Rotherwick Castle

ROTHERWICK CASTLE was built in 1959 by Greenock Dockyard Co at Greenock with a tonnage of 9659grt, a length of 519ft 9in, a beam of 66ft 1in and a service speed of 16 knots.

One of two 'R' class reefers, much of her career with British & Commonwealth was managed by the Clan Line's, Cayzer, Irvine & Co. of London.

In 1975 she was sold to Sea Fortune Shipping Co. of Monrovia and renamed Sea Fortune and in 1980 became the Silver Bays owned by Barbridge Shipping Ltd of Liberia.

She was sold again in 1981 to Jersey Shipping Ltd of Panama with Wallem Ship Management as managers and was finally sold in 1983 to Mickle Shipping Ltd of Panama and broken up at Chittagong.

From CNI

My first ship as Second Officer, I always thought I was a bit lucky to get a reasonably new ship just after promotion. The voyage was a 9 month double header.

In the 1960's the wash from Rotherwick Castle overturned an amphicar trying to cross the Straits of Gibraltar.

At the subsequent enquiry the car owner was asked about his observance, or lack thereof, of the Rules of The Road. In his defence he stated that he "flashed his lights" and "tooted his horn".

The Rotherwick Castle was cleared of all blame!

A rather poor day

BUT for a chance encounter, the death of teenage tearaway on a Southampton bound cargo ship may never have been reported.

Stowaway Charlene Van-Waltzleben (correct) remained hidden in a cabin on the voyage from South Africa, and when the ship docked in Southampton, she managed to slip ashore and was given a lift to Basingstoke.

There she met biological consultant James Gaitens who was about to drive home to Sittingbourne in Kent. She said she wanted to visit Canterbury and the pair set off but as the journey progressed, he became increasingly mystified about her retinence to talk.

"She was silent and uncommunicative," he was to say later.

Having reached Sittingbourne, he bought her a train ticket for the cathedral city but he also gave her his phone number if she got lost.

That very evening, she rang him and after picking her up from the station, drove her to his home where over a meal, she dropped a bombshell - that her friend had been killed in the cabin of a young crewman called Stephen Marley who threw her body overboard.

Mr Gaitens contacted the Marley family who also lived in Kent and the teenager together with his parents went to his house and confessed.

"The parents were shocked - we were all shocked. His father told him he could not live with a thing like this on his conscience for the rest of his life."

He then reported the matter to the local police who contacted colleagues in the Hampshire force. They travelled to Kent and brought Marley to Southampton for further questioning.

Police nationwide then assisted in trying to trace the 58 crewmen on the 9,500 ton refrigerated cargo vessel that had berthed in Southampton with a consignment of fruit and meat.

The first the public knew of the extraordinary drama came in a story, headlined 'Girl Missing From Ship,' that dominated the front page of the Echo on September 24, 1973. It disclosed that a young seaman, just 17 was - to use the time honoured expression - helping police with their inquiries at the Civic Centre Police Station.

Within 24 hours of his arrest, Marley appeared before magistrates, charged with the murder of Marie Knox on the high seas. With no application for bail, he was formally remanded in custody, prosecutor Iain Patton explaining further inquiries had to be carried out here and abroad.

It transpired that although she was just 15, Knox - also known as Michelle Kirkwood - and Van-Waltzleben, 16, had racy reputations. Working as sex-for-sale girls, they operated from the Cape Town waterfront, often getting on board for custom.

So, in early September, they slipped on board the Rotherwick Castle with two pals for a party with crewmen. The other two got off before the ship set sail but Knox and Van-Waltzleben decided to stow away.

The pair, colourfully described by prosecutor Roger Titheridge QC at Marley's trial as leading a life of "easy virtue," hid in his cabin.

Knox's exuberance however had tragic consequences.

During a party, she knocked back half a bottle of scotch as well as beer and brandy. Uncontrollably shouting and dancing, she accidentally trampled on a model boat Marley had specifically bought for his mother.

