Probus Hears About The Porthole Murder
The speaker at the latest meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, Paul Stickler, is a retired detective, an FBI graduate, with degrees in history and criminology and is working towards a history PhD. He is well qualified to investigate cold cases such as he described – the Porthole Murder.
This was about a 21 year old actress called Gay Gibson, who in 1947 sailed on the ship Durban Castle from South Africa to Southampton and vanished without trace. She had formed a relationship with a First Class steward, James Camb, who, initially denying any form of contact then admitted Gay Gibson had died while they were in bed together.
He panicked and thrust her body through her cabin’s porthole never to be seen again. Whether she was dead was impossible to establish but at James Camb’s trial, he claimed she was frothing at the mouth.
Some fellow actors had witnessed similar medical episodes during rehearsals when she had fainted, frothing at the mouth and her lips turning blue. Crucially they did not travel from South Africa for the trial. Yet, in contradictory evidence, believed by the judge and jury, her mother claimed she was a well young woman.
At the Hampshire Assizes James Camb was found guilty of her murder and was sentenced to hang but avoided capital punishment because a no-hanging bill was being discussed by parliament.
James Camb was released from prison in 1959 but was convicted several years later of other sexual offences and spent his remaining years behind bars.
The audience were left to come to their own conclusions about the case. The charge could have been one of manslaughter rather than murder if the true medical condition was able to be established that Gay Gibson died from natural causes. But without the body there could be no autopsy to establish the actual cause of death.
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