JAMES CAMB AND THE PORTHOLE MURDER
By Tim Lambert
James Camb murdered a woman on board a ship and disposed of the body through a porthole. Camb was born in 1916. In 1947 he was working as a ship's steward. On 10 October 1947 he was aboard a ship called the Durban Castle as it left South Africa for Southampton, England. Also aboard was a 21 year old woman named Eileen Isabella Ronnie Gibson, known as Gay. She was an actress and she stayed in a first class cabin. On 17 October 1947 Gay spent the evening in the company of two male passengers, Around 1.00 am on 18 October she went to her cabin. In each first class cabin there were two buttons. Pressing one would summon a steward, pressing the other would summon a stewardess. At 3.00 am somebody in cabin 126 (Gay's cabin) pressed both buttons. A man named Frederick Steer went to see what was wrong. When he tried to push the cabin door his way was blocked by James Camb who said 'its alright' and then pushed the door shut.
However the next morning Gay Gibson was nowhere to be seen. The cabin was locked shut. James Camb was questioned but denied ever being in the cabin. However when he was examined by the ship's doctor he had visible scratches on his wrists and shoulders. The ship reached Southampton on 25 October 1947. James Camb was questioned by the police. At first Camb continued to deny being in the cabin but he changed his story when the police produced evidence that he was. Camb now claimed that Gay Gibson had consensual sex with him but she mysteriously died. Camb claimed he tried artificial respiration and it was at that moment that Frederick Steer knocked on the door. Camb admitted he opened the door and told Steer it was alright. Camb said he then panicked and decided to push the body through a porthole. Not surprisingly the police did not believe this tale and Camb was charged with murder. James Camb went on trial for murder on 18 March 1948. The ships doctor produced photos of the scratches found on Camb. A pathologist said he found blood on the bed linen in the cabin. Another pathologist found urine on the linen (emptying of the bladder is common during strangulation). Despite the absence of a body James Camb was found guilty of murder and he was sentenced to death. But he was very lucky. At the time parliament was debating whether to suspend the death penalty for a trial period of 5 years. Since it was uncertain whether the law would be passed or not (in the end it wasn't) the home secretary commuted all death sentences passed at that time to life imprisonment. Camb was released from prison on licence in 1959. However in 1967 he was convicted of sexual offences against schoolgirls and he was sent back to prison. James Camb was released a second time in 1978. He died in 1979. Gay Gibson's body was never found.
Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia
John George Haigh