Unsolved mystery of the Preston woman missing for over 50 years

Linda Alston's grandmother Margaret Ellen McLaren went missing without a trace 55 years ago.
Linda Alston's grandmother Margaret Ellen McLaren went missing without a trace 55 years ago.
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In the 1960s a Preston woman went missing from her home and was never found despite huge efforts from her family and police.

Now more than 50 years on, her grandaughter, who was just a teenager at the time, tells Laura Wild how the unsolved mystery has always left her wondering exactly what happened that day.

Linda Alston's grandmother Margaret Ellen McLaren went missing without a trace 55 years ago

Linda Alston's grandmother Margaret Ellen McLaren went missing without a trace 55 years ago

Whenever Linda Alston crosses the bridge over the Ribble Ribble on the way to Penwortham, near Preston, she wonders if that is the place her grandmother ended up.

For her grandma Margaret Ellen McLaren disappeared without a trace more than 50 years ago.

The 73-year-old widow vanished from her home in Preston in what was described as a ‘mystery’ which puzzled police.

It comes as figures show that in 2012/13 more than 8,500 missing persons reports were filed to Lancashire Constabulary.

Today Linda, who is 68 and lives in Warton, near Preston, has spoken about the grief which beset her family and how her disappearance still remains unsolved. As the years have gone on Linda can’t remember the exact year that her grandmother disappeared but she knows it was sometime between 1959 and 1961.

Margaret was Linda’s father’s mum. She had three daughters and one son and had lived in Penwortham before moving to Croft Street later on.

Linda was a teenager at the time and she recalls: “She had had shingles and she came to our house for my mother to look after her.

“She stayed with us for two weeks and then she went home to Croft Street.

“My mother went down every day taking a meal for her. It was on the bus in those days, it was about 1960.

“My dad always went every Saturday to visit her.

“He went down this particular Saturday, the door was unlocked, it was on the latch. She used to leave it like that when she was going on a short shopping trip but she had left her purse and pension book behind.

“My dad, William, called the police - and we have never seen her since.”

Linda remembers that at the time there were two stories in the Lancashire Evening Post about Mrs Mclaren’s disappearance.

There had been a sighting of her on the day she disappeared between 2pm and 4pm, somebody had seen her walking up Croft Street.

Linda, a former nurse, can’t remember the exact date when he grandmother vanished.

But she does remember the huge impact the events had on her father.

She says: “I remember him coming back when she was missing, every day he used to go out and look every night after work.

“I think after seven years they pronounced her dead and nothing has been said, she has never been found.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind, it was always brought up when we saw family about what happened to her.

“It was about 55 years ago. I was the eldest grandchild and I was spoilt by her. She used to look after me when my mum and dad went to work. I was eight when we left Croft Street but I still always visited with my dad every Saturday and took my brothers and sisters. I was spoilt because I was the first grandchild.

“As years went on it was brought up and even to this day I tell my grandchildren about it.”

Linda was prompted to contact the Evening Post after seeing another story about a missing Preston man which we published earlier this month.

That story was about James Dowsett who went missing without a trace 10 years ago.

She says: “I have wondered if putting it in the paper, if anyone would get in touch.

“My mother and father died and the sisters have died. There are some cousins but I am not in touch.

“They dragged the river. I live in Warton now but I go over that way and when I got over the river I always wonder if she is in the river.

“My mum and dad didn’t show their feelings. They didn’t in those days.

“All I remember is one particular day he had been out looking for her and he was just distraught. He kept going looking for her and he didn’t know where to go.

“Her purse was in the house, all her belongings were in there. In them days they wondered if she had gone out of her mind, maybe because she was so poorly.

“Some people do that, they just went and you never saw them again.”

Linda, who has three children herself and now 10 grandchildren, added: “She was a church woman.

“We’ve had no answers. If I talk about it with my children or my grandchildren they say how strange it is.

“I think a few months after they thought she would be dead. They didn’t talk about it much my dad was hurt. As I’ve got older I have thought about it more.

“It’s strange how she has never been found.”