Police searching for teenage sailor who disappeared 30 years ago find ‘bone material’ in cemetery

Radio operator Simon Parkes went ashore when HMS Illustrious docked in Gibraltar on 12 December 1986 but never returned

Police searching for Royal Navy radio operator Simon Parkes, 18, who disappeared in Gibraltar on 12 December 1986, have found "bone material" in a cemetery.
Police searching for Royal Navy radio operator Simon Parkes, 18, who disappeared in Gibraltar on 12 December 1986, have found "bone material" in a cemetery.

Police searching for a teenage sailor who went missing 30 years ago have discovered “bone material” at a cemetery.

Simon Parkes, from Bristol, was last seen on 12 December 1986 when HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy ship he was serving on, docked in Gibraltar.

The 18-year-old radio operator took shore leave during the ship’s last stop ahead of returning to Portsmouth – but he never made it back on board.

The ship returned to Portsmouth days later and no one knew what had happened to him despite a huge manhunt.

His disappearance has previously been part of investigations by Hampshire Police into serial killer Allan Grimson, a former petty officer, who is serving life for the murder of two young men and who was serving on board the aircraft carrier at the same time as the teenager.

Detectives from Hampshire travelled to Gibraltar this week to carry out searches at Trafalgar Cemetery following “new information” from a former crewmate of Mr Parkes.

They uncovered “bone material” during the searches, which will be analysed by forensic experts to determine whether it is human.

A force spokesperson said the activity in Gibraltar has “sparked several new calls” to the major crime investigation team, which have offered new lines of inquiry in both the UK and Gibraltar.

Detective Inspector Roger Wood, who is heading up the team, said: “We knew that there was a chance we wouldn’t find Simon, but we owed it to his family and his crewmates to try.

“While the searches were not successful in the way we had hoped, we have found some bone material which may or may not be human.

“Further tests are needed to determine what they are and while this is a positive discovery, we are cautious not to put too much significance on it at this time.”

DI Wood said the new “promising” new leads mean the investigation is “far from over” and detectives will be following them up in both countries.

Mr Parkes’ parents, Margaret and David, said in a statement: “We would like to thank everyone involved for their support and the opportunity to again search for Simon.

“It is a very difficult time but we are optimistic that the search is not over and we will never give up hope of finding him.”

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

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in