ⓘ Disappearance of Andrew Gosden
Andrew Gosden disappeared from Central London on 14 September 2007 when he was 14 years old. On that day, Gosden left his home in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, withdrew £200 from his bank account and bought a one-way ticket to London from Doncaster station. He was last seen on CCTV leaving Kings Cross station. Gosden’s reason for travelling to London that day and his subsequent fate have never been established.
1.1. Background Home life
The Gosden family live in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Gosdens parents are both committed Christians, but had not baptised their children as they did not want to impose their views on them. Prior to his disappearance, Gosden had not been to church for eighteen months. He had been a Cub Scout, but told his father that he would no longer involve himself with the group a few months before his disappearance. Gosdens family described him as a "home bird" who rarely left the house, and never without saying where he was going. Gosden was known to his family as Roo.
1.2. Background School life
Andrew Gosden was a gifted student with a 100% attendance record at The McAuley Catholic High School. He was on the Young Gifted and Talented Programme, which was designed to enhance the educational development of the top five percent of school pupils, and he had been expected to score straight As in his GCSE examinations. Gosden was described as a prize-winning mathematician who seemed destined for Cambridge. He was described as having a neutral attitude about school, hoping the upcoming school term would provide more of a challenge after having cruised through his education thus far. Gosden tended to reveal little about his school life to his parents.
Gosden was described as being happy with his own company, but was not a loner as he had his own small group of like-minded friends. However, Gosdens family say that he did not socialise with his friends outside of school. Gosden exhibited no signs of depression and there were no indications that he had been subjected to bullying.
1.3. Background Description
Gosden was said by his father to be absentminded, not streetwise and potentially vulnerable. He was a deep character’ who did not get worked up or moody. His teachers characterised him as a shy, quiet young man who was mature beyond his years.
Other sources have stated that although Gosden was 14 when he disappeared, he looked younger - perhaps about 12, as he was small for his age. Gosden wears strong prescription glasses, is deaf in one ear and has a distinctive double ridge on his right ear. Andrew had light brown hair but was planning to dye it black before he disappeared. He was given a mobile phone for his twelfth birthday, but rarely used it and did not want to replace it when he lost it a few months before his disappearance.
Gosden was interested in video games and metal bands. He was last seen wearing a black Slipknot T-shirt, black jeans, a watch on his left wrist and carrying a black canvas satchel with patches of rock and metal bands on it.
2. Events leading up to the disappearance
During the 2007 school summer holidays typically July to September Gosdens parents had suggested that he travel alone to London to stay with his grandmother but he did not wish to go. Also during the 2007 school summer holidays Gosden attended a summer school for gifted and talented children called the Excellence Hub which was a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Gosdens parents recall that he returned from the Excellence Hub being uncharacteristically enthused about what he had been doing there.
At the time of his disappearance, Gosden was eight days into the new school year after returning from the summer holidays. In the days leading up to his disappearance Gosden twice chose to break his normal routine; his parents reported that he told them he walked home from school rather than taking the school bus. Walking the 4-mile 6.4 km route from school to his home would have taken around 1 hour 20 minutes.
The evening before the day of the disappearance was described by Gosdens father as uneventful. The family ate together as usual, and they all washed the dishes afterwards. Gosden spent an hour making a computer jigsaw with his father. He then watched some comedy programmes on television - Mock the Week and That Mitchell and Webb Look - with his mother.
3. Day of the disappearance
On the morning of his disappearance, Gosden had difficulty waking up and seemed particularly irritable. His mother has stated that this was unusual as he was normally awake on time. He left the house at 8:05 am, but instead of taking the school bus, diverted his route and waited in a local park Westfield Park until the rest of the household had left for the day. He was witnessed walking across the park by family friend Rev. Alan Murray. Gosden was then captured on a neighbours CCTV system returning home. He placed his uniform in the washing machine and blazer on the back of his chair. He then changed into casual clothes, consisting of a black Slipknot T-shirt and black jeans, and took a bag embellished with various patches of rock and metal bands. He also took his wallet, keys, and a PlayStation Portable console. No other possessions were identified as missing. It was quickly established that he had not taken his passport with him. Andrews father has mentioned that his son did not appear to have taken a sweatshirt or coat with him in case the weather got cold, and the electronic charger for his video game console was left behind. He also left around £100 in cash that he had saved up from birthdays in his room.
