Sarm Heslop missing: FBI investigating disappearance of British woman

Authorities have not declared a criminal investigation in the search

Justin Vallejo
New York
Wednesday 24 March 2021 18:16
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has joined the search for Sarm Heslop after the British woman vanished from her boyfriend’s yacht in the US Virgin Islands two weeks ago.

Ms Heslop was last seen having dinner with partner Ryan Bane at a restaurant on Saint John island before disappearing in the middle of the night. Mr Bane told police that he had woken up to find his girlfriend gone, at around 2am, and called them half an hour later.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s San Juan field office confirmed to The Independent they are supporting local law enforcement in the investigation, which is being led by the US Virgin Islands Police Department.

FBI agents are reportedly interviewing workers at the restaurant, the 420 to Centre diner and bar in Cruz Bay, according to an anonymous staff member quoted by The Sun.

“The couple were here. But I can’t say anything yet because the FBI want to interview me,” the staff member said.

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The involvement of US investigators comes after Ms Heslop’s family published a statement to the Facebook group “Missing Person: Sam Heslop”, asking for assurances authorities in the US Virgin Islands “are doing everything possible to find her”.

The 41-year-old Southampton woman disappeared from the 47ft catamaran Siren Song, moored off the coast of Saint John, in the early hours of 7 March. Mr Bane, 44, had reportedly met Ms Heslop on Tinder last summer.

Mr Bane was reportedly seen staying on the yacht with his dog Hunter as the search continues, with one of his friends in the US Virgin Islands telling The Sun he’s “scared” and “spun out” about the situation.

“I have spoken to Ryan and told him he should make a statement and be as cooperative as possible,” the outlet quoted the friend.

“I don’t see why the police shouldn’t search the boat,” he added. “His concern is that he believes the VI Police Department will not conduct the investigation with clarity.

“He is concerned if something is spun the wrong way that they are going to be looking for something to implicate him as opposed to the other way around.”

Virgin Islands Police Department performed an “initial land search” while divers searched the local waters. But Mr Bane has so far denied police access to the yacht where she was last seen alive, according to police.

“Soon after reporting Ms Heslop missing, Mr Bane acquired the services of an attorney,” said police spokesman Toby Derima.

“Upon his attorney’s advice, Mr Bane exercised his constitutional right to remain silent and denied officers’ requests to search the vessel.”

Authorities have not yet declared a criminal investigation.

Ms Heslop was reportedly last seen with Mr Bane having dinner before returning to the boat at about 10 pm. Mr Bane called the police around 2.30 am on 8 March to report her missing, while her personal belongings were said to have been left aboard.

Ms Heslop’s close friend, Andrew Baldwin, published a statement to the Facebook group saying “the timeline doesn’t make sense”.

“We know that Mr Bane called the local police at 2.30 am and was told to call the Coastguard. The Coastguard was reported as saying that it was alerted to her disappearance by Mr Bane at 11.46 am on Monday. This timeline just does not make sense to us,” he wrote.

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