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Police vow to continue investigations as search for Simon Parkes in Gibraltar ends

Detectives searching for missing sailor Simon Parkes today ended their week-long search for remains in Trafalgar Cemetery.

The team from Hampshire Constabulary, working with Royal Gibraltar Police, renewed the investigation into Simon's disappearance after receiving new information from a former crewmate of the Royal Navy Rating.

Simon was last seen leaving the Horseshoe Bar in Main Street 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 for Christmas.

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.”

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Simon’s parents, Margaret and David, have been updated regarding the searches this week.

“We would like to thank everyone involved for their support and the opportunity to again search for Simon," Mr and Mrs Parkes said.

“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.”

Senior Investigating Officer for the RGP DCI Brian Finlayson highlighted the meticulous process of examination of the graveyard grounds and individual tombs, which has been conducted in a methodical and forensic manner.

He added that the investigation in Gibraltar has also generated new lines of inquiry both in UK and Gibraltar which will now be pursued.

“We have been supporting our colleagues from Hampshire Constabulary in this cold case investigation related to the suspected murder of a young Royal Navy rating in Gibraltar back in 1986," said DCI Finlayson.

“The investigation remains very much open and we will not desist in our efforts to bring closure to this tragic case, for Simon’s parents and family, and to see that whoever isresponsible for his death is brought to justice."

The RGP has also thanked members of the general public in Gibraltar who have come forward in the past few days and shared information with the police.

Although the inclement weather posed a challenge to the investigators the first day, the search has concluded according to the planned timescale.

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

Alternatively, you can report any information on line via our dedicated portal - https://mipp.police.uk/operation/44HC19E01-PO1.