At 8:30, Gosden departed from the house and was seen heading down Littlemoor Lane, towards Westfield Park on a neighbours CCTV. He walked to a cash machine at a local garage and withdrew £200 from his bank account, almost all his money. He had £214 in the account, but the ATM would only allow withdrawals of £20 notes. He then walked to Doncaster railway station and purchased a one-way ticket to London before boarding the 9:35 am train to Kings Cross station. Witnesses saw him getting on the train alone; one woman reported sitting next to Gosden, whom she described as being quiet and engrossed in playing his video game console. Gosden arrived at 11:20 and CCTV showed him leaving the main entrance of Kings Cross station at 11:25 am on 14 September 2007. This was the last confirmed sighting of him.
When Gosden failed to attend lessons at his school, his teachers tried to contact his parents, but a misdialed number meant that his disappearance was not logged until later that day. The school believed that they had called Gosden’s parents and left a message informing them that he had not attended school, however, the school dialled the number of the parents either above or below Gosden in the register and the message was left for the wrong person.
4. Discovery and initial investigation
The Gosden family sat down for dinner on the evening of 14 September, thinking that Gosden was either in the converted cellar playing video games or in his room doing homework. When the family discovered that he was not in the house, they initially thought he could be with a friend or a neighbour and had simply lost track of time. Gosdens parents telephoned his friends, who informed them that Gosden was not there and had not been at school that day. At around 7:00 pm, the police were called. Gosdens sister, Charlotte, stated: "It was just a complete panic. We initially thought something must have happened on the way to school. When we found that he hadnt even been to school – even tried to go to school – that was even more worrying."
Gosdens father, Kevin, and his sister, Charlotte, scouted Gosdens route to school and areas nearby, in the hope of finding evidence, but nothing was uncovered. Within three hours of discovering Gosdens disappearance, a missing-person leaflet was produced for circulation. Gosdens family and friends searched the area until nightfall. That weekend, the police searched the bushes near the Gosdens home in Doncaster, but found nothing.
Three days later, after speaking to the woman who had sold Gosden his train ticket, the police confirmed that he had travelled to London. The ticket seller at Doncaster station remembered Gosden because he had refused a return ticket, despite it only costing a small amount more than a single. Gosdens father later stated that the purchase of a single ticket rather than a return did not seem strange to him as Gosden knew numerous people in London with whom he could have stayed. Initial searches in London focused on the Chislehurst and Sidcup areas, where the Gosden family have relatives.
Days after the disappearance, the family travelled to London and handed out flyers and posters in the vicinity of anywhere they felt Gosden would have had an interest in visiting, especially museums and exhibitions.
The South Yorkshire Police said it asked British Transport Police BTP to search the CCTV footage within two days of Gosden going missing, but BTP could not pick him out from the crowds. Three weeks later, CCTV footage at Kings Cross was again reviewed by BTP and SYP, who identified Gosden. The CCTV image of Gosden leaving the main concourse at Kings Cross was circulated in the media accompanied by a close up of his right ear, which has a distinctive double ridge.
5. Subsequent investigations
The family and the police investigated the possibility that Gosden had gone to London to meet someone whom he had met over the Internet. However, there was no evidence for this. Gosden did not use a computer at home and his father has stated that Gosden did not have even have an e-mail address. The police took the computers from Andrews school and Doncaster Library but their forensic investigations found no trace of any activity by Andrew. Investigators sent the unique serial number of Gosden’s PSP to Sony HQ who checked and found that there was no record of an account being set up or communication established on the device. The Sony PSP 1000 had a DNAS authentication system allowing Sony to see when a PSP had connected to the internet. The only PC in the house was his sisters laptop, which had only been in her possession for eight weeks. Gosdens sister has stated that he did not seem interested in social media or connecting with other people through the Internet as he "just didnt seem social".
