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‘Ryan Bane Is Only Person Of Interest In Sarm Heslop’s Disappearance … But Now We Don’t Know Where He Is,’ VIPD Says

CRUZ BAY — Virgin Islands police have admitted to “losing track” of the boyfriend of a missing British woman who is the only person of interest in her disappearance.

Meanwhile, detectives have issued a fresh appeal for Ryan Bane, a St. John skipper, to explain what happened on the night Sarm Heslop disappeared, The Mirror reported.

Heslop, 41, vanished on March 8 from Bane’s boat, which was moored off Frank Bay in St. John.

Siren Song promo pic

Bane, 44, said he had last seen Heslop onboard but would not allow police to search the vessel. 

“We have been keeping track of Ryan Bane but right now we don’t know where he is,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said. “I appeal to him now to contact us. I want to appeal to his conscience, to let us know what happened the night Sarm disappeared.”

Derima added that police believe Bane could lying low on another Caribbean island.

“He is a person of interest to us and he is the only person of interest,” Derima said. “We are not looking for anyone else.”

Pictured: A map showing where the Siren Song was moored in the US Virgin islands when Sarm Heslop, 41, was reported missing on March 8, with Michigan native Ryan Bane, 44, telling officers that she may have fallen from the couple’s catamaran

A friend of Heslop’s said the former flight attendant met her boyfriend “at some point last year” while she was in quarantine having sailed to the Caribbean with two friends in 2019. The couple then locked-down together during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Bane, the couple had dinner together on March 7 at around 10 p.m. before returning to the catamaran where they watched a movie. Bane then claims that he woke up at around 2 a.m. to find his girlfriend missing.

Bane, who owns and skippers the 47-foot-long £500,000 Siren Song, said he was awoken by the boat’s anchor alarm, which sounds when a vessel has moved too far from its mooring, and then discovered his girlfriend was missing.  

The U.S. Coast Guard told local media it was alerted to Heslop’s disappearance at 11.46 a.m.

Bane called the Coast Guard’s San Juan station reporting that “his girlfriend may have fallen” from the yacht. 

The Leopard 4700 luxury catamaran was moored off the coast of St John at the time of Heslop’s disappearance.

In March, lawyers representing Bane said that he is “devastated” that his girlfriend is missing, but said he would not be speaking to the media. 

Police have been unable to find any evidence that Heslop, from Southampton, returned to the boat after the couple were seen leaving dinner at the 420 to Center bar and restaurant on the island of St John at about 10pm on March 7.

Nor did they find any evidence that she had gone into the water. Her phone, passport and other belongings had reportedly been found on the catamaran. 

Bane, who has a conviction for assaulting his ex-wife, was charged with obstructing law agents by refusing to let Coast Guard officials search his boat.

When the officials boarded, Bane was reportedly drunk and stood in a doorway telling them that they could not enter. He was handed a citation, which does not count on his criminal record.

The investigation has been further complicated by a power outage knocking out CCTV in the bar where the couple was last seen. 

Divers from various law enforcement agencies have searched hundreds of square feet of water for Heslop. 

Volunteers from the Virgin Islands have also scoured the area around Cruz Bay during daylight hours, police said.  

“We want more than anything to find out what happened to Sarm and to help her family,” Derima said. 

Friends and family have said Heslop would not have abandoned her life freely or without contacting any of her loved ones. Some have expressed disbelief that she might have fallen overboard. 

Her parents, Peter and Brenda, said in March that they would ‘never give up’ looking for her and still hoped to find her alive. 

Kate Owen, a friend of the couple who moved with Ms Heslop to the Caribbean 15 months ago, reportedly said Bane has stopped contacting her.

In May, Heslop’s friends set up a GoFundMe page to provide a reward for information and to cover her parent’s travel costs to reach the islands.

As of the morning of July 9, it had reached $11,717.17 of its nearly $14,000 goal.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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