Sumith Gawas, 22 – Suspicious Hanging, Arcadia Crew, July 16, 2010, Time of Death is unknown.
British inquest into the hanging death of crew member Sumith Gawas, 22, from Collem, Goa, India aboard P & O Arcadia on Friday, July 16, 2010, while the ship was docked at Southampton, has concluded that the well-liked crew member hung himself in the cabin he shared with fellow crew member Joel Fernandes. Gawas worked as a junior waiter aboard the ship.
Joel Fernandes said he went to work in the morning and when he came back later to get some cigarettes he discovered Gawas hanging in the cabin they shared.
The ship was scheduled to leave Southampton in the United Kingdom at 1630 hours, arrive at Brussels in Belgium at 0800 hours then leave Brussels that evening and return to Southampton at 0700 hours on Sunday the 18th.
Testifying at the inquest was supervisor Dharmendra Jadav who indicated he caught Gawas stealing from the locked tip box aboard the ship. Though Jadav said that the money, £150, was stashed nearby, not in the possession of Gawas. That wouldn’t exactly be getting “caught”.
The tip box collected tips by passengers and only two people had a key to the box, Gawas was one of them. The inquest didn’t hear who had the second key, though it could have been a very important fact. Jadav said that he told Gawas to go to his cabin after the alleged theft and it was there Gawas was later found hanging by the neck.
Adrian Prangnell, a security officer for P&O Cruises, told the hearing that Mr Gawas had £800 ($1,253.69US) of cash on him and that lead to the conclusion that it must have been stolen from the tip box.
It is unclear how or why Gawa would stash £150 near the tip box, yet keep £800 in stolen money on him to be found later during a search of his person and his cabin. He certainly could have ditched the money along the way, or stashed the entire £950 near the tip box. As it was, the money was allegedly found in his possession after this death. It doesn’t make sense.
Deputy Southampton Coroner Gordon Denson heard evidence about the alleged theft and came to the conclusion that Gawas hung himself due the shame of being labeled a thief.
An inquest is held when the death was unexpected, mysterious, violent or apparently unnatural.
While it could probably be assumed that Gawas might hang himself due to the shame of being labeled a thief, that does not prove that he stole the money nor that he hung himself. Without evidence proving he actually stole the money he had from the tip box, everything that took place is only speculation. The decision of the coroner was based on a series of circumstantial evidence and nothing more.
There are no reports that show real evidence such as video tape of the theft taking place. Another scenario could as likely be that somebody wanted Gawas dead, killed him then planted money on him or that the money on him was his own, saved from past paychecks, which he was preparing to wire home. Since the ship was in port, that could have very well been the case. The ship hadn’t been at home port of Southhampton since July 4. Accused of a crime he did not commit, Gawas might then hang himself.
It is well-known fact that evidence gathering and investigation aboard cruise ships is beyond pathetic when it exists at all. Without real evidence gathered in a professional manner, it can’t not be assume that a crime took place or that it didn’t.
Sumith Gawas was convicted of the crime of theft, post mortem, without having the opportunity to defend himself at the coroner’s inquest and that verdict was the basis for the conclusion his death was a suicide.
If the death was a suicide, then why was there no suicide note? If shame for having stolen money was the reason for the suicide, then a quick note saying he took his own life would have avoided the coroner’s inquest and hashing up the theft in public, bringing on even more shame to the family name. It doesn’t make sense.
Why was there an inquest into Gawas’ death? The answer might be found in the term life insurance policy the cruise line had in place for their employee. The typical death benefit for a crew member is $60,000. But, in the event of suicide, it might be void.