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  • Rod Kackley

The Murder of Gay Gibson: A Shocking True Crime Story

(Gay Gibson)

It's 2:36 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 1947. There's trouble in Cabin 126 of the luxury cruise ship, the Durban Castle sailing through the shark-infested waters off Africa's Ivory Coast on its way to London.

An actress just off a starring role with a Johannesburg, South Africa, stock company, Eileen Isabella Ronnie ‘Gay’ Gibson, (pictured above) is staying in that cabin. More than one man on board this ship would love to spend the night in her bed.

Hours ago, the vivacious twenty-one-year-old, who liked to go by her stage name, 'Gay,' had a great time with a long line of gentlemen buying her drinks in exchange for a dance.

Gay finally retired for the night sometime after midnight.

But now, two night-watchmen are startled by lights flashing from Cabin 126. One is red, which calls for a steward; the other is green, meaning a stewardess is needed.

One of the watchmen knocks at the door of 126. No answer.

He looks at his partner, shrugs, and pushes open the cabin door, about two inches, only to have it slam back in his face.

But he has time to see the face of a man in the Gay's cabin, none other than one of the deck stewards, James Camb.

So these two watchmen push back harder, forcing the door open. After all, they know something is wrong. The red and green lights are flashing. These two muscular men will shove this door open to ensure Gay Gibson is okay.


Wrong, I am afraid.

The two are flummoxed. Not knowing what to do next, the men wait for Camb to come out. He does not, but the red and green lights go out after about ten minutes.

Whatever was wrong in Cabin 126 must be okay now, the watchmen decide, and they return to their patrol, leaving Camb inside Gay's cabin.

Five hours later, a stewardess, Eileen Field, taps at the door of Cabin 126. There's no answer, so she gently pushes the door open.

Immediately the stewardess knows something is terribly wrong. The porthole is open, the bed is unmade, and she sees several bloodstains on the sheets.

A black silk frock hangs from a peg, swaying back and forth with the ship's roll over the Atlantic Ocean's waves.

A suitcase is open at the foot of the bed. In a corner, Ellen spots Gay's pajamas and dressing gown, not where the actress usually kept her night clothes.

Eileen isn't sure what's happened, but she knows something is wrong and runs to find the ship's chief steward.

Soon the ship's passengers and crews hear messages over the public address system's loudspeakers asking Gay to report to the closest member of the Durban Caste crew.

There's no response.

One of the crew members says he remembers seeing the actress smoking a cigarette at about one a.m., leaning over the railing. He warned her that she might get splashed by the sea but never thought she could have gone over that rail.

Now a rumor sweeps the ship, as passengers and crew agree that Gay must have fallen overboard.

Captain A.G.V. Patey turns the steamship around and begins a search for Gay, hoping against hope that they will find the young woman alive on the waves.

But, the effort is in vain, so Patey gets the Durban Castle back on course for home, London.

Once he learns that Camb had been spotted in Gay's cabin, Patey questions the deck steward. The captain knows that Camb has always been a womanizer.

James Camb loves women, and women love to be around him. He bragged to anyone who'd listen that he slept with at least one female passenger on every cruise.

However, Camb assures Captain Patey he was never in Gay's cabin and claims the watchmen must have been mistaken.

However, he also tells the captain that he had spoken with the young woman and Camb was afraid she might have been suicidal.

"She told me about the men of the theatrical cast she was with," Camb says, "and there was a man named Charles she was crazy about."


"And," Camb sighs, "she said, 'complications had set it.'"


Camb moves closer to his superior officer and whispers, "So I asked her, 'does that mean you're going to have a baby?' Well, she said it was too soon to tell, but the problem was this 'Charles' was already married."

Captain Patey steps back and looks over his tall, broad-shouldered deck steward.

'"What are those scratches around your neck?"

Camb puts his right hand on his neck, smiles sheepishly, and says, "Harsh towel, sir."

Patey grunts and dismisses the man.

