Moira Anderson search: Police open Old Monkland Cemetery grave

Speaking at the scene, Chief Inspector Kenny Macleod said: "We don't undertake these kind of operations lightly"

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Forensic scientists have begun digging up a family grave in North Lanarkshire in the search for the body of a schoolgirl who disappeared in 1957.

Moira Anderson vanished aged 11 during a trip to the shops in Coatbridge.

Bus driver Alexander Gartshore, a child rapist who died in 2006, has been linked to her disappearance.

Moira's family believe she may have been killed and buried at Old Monkland Cemetery in the family plot of Sinclair Upton, an acquaintance of Gartshore.

The team at the site has begun digging after efforts to pump water from the sodden ground.

The operation is being overseen by Ch Insp Kenny MacLeod, of Strathclyde Police.

'Significant challenges'

He said: "We have uncovered the burial plot. A team from the University of Dundee will be examining the burial plot."

James Cook reports on the mystery which has haunted Moira's family for half a century

He added that there were "significant challenges" because of the waterlogged ground, and that any remains found within the burial plot would be examined.

Moira went missing after getting on a bus as she ran an errand to the Co-op for her family.

Her body was never found and Scotland's Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, ordered cold case detectives to reopen the case as a murder investigation last year.

Gartshore's daughter, Sandra Brown, has written a book detailing her suspicions that her late father was Moira's killer.

She said: "I originally became involved in the investigation because I had a conversation with my father in 1992 just after his mother's death and he linked himself there to Moira for the first time ever.

"He said to me that his own father blamed him for Moira and basically this was said in such a way that he probably thought at this time that I wouldn't remember Moira, because I was only eight when she disappeared.

"But actually it was really a chilling conversation I had with him and it brought up a lot of echoes and worries for me and eventually it led to me going to the police."

Moira's sister, Janet Hart, who lives in Australia, launched a petition to get Mr Upton's grave exhumed, believing that Gartshore may have dumped her body there in the days before Mr Upton was laid to rest.

Last month, a sheriff granted a request from Moira's relatives to open the grave.

A radar survey already carried out suggests there may be an extra body there.

The exhumation process is expected to take several days.

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