A year after Gosdens disappearance, the head teacher at McAuley Catholic High School, Mary Lawrence, travelled to London with staff and pupils and distributed 15.000 leaflets.
5.1. Subsequent investigations Reason for travelling to London
After the initial CCTV trail went cold, the investigation moved on to trying to establish why Gosden had decided to go to London. An early theory put forward by the family was that Gosden had decided to take in some of the sights. Gosden was known to have enjoyed London, and would visit the capital with his family to see his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends who lived there. He also enjoyed visiting Londons museums and exhibitions. According to Gosdens father, Gosden also had a good knowledge of how the public transport system worked, knew the layout, and was confident in navigating his way around the city. Travelling on buses was free for children at the time of Gosden’s disappearance.
One event identified by Kevin Gosden as a possible reason for his son to have travelled to London was the 2007 YouTube Gathering. However, there is no evidence that Gosden attended this event or had any interest in YouTube. The family also looked into music concerts that Gosden might have gone to London to attend. The night of his disappearance, Thirty Seconds to Mars played the Brixton Academy and SikTh played a rescheduled farewell show at the Carling Academy. SikTh have played gigs with Slipknot and the venue is within walking distance from Kings Cross. The SikTh gig was originally scheduled for 4 pm on 7 July and was to be the last show with the original vocalist, making it a unique event. Mick Neville, retired head of the Metropolitan Polices Central Images Unit, believed the SikTh theory to be plausible. He appealed for anyone with photos or videos taken at the gig to come forward so that "super recognisers" could scan the images. Neville went on to state: "There is a canal nearby Regents Canal. It is unclear whether this was ever dredged or checked." Although Gosden was a fan of similar metal bands, there is no evidence that he attended these shows or that he even liked these bands. The Gosden family hypothesised that Gosden could have gone to London to attend a show by a band that he was known to be a fan of. Finnish band HIM did a promotional signing at the HMV store on Oxford Street on Monday 17 September 2007, and performed an invitation-only show the same evening at the Borderline venue in Soho. The only way to get into this show was by completing various contests and giveaways. This lead was investigated by the family with help from HIM, but it did not produce any meaningful leads. Gosdens father has also stated that he suspected that Gosden might have gone to London to do something for which he felt it was easier to seek forgiveness rather than permission.
Speaking in 2009 Kevin Gosden speculated on the reason for Andrews disappearance: "Did he decide to do the Reginald Perrin thing and reinvent himself or was there something troubling him that he felt he couldnt tell us? In my heart I still think his disappearance was a spur of the moment thing." One of Gosden’s favourite television programmes was The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, in which Leonard Rossiter plays a man who fakes his death in order to start a new life.
6. Criticism of the police investigation
Gosdens family were critical of the polices approach during the initial stages of the investigation. The police focused on the family first and would not even scour the CCTV tapes at Kings Cross before they had finished their process of clearing them, despite eyewitnesses claiming to have seen Gosden boarding the train on 14 September.
While Gosden himself was not located within the CCTV imagery taken from Kings Cross until almost a month after his disappearance, by which time the trail had gone cold, South Yorkshire Police asked the BTP to search the available CCTV footage within two days of Andrew being reported missing. However, the BTP could not locate Gosden in the crowds, so South Yorkshire Police sent an officer to London to assist with the search; after this, Andrew was spotted.
However, according to Kevin Gosden the CCTV footage from buses and the adjacent tube station was not requested by the authorities. Further, Kevin has claimed that the reported sightings of Andrew at a Pizza Hut and at Covent Garden were not followed up, and that the police did not speak to the woman who reported the Covent Garden sighting for six weeks.
7. Possible sightings
An article in The Times written on the first anniversary of Gosdens disappearance reported that, at that time, 122 possible sightings had been reported from all over Britain - with 45 from London and 11 from Brighton. Gosdens father has stated that there were two or three sightings within the first week of the disappearance that seemed credible, in part because of the way the witnesses claimed that Gosden had spoken to them. Gosdens family believe the most plausible sighting to be one which placed Gosden at the Pizza Hut on Oxford Street 2.6 miles, 1 hours walk from Kings Cross on the day he went missing.
