Police search in Gibraltar for missing Kingswood sailor

Simon Parkes

The investigation into the mysterious disappearance of a young Kingswood sailor more than 30 years ago has led officers back to Gibraltar this week.

Following new information, a specialist team has flown over in an effort to find out what happened to 18-year-old Simon Parkes once and for all.

A week-long search at Trafalgar Cemetery begins today, headed up by Detective Inspector Roger Wood, from Hampshire Constabulary’s Major Crime Investigation Team, working closely alongside officers from Royal Gibraltar Police.

Royal Navy Rating Parkes was last seen in December 1986, when the ship he was serving on, HMS Illustrious, was docked in Gibraltar. The radio operator went onto shore but never made it back on-board and when the ship returned to Portsmouth days later, no one knew what had happened to him, despite a huge manhunt.

Since then investigations into his disappearance have so far failed to find answers for his devastated parents, Margaret and David. However, following new information received by Hampshire Constabulary earlier this year, the investigation is making new progress.

Former petty officer Allan Grimson, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of two young men, was serving on board HMS Illustrious at the same time as Mr Parkes.

The cemetery that police are searching this week

Detective Inspector Roger Wood said: “As with any cold case, no case is ever closed indefinitely – if we get new information that offers new and legitimate investigative opportunities then we will take action. We have a duty to the public and to Simon’s parents to follow-up this new lead and see what comes from it.

“There is a significant amount of work that has brought us to where we are today and we would not be taking these steps if we did not think it was worth it.

“There is of course the chance that we do not find what we are looking for during these searched, but we cannot ignore new information. We owe it to Simon and his family to try.

“Our work here could also trigger memories for someone who may hold the key to solving this. So I would like to urge anyone who was on HMS Illustrious who knew or knew of Simon but has not yet spoken to us, or anyone who has remembered something new since talking to us last, to get in touch as any small piece of information could really help our investigation.

Margaret & David Parkes with a photo of their son

“That plea also goes out to anyone who lived in Gibraltar at that time or was on holiday there on December 12, 1986. I know it was a long time ago, but if there is anything you remember being strange or out of place, please get in touch.”

Mrs Parkes added: “After all this time we did not think that we would get another chance to find out what happened to Simon, so we are very grateful to the police for this. We know there’s a chance we won’t get the answers we so desperately want but it would mean the world to us if we could finally bring Simon home.”

Anyone with information about the disappearance of Simon can call 101, quoting Operation Thornhill, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.