Virgin Islands police take search for missing British woman Sarm Heslop inland
Police hunting for clues in the disappearance of missing Briton Sarm Heslop in the U.S. Virgin Islands have narrowed their search to a series of uninhabited islands and coves, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Officers have also shifted their focus further inland, suggesting they no longer expect to find Sarm, 41, 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 Ryan Bane 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.
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.
The search for former flight attendant Sarm Heslop is in its third week but, to the frustration of her family back in Southampton, England, is still being treated as a missing person case rather than a criminal inquiry
Police searching for Sarm Heslop have narrowed their search to a series of uninhabited islands and coves, DailyMail.com can reveal. The areas being searched include Steven Cay, Salomon Beach and Watermelon Cay
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
Aside from the three main islands of St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands is made up of 50 other surrounding islands and cays – much of which are uninhabited.
‘Many of the areas they are searching are not accessible by land at all. There are very few people over there, just the park rangers’ homes and a few small tiki-type bars,’ the source added.
Bane claims girlfriend Sarm vanished without trace from his catamaran while it was anchored overnight in the U.S. Virgin Islands
The search for former flight attendant Sarm is into its third week but, to the frustration of her family back in Southampton, England, is still being treated as a missing person case rather than a criminal inquiry.
And despite refusing to speak with detectives or let them search his 47-ft yacht, Siren Song, police have not declared Bane, 44, a suspect or a person or interest.
With no legal restrictions on his movements he sailed away from Frank Bay, St. John last Wednesday evening, hours after refusing to answer questions put to him by a DailyMail.com reporter.
Sources say the Michigan native is still in the US Virgin Islands but is hopping from island to island while he looks for a marina with a vacant boat slip.
Investigators from the Virgin Islands Police Department would need a warrant to search Siren Song but are yet to obtain one because they have no evidence of foul play.
Sarm met Bane on Tinder eight months ago and traveled to the Caribbean to work as a cook on his $500,000 vessel, which he charters out for more than $2,000 a day.
The couple went out for dinner on March 7 and were last seen by a barman in Cruz Bay, the main tourism hub in St. John.
Bane rang 911 at 2:30am saying he woke up 30 minutes earlier to find that Sarm was gone but her belongings were still on board.
Police said they took an initial account of the evening’s events and urged him to call the US Coast Guard.
The call was not made until 11:46am, however – more than nine hours later – and a massive sea and land search failed to find any trace of Sarm.
Coast Guards boarded Siren Song twice but by the time detectives asked to conduct a full fingertip search Bane had lawyered up, invoked his right to silence and refused access.
Ryan Bane refused to discuss his girlfriend Sarm Heslop’s disappearance last week as DailyMail.com confronted him on a secluded beach in the US Virgin Islands. He’s pictured on Wednesday on shore
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 and then sailed away and has not been seen since
Bane’s boat is no longer sat in Frank Bay on Saint John in the US Virgin Islands as of early morning on Thursday
Ryan Bane is seen in his mugshot after he was arrested in 2011 for attacking his ex-wife
A DailyMail.com investigation confirmed the couple dined at 420 to Center, a bustling dive bar, where friends say they were celebrating a successful charter.
In his initial account, Bane told officers they went back to the boat at 10pm, watched a movie then fell asleep.
Detectives supported by an FBI Task Force Agent based in nearby St. Thomas have obtained ‘hours of CCTV’ but have not found anything yet to verify Bane’s claim that he and Sarm went back to Siren Song together.
A close friend insisted last week that the rugged yacht skipper was not in hiding but was refusing to speak to the island’s police officers because he didn’t trust them.
‘My suggestion to him was that he makes some sort of statement and is as cooperative as possible,’ the friend said. ‘But I think he’s scared, I think he’s totally spun out. He is definitely bereaved. He had finally found a girl he was in love with.
‘I think that his concern is that the VIPD is not real well known for conducting any sort of investigation with clarity.
‘He’s concerned that something could go wrong or be spun the wrong way, or that they’re going to be looking for something to implicate him as opposed to the other way around.’
Corie Stevenson was married to fellow American Bane, 44, for six years and came forward to say her ex ‘went to jail for kicking my a**’
It was also revealed last week that Bane served 21 days in jail in 2011 for attacking his ex-wife, Corie Stevenson, as they drove home from a wedding in Lake Orion, Michigan.
According to a police complaint he flew into a rage and dragged her out of the truck before smashing her head into the dining room floor, chipping one of her teeth.
‘Corie’s front right tooth had a chip out of it that appeared to be fresh,’ wrote Officer Vincent Lichok. ‘Her right ear lobe was bloody and scratched. Her right shoulder and the right side of her neck showed red scratches. Her right eyelid was scratched and red.’
In the UK, Sarm’s anguished friends and family have been pushing for answers in her disappearance, questioning Bane’s timeline and saying they find it ‘incredibly difficult to believe’ she fell off the boat.
‘We would like assurance that the authorities in the Virgin Islands are doing everything possible to find her and that the investigation into our beautiful and cherished daughter’s disappearance includes a comprehensive fingertip search of the boat,’ said her parents, Peter Heslop and Brenda Street.
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