HOPES FADING FAST! Expectations That Sarm Heslop Will Be Found Alive Are Not Great
CRUZ BAY — The three-ring circus that is the investigation into the disappearance of a British woman got a little more clown-toy-car freakish when the commissioner admitted that police themselves did not contact the Coast Guard when they first found out that Sarm Heslop had vanished on March 8.
Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor admitted to the London Times that his officers did not contact the U.S. Coast Guard when they learned at 2:30 a.m. March 8 that Heslop was no longer aboard Ryan Bane’s 47-foot yacht Siren Song. Instead, police officers “instructed” Bane to call the USCG himself.
“Absolutely, it’s concerning that the Coast Guard wasn’t contacted immediately,” Velinor allowed.
The official police lapse means more than nine crucial hours ticked off the clock once authorities knew Heslop was missing. Bane did not bring it upon himself to call the Coast Guard to report his girlfriend’s disappearance until 11:46 a.m. on March 8.
Criminal justice experts tell the Virgin Islands Free Press that as each hour passes, the likelihood that a missing person will be found decreases. That’s why the first 48 hours of an investigation are the most critical. It’s not necessary to wait 24 to 48 hours before filing a report.
In breaking news today, the Coast Guard apparently issued Bane a nautical citation — a record of an alleged violation — for refusing to allow law enforcement aboard to search his entire boat on March 8, the London Times reported.
“The operator denied access to the interior and was cited for obstruction of a boarding, in addition to other safety citations that have not been adjudicated,” the Coast Guard said.
Other violations the Michigan man was cited for include failure to provide a certificate of documentation for the vessel and safety equipment issues, noting that citations are written notices of non-compliance do not count towards one’s criminal record.
Despite Bane’s refusal, Coast Guard officers boarded the Siren Song as he stood blocking a doorway and told them they could not investigate interior staterooms on the boat, the newspaper reported.
Virgin Islands Police Department spokesman Toby Derima admitted to the Detroit News that detectives are seeking a warrant to search 44-year-old Bane’s $685,000 catamaran — but even if local authorities obtain the warrant, the Lake Orion, Michigan native left the territory on his yacht under cover of night on March 24 after it was moored in Frank Bay for weeks.
“We’re working on it,” Derima said. “We would like to speak to (Bane). We would like to search his boat.”
Derima said Bane has not spoken to police since March 8, saying the former auto parts salesman “exercised his constitutional rights” and also refused to allow police onto the craft.
It is now 23 days since 41-year-old Sarm Joan Lillian Heslop of Southampton, U.K. was first reported missing and the VIPD told The (London) Daily Mail that it has expanded its search for the former flight attendant to include “uninhabited islands and coves” of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Officers have also shifted their focus further inland, suggesting they no longer expect to find Heslop’s remains washed up at the water’s edge.
“At this point the possibility of finding a body washed up on shore is considered highly unlikely. That window of possibility is gone,” said a well-placed source told The Daily Mail.
Meanwhile, Velinor expressed confidence that Bane had not strayed far from the territory.
“We know where the Siren Song is located, and so we assume that where the Siren Song is, he’s also located in that area,” Velinor told Fox News.
The police commissioner said the boat remained located within his department’s jurisdiction but declined to specify exactly where or how he knew that. And he said he could not comment on reports that the FBI had launched a search of its own for Bane.