Van-Waltzleben described her friend's last moments at the murder trial which opened at Winchester Crown Court on December 6.

"Steve Marley came into the cabin and told Michelle to be quiet and shut up. She kept on screaming, 'Steve, I love you.' Michelle was lying on the floor. Marley said, 'I am going to kill you.' He took his hand and placed it on the back of her head and placed her head in the pillow wich was also on the floor.

"I was sitting on the settee. Then i saw Steve put a cord of rope and tie it around her neck. Michelle said, I can't breathe.' Steve shouted, 'Die, bitch, die.'

Marley, she said, later told her he had taken her body, dressed only in white pants and a black leather jacket, out of his cabin and dumped it overboard.

She was followed into the witness box by engine room Petty Officer Anthony Turner who said he felt "sick" when he saw Kirk's lifeless body on a bunk. He had tried to open Marley's door, repeatedly knocking on it before he finally opened it.

'Marley the said, 'Don't say anything. I killed her.'"

He admitted he had failed to report the matter because he feared repercussions from the crew. "It has happened to me before," he revealed.

Jurors were to hear of a confession Marley made to police during interview. "I carried her up over my shoulders and just tipped her over the rail. I squeezed her neck once and she shut up. She just flaked out."

Marley, who was of slight build with dark hair and wearing a blue suit, gave his account on the fourth day of the trial. His counsel, Patrick Mayhew QC, had preceded the way, informing the jury of ten men and two women: "If you feel sure he caused her death by the way he did, I shall not dispute he is guilty of manslaughter."

The teenager told the hushed court room his only motive had to been to keep Knox quiet because she was drunk and shouting after the party.

He claimed he had only hit her "only the once" and had put his hands around her neck to make her "flake out" before putting her under the bed where she was covered by a blanket so she could sleep it off.

When he returned at midnight, he found her dead.

Asked by Mr Titheridge why he had not gone for help, he replied: "I just panicked."

Titheridge - "What form of panic did that take?" Marley - "Just taking here outside and throwing her over the side."

Titheridge - "The truth of the matter is that she died because you deliberately killed her." Marley - "No, sir," denying he had said anything comparable to 'Die, bitch, die.'

Titheridge - "You killed the girl in a temper by strangling her, didn't you?" Marley - "No, sir."

Mr Mayhew contended the prosecution had failed to prove he had intended to cause grievous bodily harm and his only intention had been to keep her quiet. He put his hands around her neck and squeezed and she did go quiet. "It was Charlene's impression she was still breathing."

He then submitted: "It was never his intention to hurt the girl seriously or endanger her life, let alone take it."

In his summing up, the judge, Mr Justice Lawson delivered a scathing attack on ethics on board the Rotherwick Castle.

"It is a very tragic case that evokes a certain amount of disgust and a certain amount of shock and horror," referring to a "deplorable lack of morals on the part of a number of persons on that ship."

He commented: "You might think these two young girl prostitutes who did not mind who they had sexual intercourse with or who they went to bed with."

Marley was acquitted of murder and convicted of manslaughter.

jailing him for five years, the judge told him: "You have had the ordeal of having to stand trial on a murder charge. You are a man of excellent character and excellent record, and you come from a good family background. Everyone speaks very highly of you.

"I think there was a great deal of provocation about what had happened that night."

In the early 70s a tragic event involving two stowaways occurred aboard Rotherwick Castle.

The following account is from the news archive of Southern Daily Echo

Union-Castle Home Page
Previous Page Next Page Go to Home Page South American Saint Line Springbok Line Castle line Union Steamship Co Union-Castle Line inc Union Line and Castle Line Scottish Tankers Scottish Shire Line Safmarine Mail Ships Houston Line Hector Whaling Co Clan Line Steamers Cayzer Irvine/CI Shipping Bullard King B & C Home Page Bowater Steamship Co Select Crew Lists King Line Steamship Co