IN OCTOBER 1947 a beautiful young actress called Gay Gibson mysteriously disappeared from the luxury liner Durban Castle as it crossed the equator on a voyage from South Africa to England.

Her body was never recovered.

When the Durban Castle docked at Cowes Roads, Isle of Wight, detectives questioned a dashing deck steward who had been seen in her cabin. James Camb, who had a reputation for womanising on board ship, was later charged with her murder.

In one of the most sensational criminal trials of the century, held in the imposing Great Hall of Winchester, Camb not only admitted that he was in Gibson’s cabin when she died, but also that he had dumped her lifeless body into the ocean through the cabin’s porthole.

He strenuously denied murder, however, claiming Gibson had died accidentally during sexual intercourse.

Camb acknowledged that pushing Gibson’s body thorough the porthole was “beastly conduct”, but he did so because he had been in a state of abject panic, fearing for his job and his marriage.

Controversially, and against evidence highlighted by the defence, James Camb was sentenced to death, although through a bizarre legal loophole he avoided the noose.

The case is the subject of Death of an Actress, a new book by Chandlers Ford author Antony Brown.

It is the latest title in his Cold Case Jury series, which examines historic crimes, typically murders from decades or even centuries ago.

Each book combines history with a real-life whodunit.

Every reader is invited to take a seat on the Cold Case Jury, weigh up the evidence and different theories in a case, and deliver his or her verdict online.

Each book reads like a fast-paced thriller, taking the reader back in time to see the crime re-enacted according to each theory, showing the different ways the drama might have unfolded.

“The Southern Daily Echo broke the news story about the Gay Gibson case,” Antony explains, “which soon made headlines across the world.

It seemed natural to open Death of an Actress with the famous ‘Actress Disappears’ lead story from October 25, 1947.”

Antony is the first author to be given complete access to the original police file.

“I felt extremely privileged,” he says.

“I was handling some of the trial exhibits, and was astonished to see some of Gay’s personal effects from her cabin, particularly her hairbrush which still retained strands of her auburn hair.

I discovered important evidence, which is published for the first time in Death of an Actress.”

Had it not been for the diligence of a local history society, however, the entire police file would have been lost.

“I was called by the Hampshire Constabulary Archive to look at some dusty files that were going to be destroyed,” says Paul Sticker, former Chief Superintendent and vice chair of the Hampshire Constabulary History Society.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened a box to find the full prosecution file for the James Camb trial, including the transcript, some exhibits and photographs.

"The society is delighted to have preserved artefacts from one of the most famous trials of the 20th century.”

So what did happen on the Durban Castle? Did James Camb kill the actress or not?

“I cannot possibly prejudice the verdict of Cold Case Jury,” Antony jokes. “I give my own view of the case online, but it is available only after a reader has voted for what they think.

As in a real court of law, the verdict always lies with the jury.”

Death of an Actress has been pre-released as a Kindle e-book, which can be read on any device that has a Kindle reader. It costs £1.99 to download, or is free if you are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Visit for details.

For Those preferring a traditional book, you will have to wait until publication of the first Cold Case Jury casebook is published later.