Detectives probing disappearance of Mary Duncan switch search to Helensburgh

Duncan Mary murder probe 8

Teenage mother Mary Duncan, who has been missing for 40 years.

By Democrat reporter

Detectives in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll investigating the disappearance of Mary Duncan will extend the search to include a further search site in the Helensburgh area.

Mary was 17-years-old when she disappeared from her home in Bonhill, Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, in 1976.

Extensive inquiries have been carried out over the past two weeks and digging and sifting through tonnes of soil has taken place in the grounds of Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria, in an attempt to establish any information regarding Mary’s whereabouts.

However no trace of her body has been found there.

Searches of the new site, which is in a residential area in Helensburgh’s leafy West End, started on Monday and a police presence was still there today (Wednesday, September 9) with police vehicles at the gate of a large house in West Argyle Street.

Police vehicles at the house in Helensburgh where officers have been digging in the garden.

Detective Superintendent Calum Young from West Dunbartonshire CID said:  “This latest development is due to extensive enquiries carried out in an attempt to find any indication of where Mary could be.

“This new [Helensburgh] site is within a residential area and as such I would like to stress that any disruption to local residents must be kept to a minimum, and would ask both the media and public to remain mindful of this.

“Any updates from the new search site will be provided in due course.”

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

The searches at two sites at the hospital will began on Monday 17 August 2020, and have continue until today’s dramatic announcement from the police..

In August, Detective Superintendent Young 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.

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

Debbie, Marion and Mandy made a public appeal  to the media and the community of Vale of Leven and Dumbarton for information at Dumbarton Police Station.

Mary, who  worked as a machinist in Rosshead,  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 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.

“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.

“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.”

Duncan sisters

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

On 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.”

Duncan Mary murder probeSister, Mandy Duncan, said at that time she had 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.”

It has since become common knowledge in the area that Mary’s step-father, Norman Duncan, pictured right, 73, was jailed for five years for sexually abusing her sisters. between 1968 and 1976. His victims were aged between eight and 15 years old when they were abused.

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

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