the disappearance of andrew gosden
11 years ago, a 14- year- old Doncaster boy skipped school and bought a one- way train ticket to London. What happened next remains a mystery that has haunted his family and police ever since
In 2007 a teenage boy got on a train to London and hasn’t been seen since. Why he left and where he is now is as big a mystery as it was then
hough the cases of Madeleine McCann and Ben Needham are significantly higher profile, few missing children cases have perplexed and frustrated quite like that of Andrew Gosden. On the morning of Friday 14 September 2007, just eight days into the new school term, Andrew, an academically gifted boy from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, got up, put on his school uniform, walked to his local park, waited for his family to leave the house, then returned to their terraced home. There he got changed out of his school clothes, then went and bought a one- way ticket to London, never to be seen again.
“The one thing none of us can imagine is that he would be cruel enough to put us through this for so long”, said his father, Kevin Gosden, speaking to Real Crime. “We can imagine that he is dead, somehow restricted or that the time elapsed simply makes it too hard to get in touch. But all we want to know is he is alive and well. Where to go from there would be his choice, but he didn’t grow up thinking he was unloved or uncared for, and he should remember that always.
“I remember the evening before he vanished, we were doing the dishes and I gave him a quick hug and said, ‘ Love you’. That is one of the last memories he will have as part of our family, and we would love to be able to repeat that simple everyday hug more than anything.”
Born on 10 July 1993, Andrew was a student at the McAuley Catholic High School. Prior to his disappearance, he had a 100 per cent attendance record. Andrew was also part of a government programme entitled ‘ Young, Gifted and Talented’, designed to stretch the top five per cent of pupils. Big things were projected for Andrew in his coming GCSEs, with As across the board expected. In mathematics he was especially talented – some described him as “brilliant”, though he enjoyed sciences, history and philosophy too.
He appeared to have a happy home life in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster that was once used as the locale for the outdoor scenes in the BBC comedy Open All Hours. Andrew was reportedly close to older sister Charlotte, and they shared a similar taste in music and fashion, while he’d sometimes attend gigs with father Kevin and mother Glenys. A year before his disappearance, he’d attended a Muse concert at Sheffield Arena with his dad. It was his first big concert.
Andrew loved music, especially of the heavier variety. Photos of him wearing T- shirts by the Finnish band HIM and the UK’s Funeral For A Friend circulated in the wake of his disappearance. When he left that fateful day, he did so wearing a Slipknot T- shirt.
There were no reports of bullying or depression, no known digital communication with anyone untoward – his games consoles had no internet connectivity, while any computers he used at school or at the local library were taken away and examined by police. The family had only owned a computer for a matter of weeks, his sister getting one for the first time.
Andrew loved reading, his favourites including The Lord Of The Rings and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Upon his vanishing, the Gosdens described their son as a “home bird”. He wasn’t the type to leave without saying
where he was going. “He’d leave a note if he went to the corner shop,” his dad said. Andrew collected rocks and gems, which he displayed in his bedroom. He wore prescription glasses. And – a detail that torments anyone looking for answers as to where Andrew went to – one of his favourite TV shows was The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, in which Perrin, played by the late Leonard Rossiter, fakes his death and starts a new life.
“The speculation drives us mad,” said Kevin. “However, if anyone out there has a theory that has not been through our heads in the last decade, feel free to share it. Yes, we have considered mental illness, joining a cult, teenage confusion about sexual identity, bullying at school, wanting to get to a gig, being groomed, kidnapped, trafficked and murdered. At the end of the day, we have not one piece of evidence for any possible theory. This is profoundly frustrating as it means we have no clues we can follow. What made him go to London that day is completely beyond any of us.”
THE MORNING OF
The Gosdens remember their son being grumpy and slow to rise on the morning of 14 September: nothing unusual there, Andrew was, after all, a teenage boy. But what was to follow was completely out of character. Andrew left the house at 8.05am, presumably to catch his bus to school, though upon leaving he took a diversion to the local park. There he waited until the rest of the household had left for the day. Then he came home for the very last time, an act captured on a neighbour’s CCTV system. He got changed, draped his tie and blazer over the back of his bedroom chair. He put his shirt and trousers in the washing machine. Then he changed into his Slipknot T- shirt, his black jeans, trainers, picked up
WE HAVE NO CLUES WE CAN FOLLOW. WHAT MADE HIM GO TO LONDON THAT DAY IS COMPLETELY BEYOND ANY OF US
his PSP handheld console ( but no charger for it, strangely), his wallet and keys, slung his canvas satchel over his shoulder – made by his sister and adorned with sew- on patches of all his favourite bands – and then walked to Doncaster railway station, stopping only to draw £ 200 out of his savings along the way. Confusingly, he had left his £ 100 birthday money in his bedroom. He took no sweatshirt or coat. He didn’t leave a note or any details as to his plans for the day.
At the station, Andrew bought a one- way train ticket to London. The teller suggested he buy a return for a marginally more expensive fee. Andrew didn’t take her up on the offer. “She remembered him because he seemed too tiny to be travelling to London on his own,” Andrew’s mother Glenys told The Guardian a year after his disappearance. Her son was an especially young- looking 1.6 metres at the time. “She told him it only cost 50p or £ 1 more for a return,” said Glenys, “but he said he wanted a one- way ticket.” Then Andrew boarded the 9.35am train to King’s Cross station. On the train another passenger, who sat across from Andrew until departing at Peterborough, recalled the boy alone, sitting quietly, engrossed in the game he was playing on his PSP.
Back in Doncaster’s McAuley Catholic High School, staff, concerned by the esteemed pupil’s absence, tried to contact Andrew’s parents, though a misdial meant they left a message on an answering machine that didn’t belong to the Gosdens. By 11.20am Andrew had arrived in London, and by 11.25am he was spotted leaving the station on CCTV, stills of which would later be released by the police. It remains the last confirmed sighting of him.
The Gosdens sat down for dinner on the evening of 14 September, thinking their son was in the house, either in the converted cellar playing videogames or doing homework in his bedroom. Upon realising he wasn’t, at around 7pm, they began calling friends and neighbours, thinking perhaps Andrew had lost track of time. They then discovered his absence from school and called the police. Kevin and Charlotte decided to retrace Andrew’s usual journey to his place of study, hoping to find some evidence of where Andrew had gone. They then thought that if Andrew had travelled anywhere, it would be London, since the family had roots in the capital and Andrew had particularly enjoyed visits there. Maybe he’d taken off to do something he’d apologise for later, thought Kevin. Maybe he’d just arrive on a relative’s doorstep. Yet it took a few days for the investigation to confirm Andrew had travelled to London, and searches then began to be conducted in the Chislehurst and Sidcup areas; the former was home to his aunt, the latter his uncle and grandparents. Clutching at straws as to where their son had disappeared to, the Gosdens began flyering museums and exhibitions they thought might be of interest to Andrew.
There was a later sighting that day that the Gosdens believe might be credible, in the Oxford Street branch of Pizza Hut. There was another in Covent Garden. Someone said they had seen Andrew sleeping in a park in Southwark, while another said they’d seen him getting off a train in Waterloo five days after his disappearance, on 19 September. None of these sightings have been confirmed. It was as though he’d vanished into thin air, as the cliché goes.
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Above Andrew’s bedroom, two years after his disappearance. Previously the walls were covered in band posters, but they were taken by the police to look for fingerprints
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