This evening Dateline NBC will air what it is calling an "update" on the story of missing cruise passenger George Smith who disappeared under suspicious circumstances during his honeymoon cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship in the summer of 2005.
I am glad to see that Mr. Smith’s case is receiving additional attention.
I have always thought that foul play was involved in Mr. Smith’s disappearance. Hopefully the renewed media attention will motivate someone to come forward with information which may help solve the case.
That being said, I am skeptical whether anything "new" will be revealed by the Dateline program tonight.
Dateline advertises that its program will tell " . . . the story of an active, ongoing investigation whereby FBI agents won’t talk on the record. However, the cruise line Royal Caribbean has conducted its own internal investigation and Dateline has the exclusive update about what happened aboard the ship in the early hours of July 5, 2005."
Let’s keep a few things in perspective. Mr. Smith’s disappearance, or murder as many people including me believe, occurred on July 5, 2005 – six and one-half years ago.
In 2005, Royal Caribbean provided us with copies of photographs of the cabin and awning, statements, security reports and other information about Mr. Smith’s disappearance. The case was discussed regularly on all of the nightly cable news shows and major networks which broadcast a great deal of information about what happened on the night in question.
Royal Caribbean’s investigation into what happened ended in 2005. The cruise line defense lawyers who were sent to the cruise ship have subsequently switched to representing passengers and crewmembers. Believe it or not, they are now employed by a firm which sues Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines. There has been no "internal investigation" by Royal Caribbean into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Smith’s death for over 6 years.
Now, lets consider the so called "open and active" FBI investigation. Six and one-half years ago, the FBI was investigating the case, although I would consider it rather amateurish. The FBI had not even interviewed the passengers on either side of the Smith’s cabin a month after the cruise. These individuals were first interviewed by Joe Scarborough on cable news. The investigation did not get serious until we boarded the cruise ship with forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and a team of investigators. It was only after we retained Dr. Lee did the FBI test the carpet in the cabin for blood stains.
Our firm was in constant contact with the FBI (we represented George Smith’s widow Jennifer Hagel) in 2005 and 2006. It was clear to us that the FBI investigation lost steam in early 2006. A Grand Jury was convened and called witnesses but returned no indictments against anyone. There has been no real investigation by the FBI for well over five years as best as we can tell.
What the Dateline television show will discuss are certain documents, photographs and video which the cruise line has been offering to the families since June of 2006. At that time, we reached a settlement with Royal Caribbean where the cruise line would pay $1,060,000 in compensation, as well as turn over all of the cruise line’s documents, photographs, CCTV images, statements and other information in order for the families to try and learn what happened to Mr. Smith. Much of the information was confidential and privileged which the cruise line had no legal obligation to disclose.
The Smith family objected to the terms of the settlement. A probate court in Greenwich upheld the settlement, finding that it was fair and in the best interests of all concerned. But the Smith family appealed the Greenwich probate court’s ruling and this delayed the cruise line’s release of information. Several years later, Royal Caribbean increased its settlement offer by $250,000 for a total of $1,310,000 and again agreed to provide exactly the same documents, photographs and information it offered back in 2006.
In 2010, Royal Caribbean turned all of its internal information over to the families. There was nothing new in these documents most of which we obtained in 2005. The attorney for the Smith family provided copies of these documents to the producers of Dateline which tonight will disclose the "new" information.
In truth, Dateline is now airing the same old photographs, cruise line documents and statements which we obtained in 2005 and which the cruise line has been offering to all of the families since 2006.
The Smith family apparently has a new theory into their son’s death, namely that he was killed in an attempted robbery. The New York Post contains a quote, this morning, from the Smith family’s lawyer that “The family believes it was a robbery-gone-bad."
The New York Post’s article contains the provocative title: "Feds’ Mafia Team Join Probe into Disappearance of Conn. Newlywed." The alleged "mafia" connection to some of the men last seen with Mr. Smith and who were in his cabin around 4:00 AM on the morning of his disappearance is nothing new.
The Post also published a couple of CTTV images of Mr. Smith and his wife Jennifer Hagel which Royal Caribbean released several years ago.
Last summer, we published a series of articles on the sixth year anniversary of Mr. Smith’s death:
Trouble as the Cruise Ship Sails to Kusadasi
A Frantic Call Back to Connecticut
Media Frenzy Follows Case of "Missing Honeymooner"
Dr. Henry Lee Boards the Brilliance of the Seas
Royal Caribbean Blocks Dr. Henry Lee’s Dummy Experiment
The International Cruise Victims Organization Is Born!
Royal Caribbean Captain Says Its Just an Accident Involving a Bloody Nose
Larry King Live & the "Missing Groom Mystery"
Do you have information which may solve this case? Please let us hear from you.
Photo credit: Bottom 2 photographs (CCTV images) Royal Caribbean / New York Post