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Young girl abducted by Andrew Miller may have saved her life when she escaped



This my column out in today's Scotsman, 2 June 2023.


The protection of children requires general watchfulness, writes Tom Wood, as not all dangers lie online.


We’re told that half of all crime is committed online. Whether it’s fraud, identity theft, sexual harassment or exploitation, the great gift of the internet has been hijacked by criminals and predators of all descriptions. It’s also a coward’s hiding place. As anyone with a public profile knows, mindless trolls are everywhere, with women in public life their particular targets.


Groomers and sexual predators have found the perfect medium. If we are to protect our young people, the thorny problem of regulating the internet must be solved. It can only get worse.


But a recent incident reminds us that not all threats are online. The case of Andrew Miller, aka Amy George, is a timely warning. While dressed as a woman, he abducted a young girl from a small Borders town. It made my blood run cold, as I suspect it did anyone who worked in policing in the 1980s.


It is 40 years since five-year-old Caroline Hogg was abducted from Portobello, a year after young Susie Maxwell was snatched near Coldstream. Few abductions are witnessed, it usually starts with a missing child report. The vast majority turn up after a few hours, but as time passes, thoughts turn to more sinister outcomes.


It’s then time for searching. The old bullseye principle applies. Start at the centre, the child’s home, and work out. I can’t tell you the number of times a missing kid has been found at home. Then thoughts turn to nearby areas of water which can hold a fatal attraction for youngsters.


But, as the searches draw a blank, a dread enters investigators’ hearts: abduction. With that fear is the knowledge that if the child has been taken by a sexual predator, they are probably already dead. The awful truth is that few victims of such abductions survive 24 hours.

So it was with Caroline and Susie. Their remains were found hundreds of miles from their homes. The cause of death was uncertain but it was clear both had died a short time after being taken.


After nearly ten years of fruitless search for their killer, an eagle-eyed member of the public witnessed another abduction in a quiet Border village and Robert Black was caught in the act. He had tried again, as we knew he would. Had he not been arrested, Black would undoubtedly have continued his murderous campaign.


Black’s technique was brutal, a violent snatch and bundle into a van. Miller talked his victim into his car. But I suspect the intention was the same. We rightly do not know the full details of his victim’s ordeal, but she defied the odds to survive. By all accounts, the young girl kept her cool and played a blinder. She may never know just how lucky she is to be alive.


As for Miller, now that he/she has been convicted, I’m sure Police Scotland will be doing thorough background checks. Very few such offenders get caught the first time. And for us the lesson is clear. There can be danger on your doorstep as well as on your computer. Never mind the clothes or the pronouns – look at the behaviour. The price of child safety is cold, hard watchfulness. On and offline.



You can also read my article at www.scotsman.com.

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