A British woman vanished in the Virgin Islands two years ago. Her mother is in ‘hell on earth’ trying to get answers

Exclusive: Brenda Street tells Bevan Hurley that the lack of help from authorities in finding her daughter had been frustrating and upsetting: “It's like they just want us to go away.”

Wednesday 08 March 2023 19:03 GMT
Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street. Heslop has been missing for two years after disappearing from her boyfriend’s boat in the US Virgin Islands
Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street. Heslop has been missing for two years after disappearing from her boyfriend’s boat in the US Virgin Islands (Courtesy of Heslop family)

The mother of missing British woman Sarm Heslop says the last two years have been “absolute hell on earth” as she admits she has all but given up hope of finding her daughter alive.

Brenda Street told The Independent that she was frustrated and upset at the lack of help from US Virgin Island authorities since her daughter vanished from her boyfriend Ryan Bane’s 47-foot luxury catamaran Siren Song on 8 March 2021.

“It’s like they just want us to go away,” Ms Street said.

Ms Heslop, a 41-year-old former flight attendant, was last seen aboard Mr Bane’s boat, where she had been working as a chef as it was hired for $2,000 a day charters around the Caribbean.

According to authorities, the couple of eight months had been out for dinner at the bar 420 to Center on St John before returning to the catamaran late that night.

Mr Bane would later say that they had watched some Netflix and fallen asleep. He called 911 at about 2.35am the next morning, told police that he had been woken by the anchor alarm and went to investigate and realised that she was missing.

Ms Heslop’s wallet, passport and phone had been left on board, and he said that he thought she might have fallen overboard.

Ms Street said she received a text from Mr Bane that morning to alert her to her daughter’s disappearance, and spoke to him on a WhatsApp video call.

Sarm Heslop went missing from the Siren Song catamaran on 8 March 2021
Sarm Heslop went missing from the Siren Song catamaran on 8 March 2021 (PA Media)

She told The Independent that she had been blocked from messaging Mr Bane in the week afterwards, and has had no contact with him since then.

Right from the start, there were “troubling inconsistencies” about the circumstances of her daughter’s disappearance, Ms Street said.

She was a very strong swimmer and would have likely survived falling into the placid water around St John, her mother said.

US Virgin Islands Police had also made several key errors during the investigation, Ms Street added.

Officers had conducted a search of the area, but failed to board the Siren Song, a fact that Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor later admitted in an interview with NBC Dateline had been a mistake.

Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street. Heslop has been missing for two years after disappearing from her boyfriend’s boat in the US Virgin Islands
Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street. Heslop has been missing for two years after disappearing from her boyfriend’s boat in the US Virgin Islands (Courtesy of Heslop family)

On Tuesday, Ms Heslop’s friends who continue to tirelessly pursue the case revealed that a call Mr Bane made to the US Coastguard about nine hours after his girlfriend vanished was not recorded “due to a fault in the system”.

The Coastguard also conducted a large sweep of the area on land and sea, but found no trace of Ms Heslop.

The family believe a tape of the missing 911 call could have yielded further clues about the disappearance.

“Another piece of vital evidence that could have helped unlock this investigation is missing,” Ms Street said in a statement.

Last March, Ms Street visited the beach where her daughter was last seen alive and was shown CCTV of Ms Heslop returning to the boat on the night she died.

She was told that CCTV footage hadn’t been working in the area of St John where the couple had dinner due to a power outage.

Sarm Heslop’s mother says the family have all but given up hope that she will be found alive
Sarm Heslop’s mother says the family have all but given up hope that she will be found alive (Courtesy of Heslop family )

“We were shown some CCTV footage allegedly showing Sarm and Ryan walking back to their dinghy but it was turned off before I could see them step onto the boat,” Ms Street said in a statement to mark the two year anniversary.

Ms Street said the family’s contact with the Virgin Island Police Department had all but ceased, and their questions about the investigation went unanswered.

Ms Street and her daughter’s friends have long called for the FBI and British law enforcement to join the investigation, but say those requests have been denied by authorities on the island.

She had been left heartbroken, and unsure whether she should be grieving her missing daughter.

Her friends and family have set up a GoFundme page to cover a  $5,000 to $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, and travel expenses for her parents to travel to the US Virgin Islands.

The island nation’s law enforcement officials came under renewed scrutiny after the mysterious death of former US swimming champion Jamie Cail last month.

Ms Cail died suddenly on 21 February at the home she shared with her boyfriend on St John.

The 42-year-old former Pan Pacific Championships gold medalist was found unresponsive and rushed to a medical clinic, where she was pronounced dead. The death is under investigation.

“It is absolutely devastating to read about Jamie Cail and our thoughts go out to her friends and family, now suffering similar frustrations trying to find answers and justice for their loved one through the VIPD’s insensitive and insufficient resources,” friends of Ms Heslop said in a statement.

Sarm Heslop has a distinctive tattoo on her left shoulder featuring a seahorse, bird, butterfly and a pink flower.
Sarm Heslop has a distinctive tattoo on her left shoulder featuring a seahorse, bird, butterfly and a pink flower. (Courtesy of Heslop family)

In the days after Ms Heslop’s disappearance, Mr Bane reportedly hired an attorney and declined to be interviewed, according to Virgin Islands Police.

He sailed off in the days after the disappearance, and has been spotted in Caribbean islands. He has since been described as a “person of interest” by Virgin Island authorities, who are still treating the case as a missing persons investigation. Mr Bane has denied any wrongdoing.

In August 2021, a US Virgin Islands Police spokesperson told Fox News that they had been denied a search warrant for the Siren Song several times after Mr Bane objected to the request.

Mr Bane’s attorney David Cattie and Virgin Islands police did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Independent.

To mark the second anniversary, Ms Street said she would be gathering for a meal in the English city of Southampton with her father Peter Heslop and friends “to reflect on the life of my beautiful daughter”. 

Sarm is described as a 5‘8 Caucasian female of slim build. She has a bright coloured tattoo on her left shoulder featuring a seahorse, bird, butterfly and a pink flower.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-TIPS.

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