FIFTY years ago a young girl disappeared from her Wye Valley family home and was never seen again.

It took another 30 years for police to learn of her disappearance and to then bring her father to trial.

But to this date, no trace of Gillian Carr has ever been found, with her brother telling a shocked Hereford Crown Court in 2003 that their father had told him he had battered the young girl to death at their Ross-on-Wye home before throwing her body into the river off Wilton Bridge.

Police even dug up their former garden at The Purland, in Tudorville, as part of their investigation.

And some two decades on, West Mercia Police have this week renewed their appeal for any information about what might have happened to the youngster half a century ago.

Father-of-seven Arthur George Carr denied killing the youngster, and was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter at his trial in 2003 and jailed for nine years.

But in 2005 the conviction was quashed on the grounds that at least two jurors had been aware he faced separate charges on another matter.

The CPS decided not to press for a retrial following discussions with Gillian's brothers and sisters, after Carr had since admitted rape charges in the 1970s and been jailed for eight years.

Detectives who set up Operation Waterfront to investigate her disappearance hadn't given up hope that they would recover Gillian’s body at the time though, who was aged between seven and nine when she went missing.

And a force spokesperson renewed the appeal this week, saying: “The case remains open, and if any new information or evidence comes to light it would be investigated.

"As always, we would urge anyone who may have information about this or any other crime to get in touch.”

A rare legal ruling allowed Carr to be tried in 2003 despite the absence of the youngster's body.

Detectives told the jury that they had made exhaustive inquiries to locate Gillian, but there was no sign of her, and the chances of her still being alive were almost zero.

They interviewed and discounted all 30 'Gillian M Carrs' listed on the UK Electoral Register, and carried out checks with the DVLA, Passport Agency, health agencies, missing persons files, adoption agencies, and other public record offices, to discount the possibility that she had changed her name and started a new life after suffering years of torment.

The CPS also had to prove that Gillian had existed, by producing her birth certificate and tracing residents who had lived in The Purland, where it was thought the young girl had been killed by her "alcoholic" father between February 1973 and 1975.

Detective Inspector David Williams said following the trial: "We got hold of former neighbours, some of whom remembered Gillian, as well as police officers who might have been called to the address.

"It was a painstaking effort which all came about after somebody tipped off the NSPCC who then contacted us."

Gillian's brother and sister gave evidence against Carr at the trial, who blamed his dead wife Elizabeth for the killing.

But his son, who couldn’t remember Gillian, found the youngster’s birth certificate years after her disappearance, and told the court he had confronted his father who had confessed to the killing.

Wilton Bridge
Wilton Bridge (Gazette)

"Dad said he had been beating Gillian to the extent that she was shaking on the floor. He said Gillian had been thrown off Wilton Bridge in Ross-on-Wye," he said.

Carr, then of Nursery Road, Ross-on-Wye, later admitted four counts of rape  in a separate case and was jailed in 2004 before the manslaughter conviction was set aside.

DI Williams said after the initial trial: "Operation Waterfront, the search for Gillian's body, continues and we would urge anyone with information to come forward."