Author inspired by Herald story

Bert Mitchell
Bert Mitchell

An article that appeared in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald has provided the inspiration for an author’s latest crime novel.

The story, which appeared in the paper in December 2011, told how Scotland’s Cold Case Unit might re-open an investigation into the unsolved murder of 20-year-old Gertrude Canning, in 1942.

Gertrude was a serving Wren (Women’s Royal Naval Service) at Camp Quebec Training Centre, in Inverary, Argyll, when she was shot four times while returning from an errand in the town.

Her body was found in a ditch in Inverary woods, near a tree known as the Marriage Tree.

She was raised by her aunt Mary Ellen Cullen and her husband Edward, at 5 Craigdhu Road, Milngavie, from 1930 to 1934 and went to St Joseph’s Primary School.

Milngavie author Bert Mitchell, who writes under the pseudonym of R.J. Mitchell, told the Herald: “When I saw this story it didn’t take long for two words to come into my mind - cover up.

“There wasn’t much detail on her death, but what fascinated me was that two roadmen saw her walking along and then someone in military uniform followed soon after.

“Yet this witness evidence was never mentioned in the investigation into her death, which was led by Chief Superintendent Robert Colquhoun and detailed in his memoirs ‘Life Begins at Midnight’.

“Her wrist was hit by one of the bullets and it had been neatly bandaged, but she was shot a further three times with a hand gun, so it must have been at close range.

“Her killer was violent - she had a swollen eye - so it looks like she fought back.

“I have no doubt it was someone she knew, possibly a high ranking officer who was well connected and that’s why it was covered up. It happened near the Marriage Tree, which was a popular spot for lovers to meet, so almost certainly it was a crime of passion.”

‘The Longest Shadow’, Bert’s third crime novel was launched today (November 21) at Hillhead Book Club.