William Sinclair Manson

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Scottish Mysteries. / Writings · 24 June 2022

Scottish Mysteries. (Mull)

The Great Mull Plane Mystery

There is very little that makes sense about the disappearance and death of Peter Gibb. On Christmas Eve 1975, just after he’d finished dinner and a bottle of claret in a hotel on the Isle of Mull, the former Royal Air Force flying ace announced he was going out for a flight in his Cessna plane. The staff and hotel guests suggested that it wasn’t such a good idea, to which he responded “I am not asking permission, I just thought it was courtesy to let you know. I don’t want a fuss.”

He left with his dining companion Felicity Granger, a former university lecturer. She later reported that Gibb had given her instructions to stand at one end of the runway with torches to guide his takeoff. Multiple witnesses claim two torches moved independently in ways that would require another person to be helping, though Granger claimed there was only her. Gibb took off, and shortly thereafter, a sleet storm rained down that would last for 72 hours. Gibb didn’t come back.

While his motives were baffling enough, the real mystery began four months later, when Gibb’s body was found on a nearby hillside. A pathologist ruled that he had died of exposure. There was a cut in Gibb’s leg but no other injuries. Tests also concluded that neither his body nor his clothes had been in contact with the sea, so he had definitely exited the plane on land, but no one could find the plane. Mull is not a large island—about the same land area as Dallas—so the disappearance of the craft was quite troubling. A light aircraft matching the description was found in 1986 in the sea between Mull and the mainland, but the doors were locked, and the plane had apparently crashed extremely hard. The wings were a significant distance away from the rest of the fuselage. It suggested the sort of impact that a person wouldn’t get out of without serious injury.

Two explanations have been suggested, neither of which sound likely. The first is that Gibb leaped from his plane while it was in midair above the hill. He landed on the hill without suffering anything worse than a cut leg, then lay down and died in the cold. The problem with that explanation is that the aircraft would have been left to fly itself into the sea while the doors somehow locked themselves. The other theory is that Gibb was working for MI5 and had to attend to an urgent mission in Northern Ireland. He was captured by terrorists, somehow killed without being injured in any way, and his body was planted back on Mull. The light aircraft found in the sea is left out of that theory. Then again, it doesn’t make much less sense than the alternative.

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