Rebecca Coriam, a British crewmember of the cruise liner Disney Wonder, was caught on camera in the crew lounge early on the morning of March 22, 2011, talking on the phone with what appeared to be emotional distress.
She missed the start of her shift a few hours later and was nowhere to be found on board the ship while it was off the coast of Mexico’s Pacific Ocean. Her disappearance was the first instance of its kind in Disney Cruise Line’s history.
Her whereabouts following the phone call are unknown, and Coriam’s disappearance is still being investigated. Disney’s handling of the probe has drawn criticism from her parents, who think the firm knows more than it admits and has been more concerned with avoiding negative press than collaborating with investigators.
In 2016, her family and Disney reached an out-of-court settlement.
Supporters of the Coriam family include representatives for the families of numerous other crew and guests who have been reported missing on cruise ships over the past ten years, who have adopted protocols enabling more thorough investigations of such instances in the future.
The Early Life of Rebecca Coriam
Coriam was born on March 11th, 1987, in Chester, England’s Countess of Chester Hospital. After growing up in Chester, she attended Chester Catholic High School with her parents, sister Rachael, and two foster brothers.
She used to work in the Chester Zoo, where the previous family had previously done so. Within the zoo grounds, a bench is dedicated to her grandparents, Kevin and Dolores.
In her teens, she enlisted in the British Army Cadets. She later attended Plymouth University in Plymouth to study sports science. Afterward, she was hired as a Staff Volunteer by the Cadets and took part in several outdoor activities.
She completed additional coursework in juvenile studies at Liverpool Hope University before working as a sports instructor at Camp America in the American state of Maine for four months.
She traveled to London in June 2010 to interview for jobs with Disney Cruise; after being hired, she received training at the company’s Florida theme parks. She spent four months on cruises to the Bahamas, where the ships are registered, and then returned to the country for two months of vacation.
She was working on the Disney Wonder, a vessel in the Port of Los Angeles, when she resumed her duties. She traveled through the Panama Canal and all its Mexican Riviera call points.
When her grandfather passed away during this time, she went back to Chester for two weeks. It was the final time she had ever met her family in person.
The Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam
Coriam returned to work at the Wonder and resumed her responsibilities as a youth worker while staying in touch with her family on Facebook and Skype.
She would call her parents the following day in what would be her final Facebook message to them, which was sent six weeks later, on March 21, 2011, the day the ship departed Los Angeles.
Her mother became worried after twelve hours had passed since she replied.
Coriam had missed the start of her shift that morning aboard the Wonder, off the coast of Mexico, headed for Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. She didn’t answer pages broadcast over the ship’s public address system because she wasn’t in her room or anyplace else on board.
Reviewing CCTV footage revealed one instance of her with a time stamp of 5:45 a.m. According to an early, unsubstantiated account allegedly from another crew member, she was said to have gone overboard around 3 a.m., or almost three hours earlier.
Coriam can be seen in the video conversing on a ship’s internal phone in a staff area. She seems distressed. A young man approaches her and appears to inquire about her well-being. She hangs up after stating, “Yes, all right,” with her mouth still open.
Then, she walks away with the characteristics her parents claim were typical of her, pushing her hair back and putting her hands in her back pockets. Since then, there has been no trace of her existence.
Investigations into the Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam
The staff looked all over the ship for her. The Wonder had been traveling through international waters when Coriam might have fallen overboard. Ships from the Mexican Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard searched the area. But they came up empty-handed.
The Wonder is registered in the Bahamas; three days after the disappearance, when it returned to Los Angeles, an investigator from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) flew to the ship to investigate. ‘Many days of aboard research’ were reportedly spent by him.
Rebecca’s parents, Michael and Annmaria Coriam, were flown over to meet the ship as it arrived from England. The Bahamian detective they encountered claimed to have spent just one day on board investigating before he flew home.
The detective also disclosed to the group that he had spoken with very few members of the crew and none of the passengers. The Coriams claimed Disney held them in a vehicle with blacked-out windows and boarded via a rarely used side entrance after all the others had left.
The captain of the Wonder offered his sympathies and explained his idea that Rebecca had perished in the crew pool when she was washed overboard by a wave. The Coriams questioned this theory because of the thick walls surrounding the pool.
