Date: 17 Jun 1933
Place: North Sea
Cecil Brooks vanished on the steamship Prague on the way back to England on 16 June 1933.
When the steamship arrived in Harwich 17 June 1933 from Holland his luggage was on board but he was not.
His body was later found in the sea at Terschelling, Holland on 17 July, 100 miles away from the Hook of Holland where he was last seen and buried there. His body was later exhumed and returned to England but the post-mortem could not determine the cause of death and an open verdict was returned.
His wife said that she had wanted to give evidence of foul play but had not been allowed.
Cecil Brooks had been to the continent in connection with negotiations for the purchase of certain ships.
After the body that was found was returned to England his wife identified it by the cuff links that he had been wearing.
His full title was Commander Cecil Brooks and he was a retired commandant in the P&O and had been living at Beechcroft Avenue in Golders Green.
When a doctor who was a surgeon attached to the P&O Company examined the body he said that he was quite satisfied that it was the body of Cecil Brooks and said that he was able to identify it by his peculiarly-shaped feet, which were long and tapering with a strange turn in the right foot. The body was also said to have corresponded to Cecil Brooks's height and the shoes that he had been wearing bore the name of Cecil Brooks's shoemaker and the initials 'C. B.' were written upon the underclothing that the body had been wearing. The doctor also said that the trousers that the body had been wearing also corresponded to those that he had seen Cecil Brooks wearing before.
The doctor said that he had last seen Cecil Brooks alive on 21 February 1933 on board the Ranchi in King George V dock in London when Cecil Brooks had completed his last voyage in command of the vessel. He said that Cecil Brooks told him that he was going to undertake the task of an adviser to the Egyptian mercantile marine, which meant purchasing ships. He said that he had expected Cecil Brooks home on 17 June 1933 from Holland where he had been in connection with the purchasing of the ships noting that he would have been sailing from the Hook of Holland to Harwich.
The doctor also noted that from his own enquiries he had determined that Cecil Brooks had been on board the ship at about 10pm on the night of 16 June 1933 and said that he thought that he was not seen again after that. He added that the steamer left the Hook of Holland at about midnight that night.
At the inquest, the coroner asked the doctor whether Cecil Brooks might have got off the ship at 10pm and the doctor said that he would have had time as the ship was alongside.
Cecil Brooks's wife was said to have not been very happy about Cecil Brooks's body being buried in Holland and arrange for him to be exhumed and brought to London where it arrived on 24 August 1933.
A man that had known Cecil Brooks and had been present at the post-mortem said that it had been quite impossible to see any signs of puncture by hyperdomic syringes. He said that he had known Cecil Brooks quite well for a number of years and said that he was the last man that would commit suicide noting that he was a happy, good living man in every way and said that he had been looking forward to his new work with great pleasure. He said that Cecil Brooks had taken his retirement after 43 years very well and had said to his owners, 'I am very happy, and am looking forward to 20 years ashore with infinite pleasure'.
The man also said that Cecil Brooks was teetotal and very unlikely to have had an accident such as falling over board or over the quayside.
At the inquest, the man asked the coroner whether, if Cecil Brooks had fallen overboard or had fallen into the water from the quay at the Hook of Holland, his body could possibly have been found 100 miles away but the coroner said that he could not possibly reply to such a question as he knew nothing of the kind.
The pathologist that carried out the post-mortem said the body was completely clothed and was partly covered by sacking when he saw it. He said that there was a mark of identification upon the back of the skull which he said was probably due to some previous injury. He also said that it was impossible from the condition of the lungs to say whether Cecil Brooks had drowned or not. He also said that there were no fractures or dislocations found about the joints and that there were no injuries about the limbs.
The pathologist said that the jaws had no teeth in them although he said that the upper jaw had a socket from which a tooth might have fallen after death, but that if that was so, then that would have been the only tooth that he would have had.
He said that he could not say what the cause of death was. He also said that he could not form any opinion about the time of death.
The pathologist was told that Cecil Brooks had had a meal at about 8.30pm on the Monday evening and was asked if that was consistent with what he had seen, but the pathologist said that when he examined Cecil Brooks's body he found that his stomach was empty. The pathologist noted that Cecil Brooks might have died four hours or more after the meal or that he might have vomited shortly before death.
As the coroner started to sum up it was requested that Cecil Brooks's wife give some evidence that she thought might have satisfied him that there had been foul play, but the coroner denied the request saying, 'Oh no. How can I possibly arrive at that conclusion when the cause of death is absolutely missing? It must be an open verdict'.
When the coroner summed up he said that Cecil Brooks had disappeared when coming to Britain from a steamship at Rotterdam and had last been seen on board at 10pm and was not seen alive again although his luggage had duly arrived. He then stated that Cecil Brooks's body was found about a month later about 100 miles away from the Hook of Holland and was buried but was exhumed at the request of his wife. He then went on to say that, 'When a Coroner is informed that a body lies within his jurisdiction, the cause of death being unknown, or where there are suggestions or reasons to suspect that the death was an unnatural one, a Coroner has no alternative but to hold an inquest, however futile he may think the inquiry may be. In this case I realised that there would be very little hope of such an inquiry furthering any useful end. I anticipated that there would be very advanced decomposition which would remove any of the signs of death. That was what happened. The opening of the coffin was a very terrible ordeal for all concerned. The doctor satisfied himself of the identity of the body and he had satisfied me. The pathologist made an examination in very trying circumstances of the remains, with the result which I anticipated. No cause of death was to be discovered. It is impossible to say what he died from owing to the advanced state of decomposition of the body. That being so, it is useless for me to call any further evidence, and I record a verdict that he was found dead in the sea, and the cause of death was unascertainable.'
When Cecil Brooks's wife was approached by a reporter after the inquest she said, 'I have nothing to say about it now, but a lot to think'.
see Western Morning News - Friday 01 September 1933
see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 01 September 1933
see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 31 August 1933
see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 29 August 1933
see Hull Daily Mail - Thursday 31 August 1933