Help requested to solve mystery of missing sailor

Eighteen-year-old Simon Parkes failed to return to his ship in 1986.
Eighteen-year-old Simon Parkes failed to return to his ship in 1986. / SUR
  • A young seaman disappeared on shore leave in Gibraltar 35 years ago. Is there a link with murders on 12 December in other years?

The parents of a young British sailor who went missing in Gibraltar on 12 December 1986 are asking people for help in finding out what happened to their son, after information has come to light suggesting that he may have been murdered.

The sailor is called Simon Parkes. He was 18 years old and was serving on HMS Illustrious. He had just finished a Far East tour and was looking forward to going home to Kingswood, near Bristol. He had spoken to his parents, David and Margaret, a few days earlier and they had arranged to meet him in Portsmouth when the ship arrived on the 18th. Sadly, Simon didn't make it. He disappeared while on shore leave in Gibraltar.

On that December day 35 years ago, Simon had been shopping and drinking with shipmates. He was last seen leaving the Horseshoe Pub in Main Street, around 10.30pm. All his belongings were still on board the ship, including his passport.

The Navy carried out a massive search but there was no sign of him anywhere on the Rock and after two days he was declared Absent Without Leave and the ship sailed without him. His family has never heard from him since.

However, more than ten years after his disappearance, his case was reopened after a possible link was suspected with two brutal murders carried out by a former Petty Officer who was serving on the Illustrious at the same time as Simon.

Allan Grimson confessed to those murders and was sentenced to 22 years in jail. He has always denied any involvement in Simon's disappearance, and no evidence was found to support witness reports that they had seen him with someone who looked like Simon, but police suspicions were aroused when they realised that the murders of 18-year-old Nicholas Wright and 20-year-old Sion Jenkins took place exactly one year apart in 1997 and 1998 respectively on 12 December, which is the same date that Simon disappeared in 1986. They then discovered other cases of sailors reported missing on that date, who had never been found.

Last year, the police carried out an 11-day dig at the Trafalgar Cemetery in Gibraltar, hoping to find Simon's remains, but with no success.

Allan Grimson is due for parole this December, and if there is any evidence to link him to Simon's disappearance, the police are keen to find it as soon as possible.

David and Margaret are also desperate to know what has happened to their son. A Twitter account, @SMissing1986, has been set up on their behalf and information about what is known so far can be found there. If anyone has any information, it can be emailed to