Following that, they were led to a gathering with Disney executives and the person Rebecca had been on the phone with.
Her father got an email the day before the first anniversary of her disappearance from a woman claiming to have seen Rebecca out and about in Venice with a dark-haired man in August of the previous year.
The woman claimed that after seeing the family’s website, she was “85% positive” that it was Rebecca. Her uncle remarked, “It was just an email, but it sounded genuine. Everyone found it quite upsetting to consider that she might still be alive somewhere after all this time.” He questioned how she had gotten there without her passport, one of the items her parents had found in her room.
A Sinister Investigation Into the Disappearance
Journalist Jon Ronson traveled in the Wonder on the same trip in October 2011 and conducted covert research while on board. He published a piece in The Guardian with the Coriams’ approval.
He was addressed by several crew members who had been on board the ship when Rebecca vanished but who asked that their names not be publicized. They implied that more information than Disney or the Bahamian police had previously acknowledged existed regarding her fate.
Several people were cautious. Ronson was told by a bartender, “That didn’t happen. You know the response I have to give,” she said. After exploring the portions of the ship accessible to guests, he concluded that Coriam had likely fallen while jogging on Deck 4’s jogging track.
Rebecca Coriam frequently kept herself in shape that way, yet the rails there were low enough for the accident to occur. Nonetheless, cloaked security cameras had good coverage of the track.
He explained this theory to a member of the deck, who corrected him. He claimed Coriam had fallen overboard from the Deck 5 crew pool. The man answered, “I was on the ship that day. Everyone is aware.” He offered as evidence a flip-flop discovered nearby.
When the reporter returned, “Melissa,” a lady the Coriams had instructed to contact him, told him that flowers had been put on the wall next to the pool the day after the disappearance, probably by the company.
It definitely sparked a sensation, the woman recalled. “What were they doing there, exactly? There was no clarity.”
After inspecting the personnel pool, he had doubts, which was observable from Deck 10’s fore. A steel wall surrounding the pool’s railings is tall enough to entirely obscure any view (another crew member had told him it was a popular place to go when not working as their cabins were tiny and it was a place crew members could be themselves, away from guests).
Also, there were security cameras that were prominently mounted. Ronson did not see how somebody could have leaped or fallen from there, even though he acknowledged that they might have been positioned after the incident.
But, every crew member he met with insisted that Coriam had left the crew pool. One said, “Disney knows exactly what transpired. This entire place is taped. CCTV is installed everywhere. Disney possesses the tape.”
A crew member who sought him out near the conclusion of a cruise explained in further detail how, despite the high walls surrounding the pool, the seas were wild at the time, and she could have been thrown overboard, mainly if the deck and walls were slick.
The infraction of being outside on the pool deck in such conditions was significant enough that Disney sent that person home from the cruise, according to him, who claimed that his buddy had to fetch someone inside under identical circumstances.
Theories Regarding the Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam
Investigators concluded that Rebecca went overboard, possibly due to a rogue wave, because she was not discovered on the ship despite a comprehensive search.
The Coriams and their attorney claim that despite what the Bahamian police promised, they never received a copy of the final report; British detectives who did receive it have repeatedly rejected requests for copies under the Freedom of Information Act because it contains restricted personal information.
Ronson learned that the call was recorded via a crew worker. Others thought it was with a love interest. “Melissa,” said Ronson. The woman was unhappy because of issues in her relationship. “The relationship was extremely, incredibly intense. That was fantastic at first and then terrible. I think she shouldn’t have been upset and alone going around at six in the morning.”
But, according to her, Coriam spoke on the phone with a friend rather than a partner. Rebecca’s parents informed the Liverpool Echo that they heard the names of a young woman and an older man aboard the ship discussed as perhaps being involved in a love triangle with her.
They asked them to come forward on the anniversary of Rebecca’s disappearance. While they could not speculate what the extra film would depict, they also revealed that they had heard Disney had provided some additional footage to the FBI for enhancement.
They remember her as being consistently upbeat and positive, qualities that initially landed her the Disney job. She had obtained passes for them and her sister to visit Disneyland Paris, a present trip she allegedly planned to surprise them with on her next break at home when her parents went to check on her after the absence.
Her ongoing Facebook conversations with her mother and these plans serve as arguments against suicide.
