Date: 16 Aug 1949
Place: Esperance Bay, Arbian Sea
Joyce Ruby Parker disappeared from the liner Esperance Bay between Colombo and Aden on the night of 16 August 1949.
Her disappearance was described as a mystery and was left unsolved following a Ministry of Transport inquiry at Victoria Docks in London on Monday 6 September 1949.
When the liner docked at Southampton on Saturday 3 September 1949, detectives went on board to investigate her disappearance. The inquiry into her death was carried out by the Ministry of Transport who met the liner at Southampton and who took statements onboard from four passengers before it left for London.
She was a former assistant hospital matron in Artarmon in Sydney and was travelling to England for a course of study on the liner Esperance Bay but disappeared between Colombo and Aden.
She was the brother of a Reverand at Worcester College in Oxford who had been with her at the time. He said that the morning before the ship berthed at Colombo, Joyce Parker had told him that she had been unable to study and had felt that ship life was lonely. He said that he didn't consider that it was serious as she was older than most women aboard and would feel out of things, adding that she seemed much happier later.
He told fellow passengers that he could not account for her disappearance, but that he had no suspicion of foul play.
An assistant surgeon on the liner said that Joyce Parker had told him that she could not study and was worried by insomnia. He added that he had prescribed her a mild sedative and because of her previous history had kept observation on her.
A woman from New Zealand who had been on her way to see relatives in Addlestone, Surrey, said that on the night of 15 August 1949 that she slept on the 'A' deck because of the heat. She said, 'I turned in about 1am, dozed and half awakened to see a woman near me. The same person, I think, came back again about 10 minutes later. The woman was dressed in night attire. When I was half awake, I saw something on 'A' deck rail. I thought at first it was a sheet of spray but realised afterwards I could not see the rail through it. It disappeared overboard'.
She said that she thought nothing more of the incident until it was reported on the following morning that a woman was missing, and even then thought she had been dreaming.
A woman from Highgate in Perth, Australia, said that between 2am and 4am on 16 August 1949 she heard a splash as if something had gone overboard, adding that she assumed that it was something being dumped.
A woman from Edgley said that she became acquainted with Joyce Parker and her brother after leaving Sydney and said that Joyce Parker mentioned casually to her that she suffered from sleeplessness and lack of appetite. She noted that she didn't know that Joyce Parker was engaged to be married. She said that on the evening of 15 August 1949 that she, Joyce Parker and her brother went to the cinema and that afterwards they made some tea and walked round the deck, noting that Joyce Parker appeared in perfectly normal spirits.
A woman that shared a cabin with Joyce Parker said that between 1am and 3am on 16 August 1949 that she was awakened by Joyce Parker moving about in the cabin. She said, 'For some days Miss Parker had not been feeling well. She left the cabin, and at 6.30 in the morning the stewardess came in and asked where Miss Parker was. Her nightgown and dressing gown were not in the cabin. As Miss Parker left the cabin during the night, I called her by her christian name, but received no answer. During the first part of the voyage she seemed bright enough, but latterly she complained of homesickness and worries she would not disclose to me. She was coming to England to take a sister-tutor's course and she once said she did not know if she would get through with it. In conversation during the early part of the voyage she had mentioned that she had had treatment for nervous trouble'.
The Ministry's London District Docks Superintendent who conducted the inquiry said, 'All the indications are that she drowned but in the circumstances, we cannot come to a definite conclusion that she committed suicide. There was nothing in her last letter to her mother to indicate that she was troubled. It was a rough night and the movement of the ship might have caused her to fall overboard. The cause of death will be officially recorded as 'Missing, presumed drowned''.
see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 06 September 1949
see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Saturday 03 September 1949
see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 03 September 1949