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The FBI is joining the search for a missing U.K. woman who disappeared from her boyfriend’s boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands earlier this month.
Sarm Heslop, 41, was last seen March 7 aboard the 47-foot catamaran, Siren Song, after returning to the vessel around 10 p.m. with her American boyfriend, 44-year-old Ryan Bane.
Bane reported her missing to the Virgin Islands Police Department at around 2:30 a.m. the next morning, but police have said he retained an attorney soon after, has stopped answering questions and refused to let local police search the luxury vessel, according to the Evening Standard.
The FBI has now been called in to aid in the search for the missing woman, a development Heslop's friends have eagerly welcomed, according to The Telegraph.
Heslop’s close friend, Andrew Baldwin, has publicly criticized Bane, whom met Heslop through Tinder, for not agreeing to let police search the catamaran.
“If Mr. Bane loves Sarm then why wouldn’t he want to aid in the investigation as much as possible?” Baldwin told the Telegraph. “We welcome reports that the FBI is now assisting with the investigation and would implore the FBI and our U.K. police force to each dedicate an officer to support the USVIPD until we have an outcome, whatever that may be.”
Toby Derima, a spokesman for the Virgin Islands Police, said authorities are doing everything they can to try to determine what happened to the missing woman, including searching other local islands like St. Thomas and continuing to try to gain access to the boat.
“We are doing everything we can to get on the boat,” Derima said, according to The Telegraph. “We have to have an actual reason. Just him being the last person [to see Heslop] isn’t considered enough probable cause. Detectives know what they need to have probable cause. The court isn’t going to give them the warrant they need.”
Heslop’s family and friends, who started the Facebook page “Missing Person: Sarm Heslop,” have also questioned a seemingly nine-hour delay between when Bane reported her missing to police and when he called the U.S. Coast Guard.
While Bane reportedly contacted Virgin Islands police at 2:30 a.m., a spokesperson for the United States Coast Guard District 7 told Oxygen.com in a statement that a call came into the Coast Guard reporting Heslop’s disappearance at 11:46 a.m. on March 8. They also verified that Coast Guard officials had been on the boat following Bane's call—although the extent of any search that may have occurred is not clear.
“As part of the search and rescue effort, the Coast Guard went aboard the vessel to interview and gather information from the reporting source. Later, the Coast Guard returned to the vessel to conduct a standard vessel safety check to ensure proper equipment and compliance with applicable rules and regulations for vessel type and operation,” the statement said.
Bane’s attorney, David Cattie, told Fox News that Bane traveled to meet with Virgin Islands Police to give them a statement the morning Heslop disappeared and that “multiple USCG officers” boarded the boat and “conducted a search of the vessel for Ms. Heslop later that morning.”
“Ryan’s thoughts are with Sarm and her family at this time, and he is praying for her safe return,” Cattie said, according to The Telegraph.
Heslop is described as a Caucasian female, approximately 5’8” tall, with an athletic build and long, dark brown hair, according to the website FindSarm.com. She has a large, colorful tattoo of a seahorse, butterfly and flower on her shoulder.
Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to contact authorities.
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