October 31, 2019|Reports

“Body Overboard – The Murder of an English Actress” – Paul Stickler

Retired chief superintendent Paul Stickler spoke to forty eight members and visitors about the sensational ‘Porthole Murder’.

Actress Eileen ‘Gay’ Gibson was pushed out of the porthole of the Durban Castle in the early morning of the 18th October 1947 by Deck Steward James Camb. The defence and prosecution both agreed on that, but little else.

Did Gay invite Camb into her cabin and have a seizure during a romantic episode, as he claimed, or was she assaulted and murdered by the steward? Why had Gay suddenly decided to return to England on this ship? Could an asthmatic attack have been the cause of her death with Camb panicking and bundling her body out of the porthole?

Paul took us through the police investigation that followed when the Durban Castle docked in Southampton, and the subsequent trial in the Great Hall at Winchester.

Despite there being no body and Camb’s protestation of innocence, the jury took only 45 minutes to reach their verdict – Guilty. The Wickham History Society jury was not so sure – perhaps it was accidental death or manslaughter?

Camb was sentenced to hang but at that time Parliament was debating a ‘no-hanging’ Bill. He was reprieved and jail for life. Released on licence in 1959, Camb changed his name by deed poll. Twelve years later, following convictions for sexual offences against schoolgirls, Camb returned to prison to continue his life sentence.

Paul brought the whole investigation alive with a wealth of detail – including crime scene photographs – and contemporary information.

There was a very lively exchange of theories from the audience at the end with most agreeing that Cambs was a ‘nasty piece of work’ – but was he a murderer?

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