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IT’S been a year since Brit Sarm Heslop was reported missing in the Caribbean – and her parents are still desperately searching for answers.
Sarm Heslop went missing from her boyfriend Ryan Bane’s boat a year agoCredit: Reuters
She was last seen with Ryan – and it was him who reported her missingCredit: Facebook.
The former flight attendant, who is now 42, had been staying and working with Ryan, a US citizen, on the catamaran.
The boat has never been searched and Ryan has not been questioned by police.
Yesterday it emerged Sarm’s parents, Peter Heslop and Brenda Street, have now flown out to the island in the hope of piecing together the last known movements of their daughter.
And friends and family of Sarm are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information.
They said: “We are a whole year on from learning of her disappearance and yet we still only have the same handful of facts about what happened that night.”
Here we examine the unanswered questions about Sarm’s case.
Why did Ryan wait 9 hours to alert coastguard?
At 2.30am, Virgin Islands police received a call from Ryan, telling them he’d been woken up by the sound of his boat’s anchor alarm, which is triggered when the vessel drifts.
He told them that Sarm wasn’t anywhere on board, but that her passport, wallet and mobile phone were still there.
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He was instructed by the police to alert the US Coast Guard immediately, while they initiated a missing persons search – but he didn’t call them until 11.46am.
Once they had been notified – nine hours later – the US Coast Guard searched the water around and out to sea from Siren Song, as well as the nearby islands.
Police and local volunteers conducted a land search using dogs and drones, which continued throughout the day until police confirmed that they had checked everywhere on the 20-square-mile island. There was no sign of Sarm.
Why did police never search the boat?
The boat was never searched by police
The afternoon that Sarm was reported missing, the police and coastguard arrived to search the vessel.
But Ryan prevented them from conducting a full forensic search and wouldn’t answer any questions, on the advice of his lawyer.
Local police were powerless to force a search of the boat, because they needed reasonable grounds to request a warrant and question Ryan further, and the case was still classed as a missing persons investigation.
The US Coast Guard has since charged him with obstructing agents who boarded the vessel, claiming he blocked a door and said they could not go inside.
Was Sarm even on the boat?
It’s unclear as to whether Sarm was ever actually on the boatCredit: MissingSarmHeslop/Facebook
Sarm is known to have gone for dinner with Ryan on Sunday, March 7, in St John, and it was understood she had returned to the yacht and gone to bed.
Her possessions, including her bank cards and mobile phone, were still onboard when she vanished.
But police said they were unsure if Sam was ever actually onboard the boat on the night she disappeared.
Virgin Islands Police Department said: “Investigators cannot confirm with certainty, if and when Ms Heslop boarded the Siren Song on March 7.”
Did the sea drag her in?
Divers performed an analysis of sea currents to try to determine where they could have dragged Sarm if she had gone into the water.
A coastguard helicopter joined the search, with a police spokesperson confirming that conditions were near perfect as far as visibility and sea state, but there were no signs of anyone in the water.
Meanwhile, other boats in Frank Bay were canvassed to see if they had any information.
But none of the skippers reported anything unusual or any sightings of Sarm.
Why won’t Ryan talk to police?
Ryan has never spoken to the police – and never let them search the boatCredit: Facebook
Ryan, the last person to have seen Sarm, has declined detectives’ request for an interview, according to Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).
Sarm’s friends said: “We have been so grateful to Hampshire police for assisting the VIPD with the investigation but we are absolutely gutted that they are now not accompanying Sarm’s parents.
“We feel that the US Virgin Islands and UK authorities could still do a lot more to support the investigation.”
They added: “The investigation has stalled and no one seems willing to push harder for Sarm. She is a UK citizen and she is missing. She deserves more.”
Under US law, Ryan is entitled to remain silent and police would need to show “probable cause” to get a search warrant.
Where is Ryan now?
Ryan was last seen in November on the boat that he’s renamed and put up for saleCredit: BackGrid
In March last year, responding to reports in the media that he had sailed away from the area, VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said: “To the knowledge of investigators, Mr Bane remains in the Territory.”
He added: “His whereabouts are known by law enforcement.”
Since then, Ryan has remained silent, presumably on the advice of his legal advisors.
But in November, he was tracked down in Grenada’s Le Phare Bleu Marina, and “didn’t seem to have a care in the world”.
The idyllic spot is 500 miles south of the US Virgin Islands where Sarm vanished after they spent a night ashore together.
While Sarm’s friends and family are consumed by worry, and have a Facebook page, Missing Person: Sarm Heslop, to help find their loved one, wealthy Ryan spends hours enjoying the sun.
According to the Sunday Mirror, he’s been seen trading occasional friendly words with female passers-by and meticulously cleaning his boat – the same vessel on which Sarm was last seen.
Ryan – who has a past conviction for domestic violence against his ex-wife Cori Stevenson – is said to be keeping fit by running up a steep hill every morning.
It costs £50 a night to moor a boat like Ryan’s at the marina in the former British colony and he is said to have asked for his name be kept off the marina’s ledger.
“He eats breakfast and lunch and drinks a club soda or fruit juice, not alcohol. But he is enjoying the good life for sure – it’s a playboy lifestyle.
“This place is paradise. He has never mentioned Sarm. No one here has any idea about that.”
Has Ryan sold the boat?
In November, it emerged Ryan had put the boat, Siren Song, up for sale for $229,000 (£174,000).
He’d also removed its name, and changed it to Orion’s Belt.
It is not known if the yacht has yet been sold to new owners.
Friends and family of Sarm continue to search for answers