Family of Sarm Heslop upset they cannot travel to US Virgin Islands

Missing British woman Sarm Heslop’s family’s misery at being unable to travel to US Virgin Islands to help search for the 41-year-old

  • Sarm Heslop went missing from a catamaran on March 8 in the US Virgin Islands
  • Her family in the UK say they are concerned but cannot travel to help the search
  • Hampshire police in England said they are assisting with the investigation
  • Sarm’s boyfriend Ryan Bane claims she vanished without a trace from his boat

The family and friends of missing British woman Sarm Heslop say they are devastated they cannot travel to the US Virgin Islands to help with her search.

The 41-year-old from Southampton, Hampshire, went missing from a catamaran more than three weeks ago from the Siren Song, a vessel owned and operated by her US boyfriend Ryan Bane. 

Her family say they are becoming increasingly concerned for her and have expressed their gratitude for those helping the search.

They said: ‘It is now over three weeks since Sarm went missing, 25 days in which we get more and more concerned as we wait for news.

‘We know that the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) is doing as much as possible and we are pleased that Hampshire police is also assisting their investigation.

‘We want to say a heartfelt thank you to the local community for continuing their efforts to help search for Sarm.

‘If we could travel then we would; we just want to be on the island helping with the search and we dream of being able to wrap our arms round our darling daughter.’

The family and friends of missing British woman Sarm Heslop say they are devastated they cannot travel to the US Virgin Islands to help with her search 

Heslop, from Southampton, England, met boyfriend Ryan Bane on Tinder eight months ago. She disappeared from Siren Song, which was moored 120ft from Frank Bay on the extreme western end of St. John on March 8. The couple are pictured together 

One of Sarm’s best friends, who did not wish to be named, added: ‘We want to know what happened after Sarm left the restaurant in Cruz Bay.

‘As a friends group, we are doing everything we can to help support her parents and each other. 

‘No matter how insignificant something may seem, the tiniest detail may be relevant so we would encourage people to come forward and speak to VIPD immediately.’

It comes as it was announced British police will be assisting in the investigation into her disappearance. 

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘Hampshire Constabulary is providing operational support in the UK to assist a US Virgin Islands Police Department investigation.

Police searching for Sarm Heslop have narrowed their search to a series of uninhabited islands and coves, can reveal. The areas being searched include Steven Cay, Salomon Beach and Watermelon Cay

‘This assistance is being facilitated through the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Hampshire Constabulary cannot comment further on another force’s investigation.’

Police on Wednesday said they had narrowed their search to a series of uninhabited islands and coves, can reveal.

Officers have also shifted their focus further inland, suggesting they no longer expect to find Sarm washed up at the water’s edge.

‘At this point the possibility of finding a body washed up on shore is considered highly unlikely. That window of possibility is gone,’ said a well-placed source.

The areas being searched include Steven Cay, a scrub-covered, rocky island about half a mile west of St. John, where Sarm was living with boyfriend on his catamaran before she vanished March 8.

Nobody lives on the low-lying strip of land but it’s a popular tourist destination for scuba diving, kayaking and snorkeling.

Sarm Heslop, right, is pictured with her best friend Kate Owen. The pair moved to the Caribbean together 15 months ago

Cops are also searching the north side of St. John, from Salomon Beach to Watermelon Cay, another tiny island, both of which can only be reached via a small boat or by hiking through the Virgin Islands National Park.

It was revealed this week that Bane was charged with obstructing law enforcement agents who boarded his yacht hours after his girlfriend vanished.

He was handed a citation – not a criminal record – for refusing to allow the US Coast Guard onto his yacht on the afternoon of March 8.

Meanwhile the couple’s friend, Kate Owen, who moved with Ms Heslop to the Caribbean 15 months ago, reportedly said she does not understand why Mr Bane is refusing to cooperate with detectives. 

Mr Bane told investigators he and Ms Heslop had drinks in Frank’s Bay, St John, before returning to his catamaran on the night of March 7 and he awoke in the early hours to find her gone.

But while a marine search was ongoing for Ms Heslop, Mr Bane told officers they could not come inside his 46ft catamaran.

