THE FBI has launched a hunt for the boyfriend of missing Brit Sarm Heslop after he left the U.S Virgin Islands on his yacht.
American Ryan Bane, 44, sailed off on his £500,000 yacht on Thursday after spending weeks anchored at St. John.
According to the New York Post, federal agents have scrambled to locate Bane, chartering a boat for the search.
Locals warned that if Bane had managed to sail away into the nearby British, Dutch or French territories it would be impossible for authorities to extradite him.
Yesterday detectives admitted they had no idea where their key witness had gone after his boat, the 47ft Siren Song, left secluded Frank Bay on St John, the smallest of the three US Virgin Islands.
On Wednesday Bane was pictured swigging beer on the deck of his plush yacht after refusing to allow cops on his luxury liner.
The disappearance of Flybe air hostess Sarm on March 7 has raised serious questions about the urgency of the investigation on the island.
The mystery seems no closer to being solved, despite nearly three weeks of searching.
Bane — a convicted wife-beater — did not speak when The Sun invited him to comment further on Sarm’s disappearance.
Cops stress he is not a suspect in Sarm’s disappearance, but the island police and the FBI still want to speak to him in detail about her.
US Virgin Islands Police Department spokesman Toby Derima told The Sun: “We do not know where Ryan Bane has gone. It would only have taken him a couple of hours to sail to Puerto Rico.
“He is a person we want to talk to, but I cannot say he is a suspect. We are still very anxious to speak to him and would urge him to allow us to do that.
“We also want to search his boat. He is not legally required to stay on the US Virgin Islands, and we have not had the chance to speak to him directly to request he stays around pending further inquiries.
“His lawyer has told him not to speak with us, as is his constitutional right.
“We are continuing to treat this as a missing person inquiry at this time, not a criminal investigation.
“The FBI are also treating this as a missing person investigation.
“We are continuing our search for Ms Heslop with all our resources.”
And he added that detectives are probing the possibility that Sarm never actually returned to the boat, The Sun can reveal.
Mr Derima added: “Nothing so far actually confirms they went back to the yacht together that night.
“That’s why we are looking through the surveillance video, to establish if there is evidence of them going back to the vessel.
“Detectives did mention they need to establish this. They have to go by Ryan Bane’s story, but they are still trying to verify it.
“Obviously we know the dinghy did go back to the yacht, but it has not so far been verified that Sarm was on it.”
And the heartbroken best pal of Sarm, Kate Owen, revealed she was desperate for answers.
Writing online, she said: “She is a daughter, a sister, a niece and an auntie. A Godmother, a girlfriend, a colleague and my best friend.
“We will not leave quietly, we need a thorough investigation, we deserve answers. She deserves answers.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO SARM?
According to Bane, on the night in question the couple had been for dinner in a local restaurant until 10pm, before taking their dinghy back to his catamaran.
Bane has said they watched a film and went to sleep, before he was woken at 2am by his yacht’s anchor alarm and found that Sarm, from Southampton, was missing.
A massive search involving divers and a helicopter, which lasted into the evening, found no trace of her.
Sea conditions were described as “perfect” and she is known to be a strong swimmer.
A supposed sighting of her on the island of St Thomas, six miles away, was discounted, while her phone, purse and passport remained unused aboard her boyfriend’s boat.
Police said he called them at 2.30am on the night Sarm went missing and they told him to ring the US Coast Guard.
But apparently that call was not made until 11.46am the following morning.
It then emerged that Bane had hired a lawyer in the US Virgin Islands and was refusing to let police, who were desperate for clues, search his yacht.
Bane choose Ghislaine Maxwell’s Virgin Islands-based attorney David Cattie to represent him.
Cattie has represented Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty, in her lawsuit against Epstein’s estate to pay for her legal fees.
He has also previously represented another boat captain who was accused of manslaughter but was later acquitted in 2019.
The Sun revealed Bane was jailed for viciously attacking his ex-wife Corie Stevenson, 43, in 2011.
A police report alleged Bane threw Corie to the floor, smashing her head against it, after the couple returned to their home in Lake Orion, near Detroit, from a party.
Bane was jailed for 21 days for domestic assault and given another 31 days for probation violation in 2013.