UK UK - Andrew Gosden, 14, Doncaster, South Yorks, 14 Sep 2007 #2

JG123

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I think there are a lot of red herring's that make this case more mysterious than it probably actually is.

If you tell people the basic details of the case, their immediate thought is "he was groomed into meeting someone who turned out to be not who they said they were, then something bad happened." Once you look into the case further there are a couple of red herring's that make you doubt it, but I think it's far and away the most likely theory.

One thing I don't ever recall reading, which I'm surprised isn't one of the main theories now that I think about it, is the consideration that he was meeting who he thought was a girl who turned out to be someone more sinister. He was 14, shy and into alternative hobbies - if he started chatting online with a "girl" he'd connected with and this person wanted to meet, I can see why he'd do something so out of character. At that age, especially if you're lacking in female attention, the allure of a girl is huge. We're also led to believe that Andrew was shy, introverted and quite naive, which would be the ideal type of qualities for a groomer to exploit.

The red herring's are that he didn't have internet access at home and the police checked the school computer's. The former I don't dispute, the latter I would, as I think that's where he talked to this person (and probably had extended chats after school, hence why he was late home on occasions). There are two reasons why I think the police checking the computer's isn't a reason to dispute the above theory. The first is that the police have been described as incompetent throughout this case, I see little reason to think that they would have been competent when checking school computer's for Andrew's online activity. The second is that the online activity of students may not have been logged to any serious degree anyway. If it was simply a case of checking browser history, then this could have been cleared by Andrew, auto-cleared by the school after a certain amount of time or even never logged at all. Incognito mode wasn't around back then, but it was possible in IE to set your history to "0 days", so it didn't log.

I think Andrew's school internet access is crucial to this case, but very little is said about it other than "the police checked". I'd be very interested to know what it was they actually checked, to what degree they checked and what logs were even kept for them to check.
 
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Oakie

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One thing I don't ever recall reading, which I'm surprised isn't one of the main theories now that I think about it, is the consideration that he was meeting who he thought was a girl who turned out to be someone more sinister. He was 14, shy and into alternative hobbies - if he started chatting online with a "girl" he'd connected with and this person wanted to meet, I can see why he'd do something so out of character. At that age, especially if you're lacking in female attention, the allure of a girl is huge. We're also led to believe that Andrew was shy, introverted and quite naive, which would be the ideal type of qualities for a groomer to exploit.

The red herring's are that he didn't have internet access at home and the police checked the school computer's. The former I don't dispute, the latter I would, as I think that's where he talked to this person (and probably had extended chats after school, hence why he was late home on occasions). The police have been described as incompetent throughout this case, I see little reason to think that they would have been competent when checking school computer's for Andrew's online activity.

That sounds quite plausible to me.
 

ChatteringBirds

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Interesting idea, @JG123.

I used chatrooms a lot as a teenager at school, and it definitely wasn't safe. And I was so naive about the dangers. This was years earlier than 2007.

I haven't had this sort of thing high on my list for his case, but it is possible, IMO.
 

Dan Cooper

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The red herring's are that he didn't have internet access at home and the police checked the school computer's. The former I don't dispute, the latter I would, as I think that's where he talked to this person (and probably had extended chats after school, hence why he was late home on occasions). There are two reasons why I think the police checking the computer's isn't a reason to dispute the above theory. The first is that the police have been described as incompetent throughout this case, I see little reason to think that they would have been competent when checking school computer's for Andrew's online activity. The second is that the online activity of students may not have been logged to any serious degree anyway. If it was simply a case of checking browser history, then this could have been cleared by Andrew, auto-cleared by the school after a certain amount of time or even never logged at all. Incognito mode wasn't around back then, but it was possible in IE to set your history to "0 days", so it didn't log.

I think Andrew's school internet access is crucial to this case, but very little is said about it other than "the police checked". I'd be very interested to know what it was they actually checked, to what degree they checked and what logs were even kept for them to check.
I'm not disputing your point, but I believe that ISPs can check this sort of thing - so it's not just a case of it wasn't on his browser history then it never happened. My understanding is that in these kinds of cases the police contact the school's ISP and are provided with relevant search history for the victim's account.