Bane’s 46ft yacht Siren Song. He is said to have sailed off in the vessel last Thursday and federal officers have chartered their own boat to track him down

‘The operator denied access to the interior and was cited for obstruction of a boarding, in addition to other safety citations that have not been adjudicated,’ the coastguard told The Times. 

Citations are written notices of non-compliance for an alleged violation, they do not count as a criminal record.

American Mr Bane reportedly sailed away from the US Virgin Island last Thursday and the FBI dispatched vessels to find him. 

It comes as the couple’s friend Ms Owen demanded answers in the investigation. 

Ms Owen has told friends that she does not understand why Mr Bane has stopped contacting her or why he is refusing to cooperate with detectives, The Mirror reported.

She is helping efforts to find Ms Heslop in the Caribbean and wrote online: ‘She is a daughter, a sister, a niece and an auntie. A Godmother, a girlfriend, a colleague and my best friend.

In his initial conversations with the VIPD, Bane (pictured) said he finished dinner and went straight back to his boat with Sarm at 10pm

‘We will not leave quietly, we need a thorough investigation, we deserve ­answers. She deserves answers.’ 

Another friend of Ms Heslop’s, Anna Wilson, said she was worried about claims that Mr Bane was refusing to talk.

Ms Wilson, for whom Ms Heslop was a bridesmaid, told The Mirror: ‘Ryan had contact with Kate in the early stages but ceased contact.’

Asked what Mr Bane had told Ms Owen, Ms Wilson said: ‘He just said everything was fine and they had dinner out and then took the dinghy back to the boat.

‘Nothing seemed untoward. They went back to the boat at about 10pm and watched a film. Ryan said that he woke and realised she was gone but that her phone and wallet were still aboard the boat.’

In the search for answers, police are trawling through CCTV from the island to trace Ms Heslop’s movements that night to verify his story, The Telegraph reports. 

Tony Derima, a spokesman for the Virgin Islands Police Department said: ‘Nothing so far actually confirms the couple went back to the yacht together that night.’

Officers are in the process of trying to verify Mr Bane’s account of events that night and attempting to confirm if Sarm was on the dinghy which returned to the luxury yacht that night.  

The latest development comes as it was revealed the FBI has launched a hunt for Ryan Bane (pictured) after he sailed away from the US Virgin Islands on Thursday

Heslop (pictured) met Bane on Tinder eight months ago and traveled to the Caribbean to work as a cook on Siren Song

Detectives are also reportedly planning to interview staff at 420 to Center, a dive bar popular with St. John locals, where the couple visited. 

Federal agents have chartered a boat to try to track down Mr Bane, who disappeared from St. John where his luxury yacht had been anchored for several weeks, according to the New York Post. 

Mr Bane was last seen on Wednesday afternoon taking a dinghy to the shore before returning to his 47-ft catamaran with a plastic bag, sneakers and towels.

His yacht had been anchored at the same secluded spot in Frank Bay for weeks but was gone Thursday morning. 

Authorities need a search warrant to board the $500,000 vessel but are yet to obtain one because Ms Heslop’s disappearance has not been classified as a criminal inquiry. 

Bane was last seen Wednesday afternoon (above) returning to his boat. Federal agents have chartered a boat to try to track him down, after he disappeared Thursday from St. John where his luxury yacht had been anchored for several weeks

Ms Heslop met Mr Bane on Tinder eight months ago and travelled to the Caribbean to work as a cook on Siren Song, which he charters out for more than $2,000 a day. 

According to friends the pair took their dinghy to Cruz Bay, the island’s main tourist hub, for dinner and drinks on March 7 to celebrate a successful charter. 

Mr Bane claimed he was woken up at 2am by an anchor alarm, which triggers an alert if the boat strays from its position, and found her gone.

Police say Mr Bane was advised to ring the US Coast Guard but it later emerged they did not receive the SOS call until 11:46am – more than nine hours later.

Coast Guards boarded Siren Song twice but when detectives asked to conduct a full forensic search Mr Bane exercised his constitutional right to say no, reportedly on the advice of his attorney, David Cattie.

He was similarly reluctant to talk about the night Ms Heslop vanished when caught up with him on shore Wednesday, stonewalling questions by saying ‘no comment’ four times. 

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