By Caroline Graham
The parents of a British cruise ship worker who disappeared from a Disney liner earlier this year are to meet Government Ministers tomorrow to call for tougher laws to protect UK citizens from crimes at sea.
Mike and Ann Coriam, whose 24-year-old daughter Rebecca vanished from the £580 million Disney Wonder in March, will meet Shipping Minister Mike Penning to demand that the multi-billion-pound cruise industry ‘properly regulates’ safety at sea.
Mr Coriam, from Chester, said: ‘Our daughter vanished off a ship six months ago and we are no closer to finding out what happened to her.
‘People go on ships and are lulled into a false sense of security because they are happy places full of holidaymakers.
‘In fact, scores of people have gone missing from cruise ships and it seems the cruise companies themselves don’t want to investigate properly for fear of bad publicity.
‘Crimes are swept under the carpet and incidents are not investigated properly.’
Miss Coriam was employed as a youth worker on the Disney Wonder during a week-long cruise from Los Angeles to Mexico when she disappeared.
She was last seen early on March 22 by a colleague who said she appeared to be upset.
The alarm was raised when she failed to report for work the following day.
Mr Coriam said he was ‘not prepared to speculate’ on rumours on the internet that his daughter had committed suicide by jumping off the ship after a row with a friend.
OTHERS WHO DISAPPEARED – JOHN HALFORD
John Halford, 63, went missing earlier this year on a Red Sea cruise aboard Thomson ship Spirit.
He disappeared between 11.45pm on April 6 and 7.30am on April 7 and was last seen drinking cocktails in the bar.
Mr Halford’s wife Ruth, who had not accompanied him on the trip, said her husband ‘was happy, certainly not depressed and enjoying his cruise . . . but looking forward to getting home again to be with me and the children’.
The father of three disappeared shortly before his silver wedding anniversary.
His wife said: ‘It’s terrible for the children. We are trying to cope together and not to give up hope but it is so difficult.’
He said: ‘I have my own theory about what happened but I am not sure we will ever know for sure. My mission now is to bring in laws to protect others. I would like to see British police authorised to carry out a thorough investigation on board a ship if a British citizen vanishes.’
Campaigners complain that there is no international police organisation for crimes at sea, leaving investigations to the police force of the country where the ship is registered, often places such as Panama, Bermuda or, in the case of the Disney Wonder, the Bahamas.
Mr Coriam said: ‘When I have called the Bahamas asking how the investigation is going I just get told it is “ongoing”.
‘Just one police officer from the Bahamas is investigating my daughter’s case. This is despite the fact there were 2,400 passengers on board and 945 staff. It is impossible for one man to do a thorough investigation. It has been a farce since the start.’
According to campaign group the International Cruise Victims Association (ICV) – set up by US businessman Kendall Carver after his daughter disappeared on a cruise – 165 people have gone missing at sea since 1995, with 12 this year alone.
OTHERS WHO DISAPPEARED – MERRIAN CARVER
Petite redhead Merrian Carver, 40, disappeared in 2004 during an Alaskan trip on Celebrity Cruises liner Mercury.
Her father Kendall, who set up the International Cruise Victims Association, said: ‘The steward of her cabin reported her missing on the second day yet, despite that, the family was not informed and nothing was done. At the end of the cruise her belongings were stuffed into black plastic bags and donated to charity.’
Mr Carver, a retired insurance executive, spent £50,000 on private investigators but says her fate remains a mystery. ‘There is a major problem within the cruise industry in terms of accountability,’ he said.
‘I have been fighting the cruise lines since Merrian disappeared.
Her death has never been explained and no body has ever been found. When you step on a ship you are on foreign soil and at the mercy of police in whatever Third World country the ship is registered in.’
OTHERS WHO DISAPPEARED – RAMA FORMAN
Rama Forman, a 48-year-old Swiss resident who had a home in Hampstead, North London, went missing from Silversea’s Silver Cloud on the Arabian Sea in 2004.
Her sister Roya, who also lives in North London, said: ‘Rama had everything to live for. We were planning a big celebration and she told me to book a table for ten for the night after she was due to return. Sometime during the night of November 9/10 she went missing. They found she was missing when the ship docked at Mumbai, the last port of call.
‘Rama’s balcony room was locked from the inside. Her handbag was there but all her jewellery was missing.
‘The Indian police came on board and said there was no sign of a struggle in her room and no sign of foul play. The case was closed. But my sister had no reason to kill herself and had never contemplated suicide. The most painful thing is not knowing what happened to her. I still cry all the time.’
The ICV has already had success in the US. Last year, President Barack Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which requires ships to report disappearances and crimes against US citizens to the FBI and Coast Guard.
Mr Carver said: ‘It was a campaign that took years and the cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against us.
‘Now the FBI and Coast Guard are legally authorised to investigate crimes, regardless of where the ship is registered.’
Superintendent Paul Rolle, who is in charge of the Coriam investigation for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, said: ‘I have been in touch with the family and have no further comment.’
Disney Cruise Lines said: ‘Our hearts go out to the Coriams. We’ve shared everything we can but many details are still under investigation by the police and it is their role to provide the details of their findings to the family.’