(This is one of the main ways to track paedophiles, as they are generally too savvy to leave any searchable browser history... and of course many will use the 'Dark Web')
 

JG123

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I'm not disputing your point, but I believe that ISPs can check this sort of thing - so it's not just a case of it wasn't on his browser history then it never happened. My understanding is that in these kinds of cases the police contact the school's ISP and are provided with relevant search history for the victim's account.

(This is one of the main ways to track paedophiles, as they are generally too savvy to leave any searchable browser history... and of course many will use the 'Dark Web')

It wouldn't be possible for an ISP to provide search history for Andrew's specific user account within an entire school. They could potentially provide metadata for the school's IP addresses (though this was 2007 and tracking wasn't as intrusive as it is now), but it would be a huge bundle of data. Even if you knew specifically what you were looking for or the general times and dates you were looking for, it would still only be a narrowing down process to know which individual it was within that school who was visiting a particular site.

For example, if we knew that Andrew was online between 3pm and 4pm on the 3rd of September 2007, then using ISP logs (if the logs existed in 2007 to the degree they do now) we could narrow down the results to those parameters. However, the data would still contain all of the other activity of everyone else on the school network. Andrew could have visited hotmail.com between 3pm and 4pm but then so could 100 other students. Without knowing specifics it would basically be a case of going through the data and theorising.

They do somewhat track paedophiles in this way (though it's usually done by setting up a honeypot site and then logging all the IP addresses that visit it. After tracking where the IP address is from, they then seize the user's computer, which often will have illegal content on it, which is what gets the conviction), but this isn't a comparable situation, as in your example it's just one person, so it's already narrowed down. A comparable situation would be if rather than having logs for one person, you had anonymised logs for 1,000 people. That way it's just a mess of data and unless you're looking for something in particular, or for a time and date in particular, you'll never learn anything from the data.

Note that everything I've said above is only relevant to ISP logs. If the school had some form of school wide tracking software then you're right in that I presume they could have then narrowed it down to Andrew's account. But, again, I've never read anything other than "the police checked it" in regards to Andrew's online school activity, so we have no idea what degree of tracking the school actually did. I was in school at a similar time to Andrew, and I remember logging into a user account, but I never found out how tracked we were. It would be quite enlightening to hear from someone who worked in IT at a school in the UK around that time.

The reason I'm debating the online activity is because I think the theory I posted above makes the most sense, as it answers the two main questions about the case - why would Andrew do something so strange and out of character and how did he go missing? For a shy, introvert, naive, potentially lonely 14 year old boy, going to meet a girl is a very strong answer to the first question. Every other theory is either outlandish (suicide, going to start a new life) or only offers a very weak motivation for why he did it (he wanted a nice day out, he was bored). For the second question it offers a very simple explanation as to why he went missing, in that he met someone sinister who initially lied about their identity, whereas no other theory really does that.
 
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Kitkat28

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Quote RSBM.
How do you figure suicide is unlikely?
(I go back-and-forth about it but can't say it's "unlikely.")
Not the OP, but for me anyway the unlikelihood of being able to so carefully plan a suicide to the extent that your body wouldn’t be found for 14 years. Also, why go to such extreme lengths? Suicide in young men sadly tends to be a very impulsive act, not a meticulously thought out one.
 

Mrs Marple

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I think it’s potentially relevant as it may indicate whether ir not it was a planned trip or a spur of the moment decision.

I see that point, but l wonder even if it was planned, he may well have just not planned very well, being unused to doing such things himself.

With the ticket, he may have said no to the return for a similar reason and repeated no rather than change his mind even though it made sense. He was a complicated young man and l suspect he did things that didn't seem that logical at times.

I suspect we won't ever know.
 

JG123

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Quote RSBM.
How do you figure suicide is unlikely?
(I go back-and-forth about it but can't say it's "unlikely.")

@Kitkat28 summed up pretty much my exact thoughts:
Not the OP, but for me anyway the unlikelihood of being able to so carefully plan a suicide to the extent that your body wouldn’t be found for 14 years. Also, why go to such extreme lengths? Suicide in young men sadly tends to be a very impulsive act, not a meticulously thought out one.


Doesn't even have to be a girl, it could have been a male that he connected with online. If he didn't have many real life friends, then that's quite likely.

Could have been, but speaking as someone who was a 14 year old boy, the motivation to meet a girl would be far higher!
 

HCcoffee

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I think there are a lot of red herring's that make this case more mysterious than it probably actually is.

