The boyfriend of missing Briton Sarm Heslop was charged with obstructing law enforcement agents who boarded his yacht hours after she vanished in the US Virgin Islands, it has been revealed.
Ryan Bane, 44, was handed a citation – not a criminal record – for refusing to allow the US Coast Guard onto his yacht, Siren Song, on the afternoon of March 8 – the day after Ms Heslop disappeared.
It comes as the couple’s friend, Kate Owen, who moved with Ms Heslop to the Caribbean 15 months ago, reportedly said she does not understand why Mr Bane is refusing to cooperate with detectives.
Mr Bane told investigators he and Ms Heslop had drinks in Frank’s Bay, St John, before returning to his catamaran on the night of March 7 and he awoke in the early hours to find her gone.
But while a marine search was ongoing for Ms Heslop, Mr Bane told officers they could not come inside his 46ft catamaran.
Sarm Heslop, right, is pictured with her best friend Kate Owens. The pair moved to the Caribbean together 15 months ago
Ryan Bane and an unknown woman post for a photo on a dinghy
Bane’s 46ft yacht Siren Song. He is said to have sailed off in the vessel last Thursday and federal officers have chartered their own boat to track him down
‘The operator denied access to the interior and was cited for obstruction of a boarding, in addition to other safety citations that have not been adjudicated,’ the coastguard told The Times.
Citations are written notices of non-compliance for an alleged violation, they do not count as a criminal record.
American Mr Bane reportedly sailed away from the US Virgin Island last Thursday and the FBI dispatched vessels to find him.
It comes as the couple’s friend Ms Owen demanded answers in the investigation.
Ms Owen has told friends that she does not understand why Mr Bane has stopped contacting her or why he is refusing to cooperate with detectives, The Mirror reported.
She is helping efforts to find Ms Heslop in the Caribbean and wrote online: ‘She is a daughter, a sister, a niece and an auntie. A Godmother, a girlfriend, a colleague and my best friend.
In his initial conversations with the VIPD, Bane (pictured) said he finished dinner and went straight back to his boat with Sarm at 10pm
‘We will not leave quietly, we need a thorough investigation, we deserve answers. She deserves answers.’
Another friend of Ms Heslop’s, Anna Wilson, said she was worried about claims that Mr Bane was refusing to talk.
Ms Wilson, for whom Ms Heslop was a bridesmaid, told The Mirror: ‘Ryan had contact with Kate [Owens] in the early stages but ceased contact.’
Asked what Mr Bane had told Ms Owens, Ms Wilson said: ‘He just said everything was fine and they had dinner out and then took the dinghy back to the boat.
‘Nothing seemed untoward. They went back to the boat at about 10pm and watched a film. Ryan said that he woke and realised she was gone but that her phone and wallet were still aboard the boat.’
In the search for answers, police are trawling through CCTV from the island to trace Ms Heslop’s movements that night to verify his story, The Telegraph reports.
Tony Derima, a spokesman for the Virgin Islands Police Department said: ‘Nothing so far actually confirms the couple went back to the yacht together that night.’
Officers are in the process of trying to verify Mr Bane’s account of events that night and attempting to confirm if Sarm was on the dinghy which returned to the luxury yacht that night.
The latest development comes as it was revealed the FBI has launched a hunt for Ryan Bane (pictured) after he sailed away from the US Virgin Islands on Thursday
Heslop (pictured) met Bane on Tinder eight months ago and traveled to the Caribbean to work as a cook on Siren Song
Bane claimed he was woken up at 2am by an anchor alarm, which triggers an alert if the boat strays from its position, and found Ms Heslop (pictured together) gone
Detectives are also reportedly planning to interview staff at 420 to Center, a dive bar popular with St. John locals, where the couple visited.
Federal agents have chartered a boat to try to track down Mr Bane, who disappeared from St. John where his luxury yacht had been anchored for several weeks, according to the New York Post.
Mr 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.
His yacht had been anchored at the same secluded spot in Frank Bay for weeks but was gone Thursday morning.
Authorities need a search warrant to board the $500,000 vessel but are yet to obtain one because Ms Heslop’s disappearance has not been classified as a criminal inquiry.
Bane was last seen Wednesday afternoon (above) returning to his boat. Federal agents have chartered a boat to try to track him down, after he disappeared Thursday from St. John where his luxury yacht had been anchored for several weeks
Ms Heslop met Mr Bane on Tinder eight months ago and travelled to the Caribbean to work as a cook on Siren Song, which he charters out for more than $2,000 a day.
According to friends the pair took their dinghy to Cruz Bay, the island’s main tourist hub, for dinner and drinks on March 7 to celebrate a successful charter.
Mr Bane claimed he was woken up at 2am by an anchor alarm, which triggers an alert if the boat strays from its position, and found her gone.
Police say Mr Bane was advised to ring the US Coast Guard but it later emerged they did not receive the SOS call until 11:46am – more than nine hours later.
Coast Guards boarded Siren Song twice but when detectives asked to conduct a full forensic search Mr Bane exercised his constitutional right to say no, reportedly on the advice of his attorney, David Cattie.
He was similarly reluctant to talk about the night Ms Heslop vanished when DailyMail.com caught up with him on shore Wednesday, stonewalling questions by saying ‘no comment’ four times.