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.
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.”
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.