Yet, the captain isn't satisfied. He speaks with Camb's roommate and discovers Camb was not in their cabin at one a.m., but five hours later, the deck steward was sleeping soundly in his bunk.

No more is said about Gay's disappearance until the Durban Castle arrives at his home port.

But as soon as the ship docks, two Scotland Yard detectives come aboard the Durban Castle.

Under their questioning, Camb admits that he was in Gay's cabin. And more than that, he confesses they made love.

"An intimacy, you could call it, took place," says Camb, and he rushes to add, "with her complete consent, of course."

But, something went wrong, he says.

"Suddenly, she clutched me and began foaming at the mouth," Camb says. He runs his fingers through his full head of hair.

"Then, she was very still," he says in a hushed tone, "I felt for her heartbeat and couldn't find it."

That's when the watchmen tried to open the door, Camb says, and he pushed it shut.

Panicked and not knowing what to do, worried about losing his wife and child in England, Camb bolted the cabin door.

"I went to work on the woman and tried to bring her back to life but had to give up. She was limp and lifeless. I could see it as no use. As far as I could tell, she was dead."

Neither detective said a word. They were more than willing to let Camb do all of the talking.

"So you see, I was horribly frightened," Camb says. He looks frantically from one detective to the other, seeking reassurance they understand the dilemma.

"All I could think to do was to get rid of the body. And now this may sound cowardly and selfish, but…."

The detectives lean forward.

"But what?"

"But," Camb takes a deep breath. "But all I could think about was myself, so I decided it would be best to make it look like she'd fallen overboard.

The detectives knew a confession was coming. They were not disappointed.

"I picked her body up and pushed it through the porthole." Camb drops his head into his hands. The detectives hear him mumble, "Her body fell into the sea."

(James Camb)

James Camb stood trial, arguing that while he knew pushing the woman's body out a porthole was a "beastly" thing, he did not murder Gay.

Yet, Camb was convicted of Gay Gibson's murder and sentenced to death.

However, before his execution could be carried out, the Home Secretary commuted all death sentences because Parliament was considering doing away with capital punishment. So, Camb did not hang for the murder of Eileen' Gay' Gibson.

Instead, he served only eleven years in prison, claiming until his death that he did not murder the actress.

Her body was never found.

No one witnessed James Camb doing anything to her. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence, at best.

Still, does it seem to you that justice was served? Camb did eleven years for the murder of Gay Gibson. Is that right?

If your answer is 'no,' you agree with Winston Churchill. He said the House of Commons had "saved the life of a brutal lascivious murderer who thrust the poor girl he had raped and assaulted through a porthole of the ship to the sharks."

Yet, Camb couldn't stay out of prison or away from females. He was released in 1959 but put back in a cell after being convicted of several assaults against young girls.

He was rereleased in 1978 and died in July 1979 from heart failure.

Gay Gibson's body was never found.

November 2, 1945: On her way to a high school football game with friends, a fourteen-year-old girl vanishes after driving away with a man who says he needs a babysitter.

The FBI unleashes its top kidnapping expert, an agent who helped bring John Dillinger down. Will that be enough to find the girl and her abductor?

Agents chase the suspected kidnapper from California to Illinois and back again.

Arrested in Los Angeles, he admits abducting the child.

He also tells the FBI he killed the girl and threw her body into the Pacific Ocean. A search for her corpse proves fruitless.

Then, when all hope is lost, authorities discover the skeleton of another young woman who's fallen victim to this madman.

Ready for another twist? The wife of the man who made that discovery is found dead at the bottom of the cliff.

During the accused killer's trial, women around the country fall in love with the handsome monster and literally break down the doors of a courthouse to get close to him.

Wild enough for you?


After the child's killer is convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber, a scientist shows up and says he can bring the murderer back from the dead.

If the scientist is successful will the state of California have to kill this killer again? Or does Thomas McMonigle go free? After all, if dead, he's already served his sentence.

The Murder of Thora Chamberlain: A Shocking True Crime Story: This is the wildest, most shocking, true crime story you've ever read.


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