1. ITV Report

Police to search cemetery in Gibraltar for missing sailor last seen in 1986

Police are digging for remains in Gibraltar, 33 years after the disappearance of Portsmouth sailor Simon Parkes.

Simon was 18 years old and serving on HMS Illustrious. But when the Navy ship docked in Gibraltar in 1986, Simon vanished never to be seen again.

Simon Parkes was serving on HMS Illustrious Credit: Hampshire Police

Today Hampshire Police announced they have new information and have begun a new search. A specialist team has flown over in an effort to find out what happened to Simon once and for all.

A week-long search will be carried out at Trafalgar Cemetery this week. The team includes experts in forensics, who will be working closely with Royal Gibraltar Police.

Simon Parkes Credit: Hampshire Police

Royal Navy Rating Parkes, who worked as a 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 to find him.

Since then investigations into his disappearance have so far failed to find answers for his devastated parents.

However, following new information received by Hampshire Police earlier this year, the investigation is making new progress and has led officers back to Gibraltar.

A week-long search will be carried out at Trafalgar Cemetery Credit: Hampshire Police

“We believe this new information is credible and gives us an opportunity to find out once and for all what has happened to Simon.

“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 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."

– Detective Inspector Roger Wood
Detective Inspector Roger Wood Credit: Hampshire Police

“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.

“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. Someone out there will know what happened to Simon and I would urge them to come forward and give his heartbroken parents the answers they have spent the last 30 years searching for.”

– Detective Inspector Roger Wood
Simon's parents, Margaret and David Parkes Credit: Hampshire Police

“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.”

– Simon’s mum, Margaret Parkes