In the past two months, two citizens from the United Kingdom have disappeared during cruises. Disney crewmember Rebecca Coriam went missing from Disney’s Wonder in March while the cruise ship was sailing from California to Mexico. This month, U.K. passenger John Halford vanished from the Spirit cruise ship operated by Thomson Cruise Lines while the ship was approaching Egypt.
Disappearances from cruise ships are an issue the cruise lines hate to talk about. In an age where the shipping industry faces the risk of terrorism and pirates and there is a need to focus close attention on the rails of cruise ships to protect the passengers and crew, it is inexplicable that anyone can simply vanish into thin air during a cruise. The fact that it happens raises two possibilities in my opinion: The cruise ships have insufficient security personnel and an absence of an effective closed circuit television (CCTV) apparatus to monitor who enter or exit (voluntarily or involuntarily) the ships. Or, the cruise ships have adequate CCTV and security systems in place, but they are simply not being honest with the families about what happened to their loved ones.
In both cases, the families have gone public to state that their missing family members were happy and enjoying life. In Rebecca Coriam’s situation, the disappearance involved a popular and cheerful young woman, undoubtedly adored by her family and well liked by her friends, who enjoyed her job. Our web site has received at least one comment from a Disney passenger who raved about Rebecca’s wonderful skills at interacting with and entertaining the passenger’s daughter.
Mr. Halford’s family describe their missing father in similar terms. According to the Milton Keyes Citizen newspaper, Ruth Halford described her husband, John, like this: "He was happy, certainly not depressed, enjoying his cruise and meeting people but looking forward to getting home again to be with me and the children . . . "
The last known publicly disclosed facts about each disappearance leave room for speculation. CCTV showed Rebecca speaking on the telephone in a public area the night before she went missing. A search was not initiated until she did not appear for work until the next morning at 9:00 a.m. Certainly there must be additional CCTV images if she went overboard from one of the decks. Crew members obviously do not have private balconies. Where is the CCTV of what happened? Why didn’t Rebecca’s cabinmate or friends notice her missing earlier?
The last known facts about Mr. Halford indicate that he was last seen on board the cruise ship at 11:45 p.m. the night before he disappeared, drinking cocktails in the bar when the ship was approaching its final port, according to the Milton Keyes newspaper. But when the ship reached port and the passengers were disembarking at 7:00 a.m., there was no trace of him.
Did he end his own life? That seems far fetched. He was looking forward to his silver wedding anniversary in June and dearly loved his three children by all accounts.
The fact that there are two families grieving about these "mysteries" reflects poorly on the cruise industry. It is inexcusable that no CCTV tape exists to reveal what happened, if in fact no CCTV tape exists.
Ruth Halford tells her local newspaper: “It’s terrible for the children. We are trying to cope together and not to give up hope but it is so difficult.”
“If anyone has seen him or knows what happened that night it would be so helpful. Not knowing is terrible and it is getting worse and worse by the day.”
If foul play was involved in either situation, the fact that a victim can "disappear" without a trace on a cruise raises profound questions about the issue of shipboard crime and whether the concept of "cruise ship justice" is at best an illusion. If the disappearances involved accidents or intentional decisions to go overboard, the families deserve to know this and try and understand why this happened.
They should not live a lifetime of doubt and speculation. They are entitled to some sense of closure, if that is possible.
To contact the Coriam family, go to the family’s website: Rebecca-Coriam.com
To read about other articles about Ms. Coriam, click here.
To contact the police in Mr. Halford’s case, please call 845 8 505 (country code 41).
To read other cases about Mr. Halford, click here.