophile, died without making a full confession to his estranged daughter, but said: “I regret everything to do with that kid.”
Mrs Brown has appealed to John Reid, the Home Secretary, who was at a school in Coatbridge when Moira disappeared.
Moira Anderson was last seen boarding a bus in her home town of Coatbridge on 23 February 1957.
After nearly 50 years, the fact that nobody has been charged or her remains found has added to conspiracy theories of a possible cover-up.
The case was reopened in the late 1990s after Sandra Brown, Moira's friend and neighbour, claimed in a book Where There is Evil that her father, Alex Gartshore, a convicted paedophile, was responsible.
Gartshore, then in his 70s, was questioned by police, but said that he dropped Moira off from his bus and she walked away.
Police reviewed the case after seeing James Gallogley's confession but it is not known how many of those named as members of an alleged paedophile ring are alive, and if they have been interviewed by detectives.
In the first of a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of Moira's disappearance, a re-enactment of the night is to be shown on television next month. A special-effects firm is to use snow blowers to recreate the blizzard.
but it is not known how many of those named as members of an alleged paedophile ring are alive, and if they have been interviewed by detectives.
We all want to know the answer to that!