Police looking for missing woman in Virgin Islands want to search Oakland County man's boat
U.S. Virgin Island authorities are seeking a search warrant to go aboard a boat in the Caribbean belonging to an Oakland County man whose British girlfriend was reported missing three weeks ago, a police spokesman said Monday.
Authorities want to search the catamaran belonging to Ryan Bane, a 44-year-old Lake Orion resident, for clues in the disappearance of his 41-year-old girlfriend Sarm Heslop, who was reported missing by Bane March 8.
"We're working on it," said Toby Derima, the spokesman for the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department. "We would like to speak to (Bane). We would like to search his boat."
Derima said Bane has not spoken to police since March 8, saying the Oakland County man "exercised his constitutional rights" and also refused to allow police onto the craft.
Derima added that Bane is "not considered a suspect because this is not a criminal case ... this is a missing persons case," but authorities want to keep "track" of him.
Authorities know Bane's whereabouts and he remains in the U.S. Virgin Islands area, said Derima. Bane is "free to move about" but that could change once authorities are able to talk to him about details in the woman's disappearance, the police spokesman said.
"This is still presently a missing persons case," Derima said.
The FBI joined the investigation into the woman's disappearance.
Heslop, from Southampton, was last seen aboard Bane's catamaran. The couple had returned to the boat, which was anchored in Frank Bay, St. John, for the evening after dinner March 8.
Bane's attorney David Cattie told The Detroit News last week 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."
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.
Search crews including the area's police department and the U.S. Coast Guard have looked for Heslop on land and sea.
Derima said volunteers also have aided in trying to find the missing woman, some with drones. A tip that came into the U.S. Virgin Island's Police Department reporting a "sighting" of Heslop March 11 in St. Thomas did not pan out, he said.