Detectives to excavate sites at Vale hospital in connection with mystery disappearance of Mary Duncan

Missing Mary Duncan – police search teams are at Vale of Leven Hospital.

By Bill Heaney

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Mary Duncan, are to begin searching a number of sites in the grounds of Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria.

Mary was 17-years-old when she disappeared from her home in Alexandria  in 1976 and her family have made numerous appeals since she disappeared.

Extensive inquiries have been carried out by Police Scotland in an attempt to establish any information regarding Mary’s whereabouts, however no trace of her has been found.

Searches, which will involve digging and sifting through the soil for clues, at two sites at the hospital will begin today Monday 17 August 2020, and continue for a number of weeks.

Detective Superintendent Calum Young from West Dunbartonshire CID said:  “Mary left her home at 17 years of age, with no money and has never claimed benefits, paid tax or national insurance. She also left behind her baby girl Laura, whom family say she absolutely adored.

“Extensive inquiries continue in an attempt to find any indication of where Mary could be, however due to the fact that she has not been seen or heard from in 42-years, we must consider the option that she may have come to harm.

“Specialist officers will be searching a number of locations at the Vale of Leven Hospital in connection with the investigation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public and the media that this is still a functioning hospital and disruption must be kept to an absolute minimum.

“It is also vital that the search team are left to get on with this important work and any updates will be provided in due course.”

Marie Farrell, Director of Clyde Sector, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:  “We have been working with Police Scotland on the planned excavation of a number of sites in the grounds of the Vale of Leven hospital.  We would like to reassure patients that there will be no disruption to patient care as a consequence of these inquiries.”

Meanwhile, two summers ago in July 2012,  Mary’s three sisters appealed for any information that could help find her or what happened to her.

On Monday, 9 July, 2018, Mary’s sisters Debbie, Marion and Mandy made an appeal to the media and the community of Alexandria for information at Dumbarton Police Station.

Mary, who  worked as a machinist in Rosshead, disappeared in 1976, when she was 17 years old. She was last seen leaving her home in Third Avenue,  Bonhill,  on 19 March that year, after telling her family she was going to meet a friend in Tullichewan, but she never returned.

The teenager had become pregnant at the age of 15 and gave birth to a baby girl, Laura Duncan, on 17 February, 1975. She did not take her daughter with her when she disappeared,  and baby Laura died of natural causes on 25 October 1976.

Her sisters were joined at a media appeal by Detective Superintendent Calum Young, who said:  “At the age of 17, Mary was a devoted mother to a baby girl called Laura. Her family say Mary absolutely adored her daughter and that her disappearance, and leaving Laura behind, was completely out of character.

“Mary left home with no money and she has never claimed benefits, paid tax or national insurance. Her family strongly doubt that she would have had the means or life skills to start a new life and live independently.

“Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that Mary came to any harm, due to the fact that she has not been seen or heard from in 41 years, we can’t rule this out.

“Mary’s family were left completely devastated by her disappearance, a pain which lives with them to this day, and it is vital that we get to the bottom of what happened to their sister and provide them with some closure.

“I would ask anyone who knew Mary or her family in the years before her disappearance to please get in touch to help us piece together the details of her life around the time she went missing.

“No matter how insignificant you think your help may be, let us be the judge of that, because even the slightest detail could be important. Even if you spoke to the police back in 1976, there’s been a huge passage of time and we would like to speak to you again.

“Some of our inquiries have focused on the Vale of Leven Hospital and I would appeal to anyone who worked there in 1976 to come forward as they may be able to assist with our investigation.

“I believe the answer to what happened to Mary lies within the local community and it is very possible that someone does have information and is concerned about coming forward now because they should have contacted the police 41 years ago.

“If anyone is in this situation, please don’t be concerned about that. The important thing is that you come forward now and tell us what you know.

“Mary’s family have waited long enough for answers.”

Later, detectives said they had received a number of calls from members of the public who believed they may be able to help with the inquiry.

Duncan sisters

Mary Duncan’s sisters – Debbie Renwick, Mandy Duncan and Marion McFarlane.

Detectives in Dumbarton have confirmed they are investigating information received from a “number of calls” into the search for Mary Duncan,  whose sisters Debbie Renwick, Mandy Duncan and Marion McFarlane, made an emotional plea through the media for for information.  The sisters said: ““We just want to bring her home.”

Detectives described Mary as a “devoted mother” and a “quiet, happy girl”, disappeared when she was just 17.

Then, on January 18, 2019, BBC Scotland reporting that detectives were planning to search the grounds of Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria, although the police are were being tight-lipped about that.

On the eve of what would have been Mary’s 60th birthday, her sister, Marion McFarlane, said: “I really hope they do (carry out a search of the grounds). The police say they are looking at lots of different avenues.

“It would be wonderful for us to get her back, especially at this time.

“We should be having a birthday party, buying balloons and celebrating Mary’s 60th birthday with her and her children and maybe grandchildren.

“That’s a whole generation that is missing from our family. Our grandkids are growing up and every time we have a birthday or anniversary we are reminded Mary’s not here and her kids and grandkids are not here.”

Sister, Debbie Rennick, said: “Cases go cold and there’s not much you can do about it. But I feel that since the middle of last year, things were moving forward and I have more confidence that it is being investigated thoroughly.

“Over the years we’ve come to realise she is no longer alive. But this investigation gaining momentum has given us hope that we might get some kind of resolution.”

Sister, Mandy Dunca, said she has just one wish. To bring her sister home – ““I really hope this is the end of it now and we are going to find Mary after this. The police have given me hope. I hope we get what we want.  We just want to finish it and bring her home so our family is complete again.”

Mary’s sisters returned to the street where she was last seen to mark her 60th birthday on Saturday.  They tied ribbons to remember their sister.

Marion said that although they had all moved away from the area, they still get support from the people who live there.

She hopes that someone will come forward with the vital piece of information which completes the puzzle of what happened.

Duncan Mary murder probeMary was known to frequent the area around the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria and her sisters want anyone who knew her in 1976 or who worked there to come forward.

Marion said: “We’ve had 42 years now and we want to be able to grieve properly instead of wondering where she is and what has happened to her. We just want to know the whole story.”

A few months later, The Democrat revealed that a house in Ladyton, approximately half a mile away from where Mary had lived. was being searched in connection with the inquiry.

It has since become common knowledge in the area that Mary’s step-father, Norman Duncan, pictured above left, 73, was jailed for five years for sexually abusing her sisters, Debbie Renwick and Mandy Duncan, between 1968 and 1976.

His victims were aged between eight and 15 years old when they were abused.

Police have been in the area froim time to time searching the house where Duncan was listed in the hunt for Mary.

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