Neighbours spoke of their shock this week as police searching for a woman who disappeared more than 40 years ago began digging up the garden of the house in Motherwell where she lived.
Mum of two Ellen Ruffle went missing in November 1969 and it’s now feared she was murdered.
Police told the current occupants of her former home in Annan Glade of their plan to dig up the garden and work began yesterday (Tuesday).
The search is expected to take several days and Superintendent Andy McKay said: “We suspect that because of the passage of time and the fact there has been no trace of Ellen she might have been the victim of criminality.
“Her disappearance was totally out of character and she had two children whom she adored.
“Given that she was last seen at her home address, we are carrying out a detailed search for any evidence relating to her disappearance in the house, the front garden and the rear garden.
“We are desperate to get some answers for her family and we will not rest until she is found.
“I have no doubt that someone has information about what happened to Ellen. I urge anyone with information, no matter how small, to come forward.”
Ellen, known to friends as Evelyn, was born in Motherwell and trained as a teacher from 1953 until 1956 before working in a school in Singapore.
She and her husband, Norman, moved back to Motherwell and Ellen was teaching at Cathedral Primary School at the time she went missing.
Her children, Rosemary and Graham, were aged four and 18 months.
After his wife’s disappearance Mr Ruffle and the children moved to South Africa, but he has since returned to Scotland and now lives in the Borders.
Superintendent McKay said the current investigation is part of a cold case review and the Ruffle family had maintained regular contact with police.
He added: “We review long running cases regularly and the search is a result of that.”
Five years ago Graham Ruffle approached the Motherwell Times with an appeal for readers to help trace his mum. He said he was desperate to discover what had happened to her.
Residents in Annan Glade woke up yesterday to find police officers in their quiet street and areas cordoned off.
One said: “I can’t believe it. We have lived here for many years but knew nothing of this woman’s disappearance. No one else in the street has ever mentioned it.
“My wife asked a police officer what was happening. He said the tape was precautionary, there might be a dead body in the area, but there was nothing to be alarmed about.
“People living here are being allowed to come and go as normal, but the police aren’t letting other people in.
“I feel sorry for the current occupiers of that house, having to live with the idea that a body might have been buried in their garden all this time.”
Ellen Ruffle (nee McNally) was 34 when she disappeared. On the day she went missing she had visited her mother’s home in Airbles Terrace, Motherwell.
However, the case didn’t make headlines at the time. There was no media coverage and retired police officers who worked in Motherwell at the time told the Times they couldn’t remember the investigation.
One said: “I’m sure it would have been investigated thoroughly as a missing person case.
“If the police information is correct I hope they find a body so the family get some closure, but what a shock this must be for the current occupants of that house.”
Anyone with informationabout Ellen’s disappearance is urged to call the the incident room at Motherwell Police Office on 483010 or 483135, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.