Walter B. Shaw, 72 – Diminished Capacity, Sagafjord Passenger, July 20, 1992, Time of Death 4:00.
Jean Shaw says she went to take a nap in their cabin while the Cunard Line’s MS Sagafjord was docked in Juneau, Alaska on July 20, 1992. Her husband, Walter B. Shaw, 72, left their cabin, telling her he was going to go for a walk on deck. That was the last time she saw him.
When the ship was ready to depart for Ketchikan around 1600 hours, Jean Shaw looked for her husband and couldn’t find him. The ship’s crew paged him, couldn’t find him, then the ship left the port without him.
Police searched downtown, and say two witnesses indicated that they saw Shaw. The witnesses say Shaw told them that he came into town to mail letters and missed the departure of his ship.
The witnesses say he asked for directions to Ketchikan, Alaska 235 miles to the south. This doesn’t make any sense, because there is no way to get to Ketchikan by land. The only way there is by air or sea. This is a fact that surely the well-educated Shaw knew.
In addition, Mrs. Shaw said that her husband went into town to mail the letters before her nap, and had already come back before she fell asleep.
Private investigator Clyde Wilson hired by the family went to Ketchikan and too found witnesses who said they saw Shaw. One was Betty Wagner the manager of a homeless shelter who said she turned Shaw away because he was drunk. Wagner said that Shaw identified himself and told her he was forced to buy drinks in a bar for some men until his money was gone.
All of the witness reports are unconfirmed, and Shaw’s son, Houston, Texas attorney Peter Shaw believes his father never left the ship on his own, but instead met with foul play.
The theory is supported because Juneau has no road connections out of town. He never flew out of town, there is no record of any tickets being purchased. Shaw had checks and credit cards on him, yet they have not been used. Running out of money while in port was quite impossible, leading investigators to believe the man reported at the homeless shelter was not Shaw. Shaw had the means to have chartered a plane or boat to take him to Ketchikan to meet the ship had he gone back into town and missed the ship, or failing to find transportation out of Juneau, to check into a hotel and get a message to the ship and his wife, whether he had cash in his pocket or not.
Walter B. Shaw had been Chairman of Turner Corporation. out of New York, the largest construction company in the U.S. He served as President from 1970 to 1978 and as Chairman from 1978 to 1984, then appointing his replacement and retiring the next year. Shaw retired in Indian River Shores, Florida, where he resided until his death during the cruise to Alaska.
He was a highly intelligent, resourceful and wealthy man. He would have no problem solving his problem in a small town of 28,000 residents.
It would seem impossible that he went overboard while the ship was at the dock in port, having jumped in, fell it or was thrown in and nobody heard a splash or saw anything in the middle of a summer’s day.
Not only that, had he ended up in the sea while the ship was in port, and nobody heard or saw anything, the body would have been quickly found. Shaw’s body has never been found.
That leads to speculation that Shaw met with foul play aboard as his wife slept, while the ship was in port. Then, while the ship was at sea, his body was thrown overboard.
The MS Sagafjord was built in 1965 for Norwegian America Line by shipbuilder des Forges de la Mediterranee of France. She was purchased by Cunard in 1983. In 1997 Sagafjord was sold to Saga Holidays and renamed Saga Rose.
October 4, 2015 – Update
We have discovered a report stating remains were found by a Hunter in Juneau, Alaska, which have been identified as those of Walter B. Shaw. Shaw apparently wandered away, got lost, perhaps confused and was never seen again. Foul play is not suspected.