London, England Actress Eileen ‘Gay’ Gibson, 21 was murdered aboard the Union-Castle’s Durban Castle by convicted ship’s steward, James Camb, 31, who then shoved Miss Gibson out the porthole of her first-class cabin; her body was never found.
Ninety miles off the coast of Portuguese Guinea, as the ship was sailing from South Africa to England, the young actress was pushed through a porthole into the ocean after being sexually assaulted by a steward, fellow ship mates called Don Jimmy (Camb), a womanizer who bragged he nailed a female passengers everyday of every cruise.
Some say the trysts were not always with willing participants, as several women testified at his murder trial they had been raped by Camb while aboard the ship on various voyages. Camb never denied pushing Gibson through the porthole into the sea. Though he did say that while having sex with her she died and it was her dead body that was shoved through the tiny porthole, not a live actress.
After four days of hearing the evidence, 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury found the steward guilty of murder. He was sentenced to be hanged for the crime, but due to a temporary legal loophole, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Captain Arthur Patey ordered the ship’s crew to search for the actress after the service bell in cabin 126, the cabin she had been booked into had been rung repeatedly, seeming even frantically.
When crew member Frederick Steer had responded to the urgent call at 0258 hours, Miss Gibson didn’t respond. Upon arriving at cabin 126, Steer noticed that both call lights were on, when normally one one call light was on depending on who was being asked for, a steward or stewardess. When Steer opened the door a crack, he could see Camb inside. Camb dismissed him, and Steer assumed that Camb had answered Miss Gibson’s call and left. He would later testify to that.
At first, Camb said that he had not been in Miss Gibson’s cabin. Then he retracted that statement after he came under suspicion and said that he had come, as she had asked and brought her a drink around 0200 hours. It seemed that Camb had been scratched during the altercation with Miss Gibson and had been wearing long sleeve shirts to cover his cuts in spite of the hot, humid weather.
The scratch marks on his arms had been examined by the ship’s physician, Dr. Griffiths, after Captain Patey had ordered the steward to submit to a medical examination. Griffiths testified that he found these marks on Camb’s shoulders and wrists and these scratches, in his opinion, had been made by a woman defending herself, not by someone undergoing some sort of seizure. Stains on the pillow in the cabin were examined by Dr. Donald Teare, a well-known pathologist and he testified that these were bloodstains.
The blood was Type O. Since Camb’s blood was Type A, it could be assumed that this was blood from Gay Gibson’s body, not Camb’s. Dr. Teare stated that these stains, along with emissions of urine could be expected from one who had been strangled to death, emissions that would not stem from someone having a heart attack. Camb insisted that the actress had been wearing only a flimsy yellow nightgown with no undergarments when she lured him into her room.
Yet Gay Gibson’s black pajamas which she was known to have packed and taken with her on the voyage, were missing and it was concluded that she had been wearing these when Camb pushed her through the porthole which further suggested that she had not invited the steward to have sex with her.
The prosecution insisted that Camb had invented the story of being invited into the cabin; that he arrived at the actress’ door under the pretext of delivering a drink to her and once she opened her door he forced his way inside and tried to rape her. She had fought back furiously, scratching his arms and wrists and he strangled her. Somehow, during the struggle, Gibson had managed to press the service buttons and this brought Steer to Cabin 126.
By the time he arrived, Camb had just finished murdering the actress and pretended that nothing was amiss when he sent away the watchman. Some writers have suggested that the watchman Steer, though he knew that Camb was in the cabin, did not ask to see Gibson, the legitimate occupant, since he was accustomed to the steward’s numerous “shipboard romances”.
Several women came forward to tell how Camb had sexually attacked them on previous voyages of the Durban Castle, two of them claiming they had been raped. Another woman said that she had been attacked on deck by Camb who dragged her into a tool room where she fought desperately as he tried to strip her clothes away. He had lost patience and strangled her. She passed out, she claimed, and when she regained consciousness, she said that Camb was standing over her, grinning.
Camb was paroled in 1959; he changed his name to James Clarke and was working as a head waiter in May 1967 when he was convicted of sexually attacking a 13-year-old girl.
He was placed on a two-year period of probation. He later went to Scotland where he worked once more as a head waiter in a restaurant. A short time later he was charged with sexual misconduct with three schoolgirls; this time Camb’s parole was revoked and he was returned to prison to serve out a life term.