If you tell people the basic details of the case, their immediate thought is "he was groomed into meeting someone who turned out to be not who they said they were, then something bad happened." Once you look into the case further there are a couple of red herring's that make you doubt it, but I think it's far and away the most likely theory.

One thing I don't ever recall reading, which I'm surprised isn't one of the main theories now that I think about it, is the consideration that he was meeting who he thought was a girl who turned out to be someone more sinister. He was 14, shy and into alternative hobbies - if he started chatting online with a "girl" he'd connected with and this person wanted to meet, I can see why he'd do something so out of character. At that age, especially if you're lacking in female attention, the allure of a girl is huge. We're also led to believe that Andrew was shy, introverted and quite naive, which would be the ideal type of qualities for a groomer to exploit.

The red herring's are that he didn't have internet access at home and the police checked the school computer's. The former I don't dispute, the latter I would, as I think that's where he talked to this person (and probably had extended chats after school, hence why he was late home on occasions). There are two reasons why I think the police checking the computer's isn't a reason to dispute the above theory. The first is that the police have been described as incompetent throughout this case, I see little reason to think that they would have been competent when checking school computer's for Andrew's online activity. The second is that the online activity of students may not have been logged to any serious degree anyway. If it was simply a case of checking browser history, then this could have been cleared by Andrew, auto-cleared by the school after a certain amount of time or even never logged at all. Incognito mode wasn't around back then, but it was possible in IE to set your history to "0 days", so it didn't log.

I think Andrew's school internet access is crucial to this case, but very little is said about it other than "the police checked". I'd be very interested to know what it was they actually checked, to what degree they checked and what logs were even kept for them to check.

That's honestly an interesting and very plausible theory. Maybe this "girl" told him he could stay with her overnight and he would just deal with the repercussions of skipping school/sneaking out when he eventually got home, viewing it in the sense that the pros outweigh the cons. Some of those red herrings may actually hold some relevance if this was the case as well, e.g. leaving his PSP charger behind because he was only going to be away for a day, packing light for an overnight stay, etc.

About the school computers/internet access, how exactly would they find Andrew's internet history? Did the students get their own computers or user accounts specifically assigned to them, so any internet activity is linked to that individual only? I'm a little confused as this wasn't the case when I was at school and I'm only slightly older than Andrew. In IT classes we just used any computer that I believe was already "logged in" so if we did browse the internet (which a lot of us did when we were meant to be working o_O) they wouldn't know who had been on what website. I hope that made sense. Maybe I just went to a crappy school and he didn't. :p

Was it actually stated he was late home from school at times? I only knew of him choosing to walk to and from school as opposed to his usual method of riding the bus a couple of weeks before his disappearance, which may explain why he would arrive home later than normal? I figured this was likely because his bully/bullies were on this bus route and bothering him enough to start walking instead.

In general though I agree, I've never really bought the theory that he left to commit suicide. To me running away (likely because of bullying) and now your theory make the most sense.
 

JG123

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That's honestly an interesting and very plausible theory. Maybe this "girl" told him he could stay with her overnight and he would just deal with the repercussions of skipping school/sneaking out when he eventually got home, viewing it in the sense that the pros outweigh the cons. Some of those red herrings may actually hold some relevance if this was the case as well, e.g. leaving his PSP charger behind because he was only going to be away for a day, packing light for an overnight stay, etc.

About the school computers/internet access, how exactly would they find Andrew's internet history? Did the students get their own computers or user accounts specifically assigned to them, so any internet activity is linked to that individual only? I'm a little confused as this wasn't the case when I was at school and I'm only slightly older than Andrew. In IT classes we just used any computer that I believe was already "logged in" so if we did browse the internet (which a lot of us did when we were meant to be working o_O) they wouldn't know who had been on what website. I hope that made sense. Maybe I just went to a crappy school and he didn't. :p

Was it actually stated he was late home from school at times? I only knew of him choosing to walk to and from school as opposed to his usual method of riding the bus a couple of weeks before his disappearance, which may explain why he would arrive home later than normal? I figured this was likely because his bully/bullies were on this bus route and bothering him enough to start walking instead.

In general though I agree, I've never really bought the theory that he left to commit suicide. To me running away (likely because of bullying) and now your theory make the most sense.

It ticks a lot of boxes, doesn't it. Without the red herring of "he didn't have internet access" I don't think this case would be discussed to the degree it is. Everyone would just instantly think he was groomed.

