Murder of an English Actress

Paul Stickler

Paul Stickler is a retired police chief superintendent with a background in murder investigations. During his service he was seconded to the FBI National Academy in Quantico. Virginia where he graduated  in International Law Enforcement and now spends his time researching British historical murders and lecturing to a wide range of audiences. His debut book, The Murder that Defeated Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s Corner was published in April 2018.

Eileen Isabella Ronnie Gibson (16 June 1926 – 18 October 1947), was an actress known professionally as Gay Gibson.

She went missing during a sailing of MV Durban Castle between Cape Town and Southampton in October 1947. The criminal case that followed was known as The Porthole Murder. Deck Steward James Camb admitted that he had pushed her body out of the porthole in her cabin into the Atlantic Ocean. The defence and prosecution both agreed on that, but little else.

Camb claimed that Gay invited him to her cabin and she had a seizure during a romantic episode; he had then panicked and thrown her body out of the porthole. Was that true, 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 Stickler has had access to the original police records and will take us through the 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.

Camb was sentenced to hang but at that time Parliament was debating a ‘no-hanging’ Bill. He was reprieved and jailed for life. Released on licence in 1959, he 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.