EXCLUSIVE: Sarm Heslop, then a 41-year-old flight attendant from Southampton in the United Kingdom, settled down with her American boyfriend Ryan Bane on his luxury catamaran off the coast of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for an adventure at sea and an idyllic backdrop.
But one night, after dinner at a bar on the edge of Frank Bay, she vanished without a trace.
That was two years ago Wednesday – and police have revealed little, including whether or not she ever made it back to Bane’s 47-foot yacht, the Siren Song.
Now her friends and family say they feel frustrated and helpless on the other side of the Atlantic and the case gone cold.
MICHIGAN MAN’S 911 CALL REPORTING GIRLFRIEND MISSING IN US VIRGIN ISLANDS NEVER RECORDED: FAMILY
In a statement this week, police spelled Heslop’s name wrong and avoided answering any questions about the case.
AMERICAN SWIMMING CHAMP FOUND DEAD IN US VIRGIN ISLANDS, INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY
“The Virgin Islands Police Department continues to send thoughts and prayers to the family, friends, and colleagues of Sarm Helsop (sic),” a department spokesman told Fox News Digital via email. “The VIPD Criminal Investigations Bureau continues to work this ongoing investigation and we will keep you updated on any further developments when provided.”
Kate Varnalls, Heslop’s friend for over a decade and roommate for eight years, told Fox News Digital Wednesday that the missing woman’s supporters have no plans to stop demanding answers.
“There were so many early fundamental steps that should have happened, either by Ryan or by the VIPD that simply didn’t happen,” she said. “For us here in the UK, if somebody goes missing, most of the time, CCTV (closed-circuit television) footage of their last sighting would be released.”
U.S. Virgin Islands police – who have faced criticism over their handling of Heslop’s case and countless others – have still not returned her phone and iPad to the family, have declined to release surveillance footage of her last known whereabouts and never obtained a search warrant for Bane’s boat.
The lack of accountability doesn’t sit right with Varnalls, who said the lack of answers has been “shameful” and “infuriating.”
“We keep looking for answers here in the UK as to how we can push to get things released and push for the VIPD to be held accountable,” she said. “Somebody in a higher jurisdiction to come forward and tell them that they have to release the CCTV footage, or challenge why that 911 call wasn’t recorded.”
Authorities initially said they had no surveillance video of Heslop and Bane leaving the 420 to Center Bar – then last year showed her parents an abbreviated CCTV clip showing the two walking toward a dinghy after dinner. They stopped the tape before the couple boarded the vessel and have publicly maintained that they’re not certain Heslop even made it back to the Siren Song that evening.
RYAN BANE’S ATTORNEY RESPONDS TO USVI POLICE CLAIM THEY ‘LOST TRACK’ OF MISSING SARM HESLOP’S BOYFRIEND
US VIRGIN ISLANDS MISSING SARM HESLOP: ‘NOT NORMAL’ FOR POLICE NOT TO SEARCH BOYFRIEND’S YACHT, EXPERT SAYS
But, despite pleas from her friends and family, police have declined to make it public.
“The only explanation has been, ‘Well it’s an ongoing investigation,'” Varnalls said Wednesday. “Well why not release it? Surely the last steps of somebody who’s missing can open peoples’ eyes to who this person was. They might recognize her.”
Earlier this week, Heslop’s friends revealed that a 911 call placed by Bane at 11:46 a.m. on March 8, 2021, was never recorded – another potential clue seemingly squandered in the VIPD’s hands.
Police also failed to obtain a search warrant for Bane’s vessel, claiming that the court denied their applications. It was put up for sale last year and the current whereabouts were not immediately known. Bane is believed to have returned to Michigan to pursue a pilot’s license.
Police have given few answers to media inquiries, and barely anything else to Heslop’s parents.
In an interview with Dateline last year, Commissioner Trevor Velinor conceded that his officers made several mistakes – failing to alert the Coast Guard when Bane first called 911 at 2:30 a.m. and failing to look at his boat or any of the neighboring moorings.
MISSING SARM HESLOP: PARENTS OF UK WOMAN WHO DISAPPEARED IN US VIRGIN ISLANDS ASK FOR MORE HELP FROM BRITISH GOVERNMENT
“It’s just mind-blowing how an agency, a police department, can get away with not delivering, not following through and not providing backup and evidence for the ongoing investigation,” Varnalls told Fox News Digital.
Bane’s attorney, David Cattie, previously told Fox News Digital that his client immediately called 911 when he realized Heslop was missing around 2:30 a.m., “then traveled to meet members of the [Virgin Islands Police Department] to give a statement regarding Sarm.”
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
Cattie has said separately that a Coast Guard crew performed an “on-site inspection of the vessel and an on-site interview without limitation,” but USCG officials said that they had been “denied full access” to the catamaran and issued citations.
Without a warrant, Bane was under no obligation to voluntarily allow police to search his boat – and through his attorney he has denied any involvement in Heslop’s disappearance. He has not been named a suspect or accused of wrongdoing in Heslop’s case.
LISTEN: THE FOX TRUE CRIME PODCAST WITH EMILY COMPAGNO
Bane, a Michigan native, was convicted in a domestic violence case in 2011 after attacking his former wife in a drunken spat after a friend’s wedding.
But he also called 911 at least twice on March 8 – first at 2:30 a.m. to tell police he couldn’t find Heslop, and again at 11:46 a.m. to alert the Coast Guard that she may have gone overboard.
The VIPD spokesman declined to confirm whether or not the 2:30 a.m. call had been recorded or to comment on what went wrong with the second one.
Heslop is 5 feet, 8 inches tall with a slim build, brown hair and a bright-colored tattoo on her left shoulder that includes a seahorse, a butterfly, a bird and a pink flower.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise reward money for information that cracks the case.
They are hoping to raise more money and possibly bring in a private investigator – an expensive step that the friends and families of U.S. Virgin Islands crime victims told Fox News Digital is a necessity for securing justice there.
“It’s as if people think that we’ll go away if we don’t get any answers,” Varnalls said. “But I don’t think anyone in this situation would do that, and we’re certainly not going to do that.”