The family and friends of Sarm Heslop, a 41-year-old from Southampton in Hampshire who disappeared from a boat anchored in the U.S. Virgin Islands nearly two weeks ago, are pushing for authorities to conduct a new search the 47-foot catamaran.
The request comes after it was revealed that her American boyfriend, Ryan Bane, has acquired a lawyer and was not answering questions or making the boat available to investigators.
“Given that they lived on the boat, and that she’s gone missing on the boat, that’s a natural place for the police to search, and I just don’t understand why Ryan won’t allow that to happen to find Sarm. I don’t get it,” Andrew Baldwin, a close friend of Heslop’s, told Fox News on Saturday. “That’s the frustration more than anything else.”
Heslop’s family said they “would like assurance” that authorities “are doing everything possible to find her,” including “a comprehensive fingertip search of the boat.”
Bane and Heslop returned to the boat after dinner around 10 p.m. March 7. Bane discovered she was missing around 2:30 a.m. March 8, then called Police and “travelled to meet members of the VIPD to give a statement regarding Sarm,” according to his lawyer, David Cattie.
Baldwin noted that it was unclear if the Coast Guard just “looked around the boat” or did a full “fingertip police investigation.”
A Coast Guard spokesman issued the following statement, confirming that Coast Guard personnel did board the vessel:
“On March 8, the Coast Guard received a report of a possible person in the water from the sailing vessel Siren Song,” says the statement from Lt. Cmdr. Jason Neiman, public affairs officer of the Seventh Coast Guard District.
“As part of the search and rescue effort, the Coast Guard went aboard the vessel to interview and gather information from the reporting source. Later, the Coast Guard returned to the vessel to conduct a standard vessel safety check to ensure proper equipment and compliance with applicable rules and regulations for vessel type and operation.
“After an extensive search, no sign of distress reported by aviation or marine units, no response to the urgent marine information broadcast, and no additional or correlating information to support further surface search efforts, the Coast Guard suspended the active search.”
The VIPD now says that Bane is not answering questions and will not allow authorities to search the boat.
“Soon after reporting Ms. Heslop missing, Mr. Bane acquired the services of an attorney,” a VIPD spokesperson said Friday. “Upon his attorney’s advice, Mr. Bane exercised his constitutional right to remain silent and denied officers’ requests to search the vessel.”
Bane turned Heslop’s belongings, including her phone and passport, over to the Coast Guard.
“We have heard that Sarm’s phone, passport and all belongings were left on the boat, where she was living with Mr. Bane,” Baldwin said Saturday. “She would not just disappear, leaving no trace. She is savvy and sensible, it’s not like her at all, it just doesn’t add up.”
The boat was anchored in Frank Bay roughly 50 yards offshore at the time of Heslop’s disappearance.
Drone footage of the boat shows it in relatively shallow water, which Baldwin said was approximately 11 feet.
Baldwin also noted that Heslop was used to boats, having ventured across the Atlantic Ocean in January of 2020 and sailing around the Caribbean for six months.
The VIPD is continuing the search for Heslop as time closes in on two weeks since her disappearance.
“VIPD continues efforts to locate Ms. Heslop, conducting multiple searches daily, speaking to potential witnesses, and combing through hours of surveillance video,” the department said Friday.