Moira Anderson Police Dig Up Grave In Search

James Matthews, Scotland Correspondent

A grave is being exhumed in an effort to solve a 56-year murder mystery.

A forensic team pumped water from the plot at Old Monkland Cemetery in Lanarkshire as a first step in the operation to establish whether or not 11 year-old Moira Anderson is buried there.

Wet, sodden ground is an added complication to the delicate dig, which is being conducted with small shovels and trowels.

The team is investigating suspicions that Moira was abducted and killed when she went missing in 1957 and her body concealed within a grave that lay open at the time.

Her family now believe her killer may have dumped her body in the grave of one of his friends, Sinclair Upton, who died around the time of Moira's disappearance.

They have sought permission through the courts to have the grave exhumed. Mr Upton's family has agreed to the request.

The prime suspect behind Moira's disappearance is convicted paedophile Alexander Gartshore, who died in 2006.

The young girl disappeared after taking a trip on a bus that he drove.

Underground radar checks on the grave in 2007 indicated an anomaly consistent with the presence of the remains of a child.

The exhumation is being conducted under the direction of forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black.

Police believe the burial plot has three layers and there may be up to eight people interred there.

Chief Inspector Kenny McLeod, of Strathclyde Police, said: "There may be no necessity to exhume all eight human remains but that does remain a possibility.

"The site does present significant problems and challenges, not only in terms of ground conditions but also record-keeping as you can imagine, going back to 1908, it may not detail every person in the burial plot."

Officers in overalls went in and out of the tents as work started on Tuesday morning.

Mr McLeod said: "There was a petition before Airdrie Sheriff Court last year from the Moira Anderson Foundation and the Crown Office then instructed Strathclyde Police to facilitate the excavation.

"It comes from new information presented to the court.

"Operations like this are not taken lightly as we remain sensitive to Moira Anderson's family and also the families who have relatives buried elsewhere in the cemetery."