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

Real Crime - - Contents - Words James McMa­hon

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.”

BRIL­LIANT STU­DENT

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.

PANIC STA­TIONS

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.

as tion, An­drew w At Don­caster static ket, but he of­fered a re­turn w ayy needed it one- in­sisted he onl above An­drew ap­peared to have a nor­mal, happy child­hood and had a good re­la­tion­ship with his fam­ily, es­pe­cially his sis­ter, which makes his dis­ap­pear­ance even more per­plex­ingop­po­site The Gos­dens to­gether on hol­i­day. Kevin and Glenys con­tinue to live in their Balby home. “He would know where to find us if he wanted to,” said Kevin

There w ere sev eral re­ported sight­ings of An­drew in Lon­don, no­tably mosta t a Pizza Hut in Oxf ord Street and sleep­ing rough in a near par kSouthw ark

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

ent to One theor y of wh y An­drew wSikT h Lon­don w as to a ttend a con­cert.the da y were pla ying in the O2 Arenat his An­drew w ent miss­ing . Was tha in­tended des­tina tion?

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