FBI joins Virgin Islands search for Lake Orion man's missing girlfriend

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting U.S. Virgin Islands police in the disappearance of a British woman whose boyfriend is an Oakland County man.

The woman, 41-year-old Sarm Heslop, was reported missing March 8 by the man, Ryan Bane of Lake Orion.

Sarm Heslop, 41, was originally reported missing on March 8 by partner Ryan Bane, a Lake Orion resident.

Toby Derima, a spokesman for the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department, said in a  statement: "We are working with our federal partners, including the FBI, in this investigation. They are involved. Let’s say we ask them for advice. They are providing assistance."

Heslop, from Southampton, was last seen March 8 aboard Bane's catamaran. The couple had returned from dinner to the boat, which was anchored in Frank Bay, St. John, for the night.

Bane's attorney, David Cattie, told The Detroit News Wednesday in an email that his client reached out to authorities after his girlfriend's disappearance.

"At approximately 2:30 am on March 8, 2021, just after finding Sarm missing, Ryan Bane contacted the Virgin Islands Police Department (“VIPD”) through 911 to make a report," Cattie wrote. "Mr. Bane then traveled to meet members of the VIPD (Virgin Islands Police Department) to give a statement regarding Sarm. Mr. Bane also provided a photograph of Sarm to officers."

Cattie also said: "Later that morning, the US Coast Guard came to Mr. Bane’s vessel (Siren Song) at his request. Multiple USCG officers boarded the vessel and interviewed Mr. Bane on-board. Mr. Bane, at the request of Sarm’s family, then turned over her personal belongings to VIPD, including her cell phone, iPad, passport, etc.  Ryan’s thoughts are with Sarm and her family at this time, and he is praying for her safe return. At this time, we are not fielding any other requests for interviews/statements. Thank you for your understanding."

A website, findsarm.com, has been created to generate tips in the woman's disappearance. Heslop reportedly had moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands in hopes of becoming a chef.

The woman's family issued a statement on the website this week: “We are shocked and distraught that Sarm is missing. 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."

The press released further reads: “Our daughter is a UK citizen and we ask for all of the support that the UK authorities have to offer. Our thanks go to the local people of St. John who continue to search for Sarm.''