On September 14, 2007, 14-year-old Andrew Gosden disappeared from Central London. He had left his home in South Yorkshire, withdrawn money from his bank account, and purchased a one-way ticket to London. He was last seen on CCTV footage leaving a train station.
He has never been found, and his reasoning for purchasing the ticket and traveling to London have never been established.
Andrew grew up with his family in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. His parents were both Christians, but did not baptize their children into the church as to not impose their views on them from a young age. Andrew himself was not very religious, and hadn't attended church for about 18 months before his disappearance.
He was an involved Cub Scout, but before he went missing, he told his dad he didn't want to involve himself with the group anymore. His parents described him as a bit of a homebody who didn't like to leave the house. And if he did, he'd always tell them where he was going.
Andrew was a good, smart kid. He attended The McAuley Catholic High School where he had 100% attendance. He was on the Young Gifted and Talented Programme, designed to provide enhancements to students who were in the top 5% of their school. He had also scored straight A's on his exams. Peers and teachers believed he was on track for Cambridge, and was a prize-winning mathematician.
But despite his excellence in school, he was pretty neutral about academics. Because he cruised through school so easily, he had hoped his upcoming years would provide more of a challenge for him. Besides his obvious academic skills due to his grades, his parents didn't know much about his school life. However, in 2006 when he attended a 2-week retreat with the Young Gifted and Talented Programme, he returned home being "uncharacteristically enthused" about it.
His parents described him as being content, or even happy, with his own company, but that didn't mean he was a loner. He had a small group of friends, but he didn't really socialize with them outside of school. He was just a shy kid who kept to himself. There was no obvious signs of depression, and no evidence that he had been bullied in school.
Andrew's father said that he could be absent-minded and not especially street-wise, which may have made him vulnerable. He also said that he wasn't often moody, and he didn't get worked up about much. Teachers described him as being shy and quiet, but mature beyond his years. But though his maturity was beyond that of 14, his physical appearances weren't. Many thought he looked younger, perhaps 12, as he was pretty small for his age.
He wore strong glasses and was deaf in one ear. He had brown hair, but was planning to dye it black before he went missing. When he turned 12, his parents got him a cell phone for his birthday, but he didn't use it much. In fact, when he lost it months before he disappeared, he didn't even replace it. He liked video games and metal music.
He was last seen in a Slipknot T-shirt and jeans with a watch on his left wrist. He was carrying a black canvas bag with patches of bands on it.
During the summer of 2007, Andrew's parents had suggested that he travel to London, alone, to visit and stay with his grandmother, but he decided not to go.
At the time he disappeared, he was only 8 days into the new school year. In the days leading up to his mysterious disappearance, things were fairly uneventful, except for one odd break in his routine. He normally took the bus home from school, but one day, he walked home. It was about 4 miles from the school to his home, which took him over an hour.
But the evening before, things were normal. They ate dinner together and cleaned up. Andrew and his father made a jigsaw puzzle together. They watched TV, and he went to bed. He woke up the next morning, but he was irritable. He also slept in a little bit, which his mother thought was odd because he normally woke up right on time. He walked to his normal bus stop and sat on a bench with his friend.
But strangely, instead of getting on the bus, he walked to a cash machine and drew over $200 (almost all of his money). Then, he returned to his home. He placed his school uniform into the washing machine and hung his blazer on the back of his chair, changed into casual clothes, grabbed his wallet, keys, and PlayStation console, and left. His father noted that he didn't bring his passport, didn't bring a sweatshirt of jacket in case it got cold, didn't bring his video game charger, and didn't bring his additional birthday cash from his room. All of this to say, he was obviously going somewhere, but the things he took, or rather the things he didn't take indicate he didn't plan to be gone forever.
At 8:30 AM, he left his house, caught on his neighbor's CCTV, and bought a one-way ticket to London. The seller recalled that she told him that a return ticket was barely any more money, but he insisted on a single ticket. He was witnessed boarding a train at 9:35 AM alone. The woman next to him described him as quiet and engrossed in his video game. He was caught on CCTV leaving the King's Cross station at 11:25. This is the last confirmed sighting of the child.
No one realized that Andrew was missing until the evening. He had gone to school, they thought. It seemed like he typically arrived home before his parents, and would go into his room or the basement to play games. So when they got home and didn't immediately see him, they weren't concerned. Even when they realized he wasn't in the house, they thought he was with a neighbor or a friend or something. But when they called around and found out he never made it to school that day, they began to panic. (I cannot even imagine thinking everything was normal and okay and then realizing your child had been missing since that morning. I feel so terrible for his parents.)
They called the police at 7. Andrew's sister, Charlotte, remembered: "It was just a complete panic. We initially thought something must have happened on the way to school. When we found that he hadn't even been to school - even tried to go to school - that was even more worrying."
The family scouted through his route to school, hoping to find some evidence of where he went, but they didn't find anything. A flyer was created and posted everywhere, and family and friends searched around the area until it was too dark. Police searched all around the home, but found nothing.
It wasn't until 3 days later that the police confirmed that he had purchased a ticket and travelled to London. His father didn't think his decision not to get a return ticket was that strange, as he knew many people in London he could have stayed with. The family travelled into the city to hand out flyers there, but to no avail.
Given the strange circumstances of the case, the family and police believed that perhaps he had gone to London to meet someone he met over the Internet, but it seemed unlikely. He never used a computer at home, and his father said that Andrew didn't even have an email address. The school computers were searched, but there was no evidence of any sort of communication there.
