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Mother of missing Sarm Heslop begs Joe Biden to force boyfriend to give answers

The mother of a Brit who vanished from her boyfriend’s yacht has pleaded with president Joe Biden “parent to parent” to appeal for Ryan Bane to come forward for formal questioning.

Sarm Heslop, 41, vanished from her American boyfriend Ryan Bane’s 47-foot luxury catamaran in the Caribbean on 8 March 2021. He is believed to have been the last person to see her alive.

The former flight attendant from Southampton, Hampshire, was last seen boarding Mr Bane’s boat where she had been working as a chef on Caribbean tours, after the couple matched on Tinder eight months earlier.

They had been out for dinner at the bar 420 to Center on St John, before returning to the £500,000 catamaran.

Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street (Courtesy of Heslop family)
Sarm Heslop, right, with her mother Brenda Street (Courtesy of Heslop family)

In a powerful open letter this week, Ms Heslop’s mother Brenda Street wrote: “I have reached the end of my patience and trust with the US Virgin Islands Police Department (USVIPD) who have neglected from the outset to communicate and carry out basic Police duties.

“When I met with the USVIPD in March 2022 and questioned their lack of action on that fateful night they looked me in the eye and admitted to ‘forgetting to call the coast guard, that was our fault, we forgot to do it’.

“This was their first admittance of failing to carry out their duties. Their communication since has been appalling and my daughter’s case is riddled with failures.”

She urged the president to appoint another government agency to take over this case, release CCTV of her last movements, investigate the failings of the USVIPD and appeal for Mr Bane to come forward for formal questioning.

She finished: “I would hope, and expect as a parent yourself, that you recognise, respect and empathise with the trauma I am going through and so I ask you, parent to parent, to show your understanding by taking action, acknowledging this letter and helping me find out what happened to my daughter.”

At the time of her disappearance, Mr Bane said the couple watched Netflix and fell asleep. He called 911 at about 2.35am the next morning, told police that he had been woken by the anchor alarm and went to investigate – and realised she was missing. Ms Heslop’s wallet, passport and phone had been left on board, and he said she might have fallen overboard.

The sea captain waited until 11.46am the next day to call the coast guard – a nine-hour gap which her friends and now family want him to provide a timeline for.

Ryan Bane was recently spotted in a Michigan gym (Find Sarm)
Ryan Bane was recently spotted in a Michigan gym (Find Sarm)

Mr Bane has never been formally interviewed by police and no forensic search of the boat, Siren Song, was ever carried out.

In the days after Ms Heslop’s disappearance, Mr Bane told family he was searching for her as he reportedly hired an attorney and declined to be interviewed by Virgin Islands Police. He sailed away in the days after the disappearance and was spotted in Caribbean islands before pictures recently emerged of him hitting the gym.

It is believed that Bane has returned to his family home in his home state of Michigan and is training to be a pilot.

The letter came as Ms Heslop’s best friend and flatmate for eight years Kate Vernalls, 42, joined the chorus of voices urging Mr Bane to come forward.

Heslop and her best friend Kate Vernalls (Find Sarm)
Heslop and her best friend Kate Vernalls (Find Sarm)

She told The Independent: “She had this energy about her, we hit it off straight away. I think I was definitely like who is that person? She was so confident – not in a bad way, she just gave off such a happy vibe.

“You can’t tell her she’s not going to do something. All you can do is support her. She would send photos of her adventures.

“She wasn’t trying to escape – it’s just what she wanted to do. She wasn’t living a dream, it was her reality.”

On Mr Bane, she urged him to come forward and clear his name, adding: “I think there is a huge amount of frustration that just builds to anger. But it’s just human behaviour – why do you not think you should be speaking to the police?

“If your name is all over the press and your face is on television, if you have nothing to hide, come forward and speak to us or the police and give an official statement.

“There is one person who knows more than anyone what really happened to Sarm. Unless he did genuinely sleep through everything.”

Vernalls pictured with Heslop before she vanished in 2021 (Find Sarm)
Vernalls pictured with Heslop before she vanished in 2021 (Find Sarm)

She added: “It is time for you to have your say, give your side of the story. We’re not going to stop pushing for answers or looking for her so come forward.

“We are never going to give up.”

It has also emerged Mr Bane has a domestic violence conviction dating back to 2011.

Bane and ex-wife Cori Stevenson (Cori Stevenson)
Bane and ex-wife Cori Stevenson (Cori Stevenson)

In a statement, a lawyer for Mr Bane said: “While we empathise with Sarm’s family’s frustration, Ryan Bane had nothing to do with Sarm’s disappearance. Ryan is heartbroken that Sarm went missing ... The coastguard was twice on the vessel conducting a search and questioning Ryan. They had unfettered access to the vessel and Ryan answered all questions posed to him.”

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are assisting the family of a British woman who has been reported missing in the US Virgin Islands and are in contact with the US Virgin Islands Police and the US coast guard.”