There were additional unconfirmed sightings in Covent Garden later on the day he arrived in London, Oxford Street on Monday 17 September, and sleeping in a park in Southwark on Tuesday 18 September. There were reports of someone matching Gosdens description getting off a local train from Waterloo at Mortlake station on 19 September 2007 five days after he disappeared then walking up Sheen Lane and along Upper Richmond Road. On 19 September it was reported that he appeared to have obtained warmer clothes.
Other possible sightings reported later included a park in Streatham, then further afield in South Wales, Birkenhead and Plymouth. In 2009, two possible sightings were reported, one outside the Natural History Museum, the other in a pub in Southend. None of these sightings could be verified. However, according to Gosdens father, none of the sightings were followed up by the police, and the woman who reported the Covent Garden sighting was not spoken to until six weeks after the disappearance.
8. Subsequent events
In November 2008, a man visited Leominster police station in Herefordshire, West Midlands and used the intercom system to talk to a police officer, stating that he had information about Gosden. As it was an evening, the intercom system was in use rather than a staffed reception. By the time an officer arrived to take the details, the man had left. Police later appealed for him to get back in touch. The police station is located in a business park and is in a location that would have required a special effort to visit. Subsequently, an individual claiming to be the man at the police station wrote anonymously to the BBC after it featured the case on The One Show. He gave details of a possible sighting of Andrew in Shrewsbury in November 2008. Neither the Shrewsbury sighting, nor whether it was the same man on both occasions, have ever been confirmed.
In September 2009, the family released age-progressed images of what Gosden might look like aged sixteen, to mark the second year of his disappearance. In November 2009, Kevin Gosden appealed to the gay community to help find his son. Gosdens family considered the possibility that Gosden could have been struggling with his sexual orientation. Children who are gay or lesbian are much more likely to run away than those who are heterosexual. Kevin Gosden stated:" We are a pretty open family so have wondered if he was gay or struggling with his sexual identity and found it too awkward to raise. If he is gay, we do not have any issue with it, he is loved unconditionally by both my wife and I and his sister."
In May 2011, the family paid a private company to conduct a sonar search of the River Thames, using the same technology that is used to locate victims and important items at sea. No trace of Gosden was found during the search, though it did manage to uncover another body. In a podcast interview, Kevin Gosden mentioned that he wasnt aware of the outcome of the other body, but he hoped it provided answers for the victims family. An interview with Kevin Gosden and a sonar technology expert discussing the search was featured on the BBC show Missing in 2011.
In 2016, Gosdens parents appealed for information on the BBCs flagship current affairs television programme Panorama. The following year, to mark the tenth anniversary of his disappearance, the charity Missing People made Gosden the face of their Find Every Child campaign, with Gosden featuring on billboards and advertisements throughout the UK.
On 12 September 2017, it was announced that police were launching a fresh appeal. The statement on the South Yorkshire Police Facebook page described some lines of inquiry used to try to find Gosden. These methods included investigating requests for similar optical prescriptions to Gosdens, requests for documents from the Passport Office or National Insurance and circulating Gosdens DNA, fingerprints and dental and health records. The tone of the statement indicated that the police appeared to believe Gosden may be still alive. The police undertake annual checks on John Does in hospital. Mick Neville believes potential links should be investigated between Gosdens case and that of another gifted maths student, 16-year-old Alex Sloley, who disappeared from London ten months after Gosden.
In June 2018, the Gosden family revealed that someone had reported an online conversation with an individual with the user name Andy Roo’ who claimed that their boyfriend had left them and they needed £200 to cover rent. When someone offered to send them money, the user claimed they did not have a bank account as they had left home when they were 14’. This link was investigated by police but the individual was not identified. In July 2018, to mark Gosdens 25th birthday, two updated age progression photographs were released by the family. It was also announced that the band Muse would help publicise the campaign to find Gosden.
Gosdens family have kept his room as he left it and have not changed the locks on the house as Gosden was known to have taken his key. Gosdens bank account has not been used since he made the withdrawal on the morning of 14 September 2007.
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