Family’s fresh hopes for clues to mystery of Gertrude’s murder

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SCOTLAND’S newly-formed Cold Case Unit could reopen an investigation into the murder of former Milngavie resident Gertrude Canning.

The Crown Office has listed the death of 20-year-old Gertrude as part of the Unsolved Homicide Database, the result of which may see her case re-examined.

A total of around 93 serious crimes are subject to a re-investigation due to advances in forensic technology.

Yet the murder of Gertrude, originally from Donegal in Ireland, took place in 1942 and is the oldest homicide on the database.

Family members have long since campaigned for information related to the death of their relative. However, no credible explanation has surfaced.

Liam Canning, Gertrude’s nephew, is hoping a renewed enquiry could help to rouse forgotten memories or insights from Milngavie locals.

He said: “Gertrude was my aunt and I have been researching her story for a number of years.

“She was reared by her Aunt called Mary Ellen Cullen who lived in Milngavie with her husband Edward and their children.

“Gertrude lived with the Cullen family at 5 Craigdhu Road from 1930–1934 and went to St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School, starting on January 7, 1931, according to the school register.

“It is my understanding that Gertrude was initially expected to be buried in Milngavie, however, it transpired that her father — my grandfather — took her body home to Donegal for burial.

“But I have been told that her remains were brought to Milngavie to the old St Joseph’s — up the road from where the current church is.”

Liam also notes that his Aunt Gertrude had enlisted in the women’s armed forces during World War II.

Gertrude was a serving Wren (Woman’s Royal Naval Service) at Camp Quebec at No. 1 Combined Training Centre in Inveraray, Argyll, when she died in 1942.

She was returning from an errand in the town centre when she was shot four times — while wearing her uniform.

Liam added: “I am very keen to evoke some long-lost memories from someone of the Herald readership who might recognise or remember the story first-hand or even if it was relayed to them by their elders.

“I would love to know if there is anyone in the town, likely in their late 80s or early 90s, who may even have known Gertrude personally — perhaps an old school pal.”

The Unsolved Homicide Database was set up last summer following some recent success in cold case convictions.

Scotland’s investigators revived public optimism for such a campaign with the recent prosecution of Malcolm Webster, jailed earlier this year for killing his wife 17 years ago.

Also, notorious serial killer Peter Tobin was convicted of murdering schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton 18 years after her death.

In both instances, renewed investigations were catalysed by the advance in investigative apparatus, such as DNA analysis.

Other possible targets for the Unit include the infamous case of Bible John — relating to the unsolved murder of three women in Glasgow’s East End.

In the meantime, however, the Crown Office recently identified five ‘priority cases’ which will form the crux of their latest investigations.

However, no details of those files will be released to the public in a bid to avoid any prejudice to the investigation.

The Canning family admit the Crown Office is unlikely to reopen Gertrude’s case any time soon as there is little forensic evidence available. However, they hope the renewed interest could unveil details of her life shortly before her death.

Anyone with information can contact Liam or Helen Canning in Ireland on 02871 884882, or at