Searches in Gibraltar end but investigation into disappearance of Simon Parkes continues
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Officers investigating the disappearance of a young sailor more than 30 years ago have completed their searches in Gibraltar.
The team from Hampshire Constabulary, working with Royal Gibraltar Police, have been carrying out searches in Trafalgar Cemetery since Monday.
It followed new information from a former crew mate of Royal Navy Rating Simon Parkes, who was last seen on December 12, 1986.
The 18-year-old, from Bristol, was serving on HMS Illustrious and took shore leave in Gibraltar, on its last stop before returning to Portsmouth.
But the radio operator never made it back on-board.
The searches have found some bone material but these will need further forensic analysis to determine whether or not these are human.
The activity in Gibraltar has also sparked several new calls into the Major Crime Investigation Team offering new lines of enquiry both in the UK and in Gibraltar.
Detective Inspector Roger Wood, who headed 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 crew mates to try.
“The information that led us to Trafalgar Cemetery is credible and as with any cold case, we will take action if new, viable lines of enquiry present themselves.
“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.
“On top of this, our activity has also generated new lines of enquiry from the public.
“This means that the investigation is far from over and we will be following-up these promising leads both in the UK and Gibraltar."
He added: “The response we have had from the public has been great and I would like to thank everyone for sharing our appeals and coming forward with new information.
“If you have yet to contact us, it is not too late. If you knew or knew of Simon, were on HMS Illustrious and haven’t spoken to us yet, you may have information which could help.
“The same goes for anyone who was in Gibraltar on December 12, 1986 and remembers seeing something suspicious. It was a long time ago but news of our searches may have triggered some memories.
“I’d like to thank the people of Gibraltar for supporting us as we carried out our searches this week, as well as the team from Royal Gibraltar Police who have been integral to this investigation.
“I also want to thank Mr and Mrs Parkes for their continued support throughout this investigation. They deserve to know what happened to their son and we will continue our work to find those answers they so desperately want.”
Simon’s parents, Margaret and David, have been updated regarding the searches this week.
They said: “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 can call us on 101, quoting Operation Thornhill, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Alternatively, you can report any information on line via our dedicated portal here.