Friend of missing Sarm Heslop says he ‘finds it incredibly difficult to believe’ she fell from yacht

The friend of a British woman who went missing in the US Virgin Islands has questioned her boyfriend’s claim she might have fallen overboard.

Sarm Heslop, 41, was reported missing on March 8, with American Ryan Bane, 44, telling local officers that she may have fallen from the couple’s catamaran. 

However, her best friend Andrew Baldwin has questioned Bane’s suggestion that her falling overboard was one explanation for her disappearance, while appealing for more information about her whereabouts.

Questions have also been raised over Bane’s delayed response after finding Sarm was missing. 

‘I find it incredibly difficult to say that she fell from a catamaran that was moored about 100 feet away from shore in shallow water while the boat was anchored,’ he said on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.  

He also repeated calls for a full investigation by local officials into her disappearance calling on officials to search the yacht, saying: ‘We’re really looking for a full and thorough investigation and for the search for Sarm to continue.’

Virgin Islands Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor defended the police’s investigation, but said officials ‘do have some concerns regarding the details thus far,’ in relation to Sarm’s disappearance.

Another possibility being investigated by police is that she could have have abandoned St John’s for the neighbouring island of St Thomas, with police expanding their search.

Sarm Heslop (pictured) was last seen on a catamaran in the US Virgin Islands on Sunday

Sarm Heslop (pictured) was last seen on a catamaran in the US Virgin Islands on Sunday

Her best friend Andrew Baldwin (pictured right, speaking to Fox News) has questioned her boyfriend's account while appealing for more information about her disappearance

Her best friend Andrew Baldwin (pictured right, speaking to Fox News) has questioned her boyfriend's account while appealing for more information about her disappearance

Sarm Heslop (pictured left) was last seen on a catamaran in the US Virgin Islands on Sunday. Her best friend Andrew Baldwin (pictured right, speaking to Fox News) has questioned her boyfriend’s account while appealing for more information about her disappearance

Baldwin said Heslop 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 10pm before returning to the catamaran where they watched movie. Bane then claims that he woke up at around 2am to find his girlfriend missing.

Mr Bane, who owns and skippers the 47ft £500,000 Siren Song, said he was awoken by the sound of the boat’s anchor alarm, which sounds when a vessel has moved too far from its mooring, before discovering his girlfriend was missing. 

The US Coast Guard told local media it was alerted to Ms Heslop’s disappearance at 11.46am. 

Fox News played a clip of anchor Nancy Grace questioning this version of events, where she also questioned why it took Bane until almost noon on March 8 to report her missing. ‘I’m curious why it took 10 hours to alert anyone,’ Grace said.

‘We hear that Sarm’s phone, passport and belongings were left on the boat and they were only handed in and I believe it was yesterday,’ Baldwin added, saying that he and others in the UK have been in touch with the  Governor in the Virgin Islands, Albert Bryan, as well as foreign office officials in the UK.

He also questioned the police investigation, noting that the boat has yet to be searched by officials, despite Sarm disappearing over a week ago.

‘We understand that currently the boat has not even been searched by the police,’ he said. ‘It’s now eight days since Sarm disappeared. Eight days in, they could have found anything on the boat.

‘So we’re not sure what’s going on there. So we’d like to understand if the boat had been searched, and we’d also appeal to Ryan to provide any support to the police, in any possible way to give as many details as possible about what happened that night, and to aid the investigation.’

Ryan Bane, 44, who owns and skippers the 47ft Siren Song, said he was awoken by the sound of the boat's anchor alarm before realising his girlfriend was no longer onboard

Ryan Bane, 44, who owns and skippers the 47ft Siren Song, said he was awoken by the sound of the boat's anchor alarm before realising his girlfriend was no longer onboard

Ryan Bane, 44, who owns and skippers the 47ft Siren Song, said he was awoken by the sound of the boat’s anchor alarm before realising his girlfriend was no longer onboard

Pictured: The 47ft £500,000 Siren Song catamaran owned by American Ryan Bane, from which his girlfriend Sarm Heslop is believed to have gone missing

Pictured: The 47ft £500,000 Siren Song catamaran owned by American Ryan Bane, from which his girlfriend Sarm Heslop is believed to have gone missing

Pictured: The 47ft £500,000 Siren Song catamaran owned by American Ryan Bane, from which his girlfriend Sarm Heslop is believed to have gone missing

He did add that those in the UK pushing for a more thorough investigation believe that efforts have increased over the last few days, ‘but we’d just urge them to treat this with the utmost immediacy and severity to help find our friend.’

A spokesman for the USVI police department told The Daily Telegraph: ‘We have not been able to search the boat yet and will do this in due course. It is something that will be done eventually.’  