I've never read anything that said how they apparently checked Andrew's internet history. It's always just "oh, the police checked it". It's interesting you said that about your internet access - another user back in 2018 stated that he frequently used the internet without having to sign in. Another user also said the same thing, about how you could easily get uninterrupted, unnoticed internet access around that time, and he was from Doncaster as well. I've actually come across something quite interesting that I hadn't read previously about the police checking his school internet access, but I'll post that in a new post after this one, so it doesn't get lost.

Regarding the being late, it says "Looking in vain for an explanation, the family wonder why Andrew twice chose to break his normal routine, walking home from school instead of making the four-mile journey by bus." Funnily enough, it doesn't actually say he was "late", that's an assumption I've made. I've seen other things that have said that Andrew told his parents he did this, rather than them noticing, which would be interesting in itself but isn't confirmed. Has anyone come across any articles or audio with Andrew's parents talking about him walking home on those occasions?
 

JG123

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I decided to look around to see if I could find anything beyond "oh, the police checked it" regarding Andrew's school internet access, and I came across something quite interesting in a Vice article:

The Mystery Behind the Strange Disappearance of a 14-Year-Old English Boy
Andrew didn’t have a cell phone ("He had a couple aged ten to 12," says Kevin. "He managed to lose them, never used them much to begin with, and our offers to replace them were met with, "Can I have an Xbox instead?"). The house had one computer, a laptop, a birthday present for Charlotte, but she'd only had it for eight weeks prior to Andrew's disappearance. Kevin says Andrew didn’t have an email address. The police took the computers from Andrew's school and from Doncaster Library —they found nothing. Sony confirmed he didn't have an online account on his PSP. He had no social media; "he just didn’t seem very social," Charlotte told the Thin Air podcast last year.

The key section is:

The police took the computers from Andrew's school and from Doncaster Library

If the school had tracking software then the police wouldn't have needed to take any computers, because it would all be stored on a central database at the school. The fact that they took the computers suggests that they were checking individual computers for internet history. Wikipedia says the police carried out "digital forensic investigations" but they then link to the Vice article, which says nothing of the sort. I can't find anything else about the police search of the computers other than throwaway sentences. It really makes me wonder just how in depth their search was. Did they take every single computer in the school and library? Did a dedicated IT team come in and investigate or was it just the local constables? It says Doncaster Library, but what about Balby Library and Cantley Library, as mentioned in this post from 2018? At what point in the investigation did they check the computers? We know that the police initially looked at the Gosden family as suspects - "It took a month for them to get the CCTV of Andrew at King’s Cross, and during that time they were looking at us and our family" - so just how long after his disappearance did they check the computers?
 
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Kitkat28

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We know that the police initially looked at the Gosden family as suspects - "It took a month for them to get the CCTV of Andrew at King’s Cross, and during that time they were looking at us and our family" - so just how long after his disappearance did they check the computers?
Exactly! There was no particular urgency, as I remember, to find Andrew so I don’t understand why people are so adamant that the police went through every single computer he could possibly have had access to. It took them so long that anything useful could have been long gone anyway.
 

catchingdelivery

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I get the feeling online security and safeguarding just wasn't that much of a thing back in 2007. I know it wasn't at the school I went to, and I'm 2 years older than Andrew so it was around a similar time and in the same county. I can only speak of my experience but looking back I think the school and the teachers were naive to the inner workings of security and browsing history etc. There was a bog standard firewall installed which prevented pupils from accessing adult material, chat rooms etc but there were very easy ways around it using proxy sites that all the students knew about, which the firewall didn't pick up. Maybe the school had chosen to use a cheap IT system and data just hadn't been collected in a way that would provide anything useful.
 

Mrs Marple

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Another thought- he might not have taken his psp charger if he thought he wouldn't be using it after the train journey and thought there would be a charger he could use at his destination..
 

HCcoffee

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I get the feeling online security and safeguarding just wasn't that much of a thing back in 2007. I know it wasn't at the school I went to, and I'm 2 years older than Andrew so it was around a similar time and in the same county. I can only speak of my experience but looking back I think the school and the teachers were naive to the inner workings of security and browsing history etc. There was a bog standard firewall installed which prevented pupils from accessing adult material, chat rooms etc but there were very easy ways around it using proxy sites that all the students knew about, which the firewall didn't pick up. Maybe the school had chosen to use a cheap IT system and data just hadn't been collected in a way that would provide anything useful.