The CCTV footage gave them an initial timeline, but it eventually went cold. When that happened, they tried to identify why he may have decided to go to London. They thought maybe he just wanted to go sightsee, visit his grandparents and family, and see some museums. He had a good idea of how public transportation worked, and he was confident traveling around the city alone. Of course, if he wanted to do this, why would he just up and leave on a random day when his mother suggested he do the same thing weeks prior?
The 2007 YouTube Gathering was taking place in London in 2007, however, there was no evidence that he made it to this event, or even that he was interested in YouTube. The family looked into concerts in the area that may have driven his attention. SikTh played a farewell show that night, and they had played with Slipknot before. Additionally, it was their last show with their original vocalist, making it a unique event a fan may have wanted to see. Though there was no evidence this was even a band he liked, the similarity to other bands he liked make the theory plausible.
On the first anniversary of Andrew's disappearance, there had been 122 possible sightings of him from all over Britain.
In November of 2009, the Gosden family considered the possibility that their son was struggling with his sexuality, and that he may have run away because of this. They appealed to the gay to help find him, and said that he was loved unconditionally despite his sexuality. In May of 2011, the family paid a company to do a sonar search of the River Thames, but nothing was found. Through 2019, they have continued to search for him, release age-progressed images of him, and follow up on all leads related to his disappearance.
They have kept his room exactly how he left it, and they have never changed the locks on the house because they knew he took his house key.
This case is a little bit different than other disappearances cases I've written about because we know one major thing: He left on his own accord. Now, he could have been under duress or been groomed to do such, but he wasn't snatched from his bed in the middle of the night or thrown in a car on the way to school. He planned his trip to London. What happened once he arrived? Who knows. But his original choice to leave was his own choice, which narrows down the theories to be more about why he left.
One theory, one that the police sort of subscribe to, is that he traveled to London for some type of music gig. It makes sense, given the bands playing that day... but why? His parents were obviously comfortable with him traveling to London alone. Perhaps he didn't think they'd let him skip school to go, but it seemed like they were a pretty chill family who got along well. If he wanted to go, wouldn't he have at least asked? He was also super shy, so it seems odd he'd go to a music gig with thousands of other fans alone.
Some speculate that he was running away from home. But again, why? His life was pretty good. He may have been questioning his sexuality, as his parents considered years later, but he had never expressed any inkling that he was thinking about running away. And if he was going for good, why wouldn't he take all of his money? A bag with clothes? A charger? It seems unlikely that he intended his trip to be permanent. Another theory is that he committed suicide, but I don't believe this for a second. Why kill yourself in one of the busiest cities in the world? Why bring $200 to do it? How would the body have never been found?
I thought at the beginning that he was being groomed online, but the claim that he had limited access to the internet was confirmed. He had no way to contact someone online. He didn't have an email account, he didn't communicate online at school. There wouldn't really have been a way for him to get groomed online given his limited access to being online.
One Reddit user has a different theory. They say that, despite the lack of evidence, we know a few things. He thought through the excursion at least a little bit. He was likely going somewhere his parents would not have approved of, hence why he left for school and then came back. He changed into his favorite clothes. He only bought a one way ticket, but he brought his house key, so he likely intended on being back home before his parents ever realized he was gone. So where does that leave us?
The user posits that he was groomed, in person, near his home. An additional piece of evidence? He walked home from school a few days before he went missing. It would have taken over an hour. That time may have been used to plan his getaway with whomever he was planning it with. And where did he end up groomed? The Young, Gifted & Talented Programme. Remember his father saying that he got back he was uncharacteristically enthused after spending most of his life being pretty indifferent about school? Someone there could have met him, planted a seed, and began grooming him.
Or, even if he didn't meet his future assailant at that camp, he was groomed by someone he knew from home. A teacher, a family friend, someone from church. (He hadn't gone in awhile, right?) Whatever it was, he had to have known that it was wrong enough that his parents wouldn't have wanted him to go. But he certainly planned to be home that afternoon. His clothes were as they would be if he had made it home after school. That way when his parents got home, they wouldn't realize anything was amiss if they got home before him.
But honestly, I have no idea. I think the only thing that we can say for certain is that he left on his own, but perhaps with the influence of someone else. Given the things he took, and the things he left, one would have to assume he had planned to return home before his parents even knew he was missing. So he either went to London for some type of event his parents may not have allowed, or to meet someone he shouldn't have.
But none of those theories explain what exactly happened to him, which is why I'm more firmly on team grooming. Sure, it is 100% totally possible that he went for a concert or convention, and someone spotted him and in a crime of opportunity, kidnapped and killed him. That absolutely could have happened, no doubt. But it also seems super coincidental that the one day this kid does something out of his routine he happens to get abducted in broad daylight by a complete stranger. Right? It is too weird. Because of that, I have to imagine the person he intended to meet there was someone with ill-intentions. Traveling to London on your own and getting abducted in the middle of the day seems unlikely. Traveling to London on your own to meet someone who was planning to meet up with a 14-year-old kid? Yeah, here I can see that fate happening. I just don't know who, or why, someone would do that. But it is the only thing that makes sense to me. His break from routine by walking home instead of taking the bus also tips me off that he was planning something with someone beforehand.
I feel so terrible for this poor family, and for Andrew. I hope that whatever happened to him, that he is at peace now. I do hope his parents continue to investigate, and that at some point, something comes up that leads them or the police to a lightbulb moment that helps close the loop on what happened to Andrew Gosden.