Lawyers representing Mr Bane said that he is ‘devastated’ that his girlfriend is missing, but said he would not be speaking to the media.

‘Mr. Bane will not be sitting for any interviews. Mr Bane’s only hope is that Sarm is found alive and well. His thoughts and prayers are with Sarm and her family during this difficult time,’ a statement from his lawyers said.

‘Mr. Bane has spent countless hours searching for Sarm and will continue to do so. Ryan is devastated that Sarm is missing.’ 

Baldwin’s appeal for information comes as police searching for the missing 41-year-old from Southampton continue to scour land and water off the island of St John, where the yacht was moored. 

Now, police fear that she may have abandoned St John’s for the neighbouring island of St Thomas. 

'I find it incredibly difficult to say that she fell from a catamaran that was moored about 100 feet away from shore in shallow water while the boat was anchored,' Andrew Baldwin said on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday (pictured)

'I find it incredibly difficult to say that she fell from a catamaran that was moored about 100 feet away from shore in shallow water while the boat was anchored,' Andrew Baldwin said on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday (pictured)

‘I find it incredibly difficult to say that she fell from a catamaran that was moored about 100 feet away from shore in shallow water while the boat was anchored,’ Andrew Baldwin said on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday (pictured)

A police spokesman said that they are conducting searches and inspections in the area where she was reported missing in St Johns. 

‘The police are concentrating on the whole area. They are putting a lot of resources in to help find the missing Briton,’ said Toby Derima from the USVI police department. 

Derima said that Police have checked almost everywhere on the tiny 20 square mile island of St John which is the smallest of the three American Virgin Islands and did not find any record of her leaving the island. 

Follow-up enquiries suggested that she may have left the island via alternative means without checks being made.  

‘We are looking into the possibility that she could have left the island to go to another island on the USVI namely St Thomas. 

There have been sightings of her. She was sighted on Thursday but when officers went to check on the sighting she was nowhere to be seen,’ Derima added.  

Divers searching for the missing 41-year-old from Southampton (pictured) have been scouring the waters off the island of St John where the yacht was moored

Divers searching for the missing 41-year-old from Southampton (pictured) have been scouring the waters off the island of St John where the yacht was moored

The police search operation in the US Virgin Islands

The police search operation in the US Virgin Islands

Police and volunteers searching for the missing 41-year-old from Southampton (left) have been scouring the waters (right) off the island of St John where the yacht was moored

‘The police are working on this case vigorously – Officers are working hard to get to the bottom of this’ 

A friend of Mr Bane’s said the American was ‘beside himself with grief’ and ‘totally distraught’.

They said: ‘He is beside himself with grief and worry. He is heartbroken. I know from what he’s said that Ryan and Sarm were very much in love.’ 

They added: ‘Ryan said his anchor alarm went off. He woke and found Sarm wasn’t in bed. He got up and went around the boat but there was no sign of her.’

Following Ms Heslop’s disappearance, the 41-year-old’s friends have been left ‘devastated’ and had previously urged the authorities to make the search for her ‘a critical priority’.  

‘Her friends here at home are devastated and just need her disappearance to be made a critical priority,’ a friend in the UK said.  

The friend said they were told that Heslop’s phone, passport and belongings had all been left behind on the yacht. Another small boat used to ferry people to-and-from shore was also still attached to the larger yacht.

‘She would not just disappear, leaving no trace,’ they said. 

The friend added: ‘We would like to thank all the local community for their support in searching for Sarm both on water and land. 

‘They have been so amazing but we urge them not to give up until she is found or we have more information.’ 

Ms Heslop is described as a slim 41-year-old woman with a southern English accent and a tattoo on her left shoulder.  

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 American Ryan Bane, 44, telling officers that she may have fallen from the couple's catamaran

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 American Ryan Bane, 44, telling officers that she may have fallen from the couple's catamaran

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 American Ryan Bane, 44, telling officers that she may have fallen from the couple’s catamaran

She was last seen on board on Sunday before her boyfriend 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, the third-largest of the US Virgin Islands. 

‘Heslop was last seen on March 7 aboard the vessel Siren Song, that was moored off the coast of St John,’ Virgin Islands police spokesman Toby Derima said. 

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.  

‘Unfortunately, this effort proved unsuccessful,’ said Derima who added that the search will continue.

An island source in St John where the boat was last seen said that they are very concerned about her welfare.

‘An Englishwoman has gone missing on our island and we are appealing for help in trying to locate her, ‘they said.  

‘Every day that goes by and we don’t have any news about her is a major concern for us. We need to locate her as soon as possible.’

Link hienalouca.com

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