My school didn't even have that firewall. I recall boys accessing pornographic and gory websites during classes, and online chatrooms/forums were definitely accessible too. It's why I have a hard time believing they'd be able to pinpoint exactly what websites Andrew himself would have been visiting. I can only imagine that being the case if every student had their own user login (like with most colleges and universities) and all your activity is associated with your specific account. Plus like already mentioned he may have visited any of the local libraries to use their computers which leaves the same problem - how do you know which sites Andrew was using? And that's presuming the internet history was even still saved by the time they checked it. (I'm no tech expert, maybe there's a way around accessing deleted history but somehow I don't think the police would have dug that deep all things considered...)

I also have difficulty believing Andrew wasn't using the internet at all. Lack of a phone is more understandable (although why not have one just for emergencies?) but someone at that age - especially one who was quiet and introverted - would be drawn to the internet and socialising online, surely? I know I was!
 
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catchingdelivery

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There were only generic log ins at my school, not unique accounts for each student. If you imagine all the PCs that were used just in 1 high school in 1 day, it could be quite a lot - on average 30 pupils in a class, maybe 2 or 3 computer suites in the school, possibly used several times a day if not all day. It's a lot of information. I think school servers are run by local council IT services, or they were when I was at school. So you possibly have anonymised log ins, accessed by many pupils, many times in 1 day, across loads of schools in the area. If Police approached Doncaster Council for the internet information, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, without knowing exactly what you were looking for. That's if the information was stored and whether you could narrow down what you were looking for.
 

JG123

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There were only generic log ins at my school, not unique accounts for each student. If you imagine all the PCs that were used just in 1 high school in 1 day, it could be quite a lot - on average 30 pupils in a class, maybe 2 or 3 computer suites in the school, possibly used several times a day if not all day. It's a lot of information. I think school servers are run by local council IT services, or they were when I was at school. So you possibly have anonymised log ins, accessed by many pupils, many times in 1 day, across loads of schools in the area. If Police approached Doncaster Council for the internet information, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, without knowing exactly what you were looking for. That's if the information was stored and whether you could narrow down what you were looking for.

With you being in the same county, that's a really interesting and potentially important piece of information towards this theory. Based on the sentence about how the police "took the computers", I thought it was unlikely that there would have been dedicated logins, but the fact that you've confirmed it was the same for you in the same county goes further towards the theory.

So, essentially, regarding the checking of the computers, we have the following situation:

- Potentially months old data.
- Data that was possibly wiped at some point or even never recorded, which would mean that it's far harder or even impossible to retrieve as it may never have existed in the first place.
- A police force who have no target as to what they're actually looking for, because they don't know anything about any internet activity of Andrew's.
- If any data was found, it would be a complete mess potentially spanning thousands upon thousands of different students, or with the library thousands upon thousands of members of the general public.
- Seemingly individual computers were taken, which would increase the mess of data even further. The school had over 1,000 students. If we aim very low and say a few hundred computers, then say a dozen or so for the library, that is an absolutely incredible amount of data to look through, especially when we consider that Andrew could potentially have been visiting websites online at a school or library for who knows how long.
- Two libraries that (from memory) were actually closer to Andrew's home and school than Doncaster library, which were not searched according to the article above.
 

HCcoffee

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Another thought- he might not have taken his psp charger if he thought he wouldn't be using it after the train journey and thought there would be a charger he could use at his destination..

Or was promised gaming at his destination?

Don't mind me, just thinking out loud here... But if we go with this theory and this was someone pretending to be a girl (or boy) his age, they may have lured him over to visit with the promise of games, music, just hanging out, etc. Maybe he was even told it would only be for a few hours and that this "girl's" parents would give him a lift back home before Andrew's parents even realised he wasn't there. (Aside from what I explained previously, this could be another reason why he didn't get a return ticket)

The thing that throws me off is the way he left out his school clothes, as though he was staging the scene of already being home and therefore delaying his family realising he wasn't. It's as though he knew he wouldn't be back before them, or was this simply a precautionary "just in case" thing? He also may have been instructed to do this by whoever he was talking to, benefitting them the longer it took for anyone to notice his absence?

I'm torn between this and him running away. Really hope (for lack of a better word...) it's the latter and he's still out there and safe!
 
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