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Police investigating the case of a missing U.K. woman who vanished off her boyfriend’s sailboat in the Caribbean months ago are under fire for failing to obtain a search warrant that might provide crucial evidence.
Sarm Joan Heslop, 41, was last seen aboard her American boyfriend, Ryan Bane’s, catamaran, in March. The vessel, named the “Siren Song,” was moored in Frank Bay, St. John. Heslop was reported missing on March 8.
For months, authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands have repeatedly failed to obtain a search warrant for the catamaran, which may hold vital clues as to Heslop's whereabouts.
Bane, 44, has denied any involvement in Heslop’s disappearance through his legal team. However, he’s refused to give investigators access to his vessel.
According to Bane’s lawyer, the Coast Guard carried out an "on-site inspection of the vessel and an on-sight interview without limitation," however, officials insist they’ve been "denied full access" to the water craft.
It’s unclear exactly, however, why authorities efforts to obtain a seemingly routine search warrant have continually faltered.
Toby Derima, the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department spokesperson, declined to immediately comment on the case or answer Oxygen.com’s questions surrounding warrants for the vessel on Wednesday.
"The Virgin Islands Police Department sought a search warrant for the Siren Song on multiple occasions, but was denied by the courts," Toby Derima, a public information officer for the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department, told Fox News. "Ryan Bane, through his attorney, refused to have any search conducted of the vessel. We will continue to pursue all legal means to obtain a search warrant for the vessel.
Some experts, though, said it’s rare for investigators to take this long to secure search warrants in such cases.
"It may not even center on [Bane]," David Katz, an ex-Drug Enforcement Administration special agent. "She went missing from the boat. I want to search the boat and find out, was there something? Maybe there was someone else on the boat, someone snuck on the boat?"
Other law enforcement experts were adamant that enough probable cause existed to secure warrants.
"She’s missing, and she was on that boat,” Jerry Forrester, a private investigator and former FBI agent, also said. “They’re just not doing their job."
He agreed it was “strange” the courts would deny such a request multiple times.
"If the boat belonged to Joe Blow, or the boyfriend, or even her, but she didn't go missing from the boat, maybe then they wouldn't be able to get a search warrant," Forrester added. "But she went missing, probably, from the boat. There's enough probable cause there to get a search warrant."
Heslop’s parents have also unsuccessfully implored Bane to allow investigators aboard to conduct a thorough forensic sweep of the vessel.
The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice also declined to answer questions surrounding the case on Wednesday.
“AG Denise George must decline to comment on matters pertaining to ongoing police investigations,” Sandra Goomansingh, a spokesperson for the department said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com.
The FBI is also assisting in the missing person’s case.
Bane, who met Heslop on Tinder, has been criticized by friends and loved ones of Heslop for not aiding investigators in the baffling case.
Heslop is described as a “strong,” “vibrant,” and “joyful” woman, according to Missing Person: Sam Heslop, a Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness surrounding the open case. The social media page has attracted several thousand followers in recent months.
Heslop is described as a white woman who is approximately 5 feet and 7 inches tall. The 41-year-old has a tattoo on her left shoulder.
Anyone with information related to the ongoing investigation is encouraged to contact the U.S. Virgin Island police by calling 340-778-2211 or 340-774-2211.
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