“Melissa,” who had last seen Coriam the night before at 11 p.m., informed Ronson that she thought Coriam went to the crew pool, one of her favorite spots on board, to be by herself and unwind for a while.
She might have climbed up, sat on the wall while there, and then dropped. She claimed that Bex tended to take some risks.
The slippers were supposedly discovered close to the pool and were among the items returned to Coriam’s parents, but “Melissa” was skeptical that they had been hers.
She informed Ronson, “Mike and Ann presented them to me. They weighed too much. She didn’t like them. They were Hawaiian, pink, and floral. I’d never seen her wear them before. Why didn’t Disney ask if her girlfriend or I could recognize these as belonging to Bex?”
The Coriams claimed the flip flops were too tiny at a later time, but they were unable to locate anyone on the ship who had seen her wearing them, and they discovered that no forensics had been performed on them.
Private detectives hired by the family in 2016 claimed to have unmistakably proven that the shoes did not belong to the couple’s daughter. They observed that the flip-flops were not in her style but bore another crew member’s name and cabin number.
The Coriams claimed that as a result, they began to seriously suspect both Disney’s assertion that they had been discovered in the pool area and its claim that Rebecca was either swept overboard or fell from that location.
Rebecca’s clothes look unusually big in the phone conversation footage, and her pals and the rest of the team have theorized that they might be someone else’s.
Chris Matheson, a Labor member of parliament who has served as the City of Chester constituency’s representative since the 2015 election, thinks Coriam was a victim of a crime, possibly a murder or sexual assault.
In the year of his election, he told the Echo, “The more you dig into this, the more it smells rotten; the more it smells like a crime has taken place. He asserts that he has “compelling” evidence to support this claim in a copy of the original police report.
Disney’s “rogue wave” assertion is called into question, according to John Anderson, a private investigator who has worked with both the Coriams and Matheson. Records reveal that the seas near the Wonder were typical that night.
Furthermore, he claims that any wave powerful enough to lift her off the ship would have left apparent damage.
The matter has also caught the attention of Baron John Prescott, a life peer in the House of Lords and former deputy prime minister under Tony Blair. He thinks Rebecca didn’t fall; she was tossed overboard.
Additionally, he has asked for legislation enabling British authorities to look into the deaths of British residents aboard cruise ships in international waters.
New Allegations and Updated Theories about Rebecca Coriam
She may have been sexually abused and murdered, according to an update, despite Disney’s continued insistence that she was washed overboard by an unusual wave. Once she was captured on camera talking on the phone in the surveillance video, her friends said that she had a traumatic threesome with other coworkers aboard the ship.
Tracie Medley and Deven Hyde, Rebecca’s coworkers, were a part of the trio. There is no evidence linking the two to any wrongdoing. Private detectives claimed that although Rebecca and Tracie had a close bond, she first had sex with Deven Hyde during the threesome.
According to the staff, Rebecca reportedly became irritated when she saw Tracie getting close to Deven. Due to this, she reportedly left the cabin in a distressed and frightened state.
After watching the video, private investigators speculate that she might have been traveling to the medical facility on Deck 1, where she was seen talking on the phone.
The ship’s security chief Mark Rotherham reported that Rebecca told him she felt coerced into having sex with Deven to maintain her connection with Tracie. He claimed that she was really uneasy about the circumstance and that this may have been her first encounter with a man.
Rebecca was wearing men’s attire and appeared distressed when seen on CCTV. It was also discovered that Tracy O’Brien, another employee of the ship, was the person she called on the phone.
She confided in O’Brien that they had urged her to conduct a threesome, but she had declined, and O’Brien had advised her not to return to them and to instead retire to bed.
Traci was generally the one to mediate disputes between the couple, so O’Brien advised her to speak with her first thing in the morning.
Although the Bahamas police don’t think there was any wrongdoing, they speculate that she may have killed herself or died accidentally from the odd wave. Rebecca’s parents maintain that she may still have been murdered and would never have committed suicide.
Chris Matheson, a Cheshire MP who had been leading the probe, thought there may have been a murder. The allegations of rape or sexual assault support the events, and Mr. Matheson stated he thinks there is enough evidence to show a crime had been committed. He keeps looking into it, but Disney Cruises still maintains that Rebecca was carried overboard. In 2017, Tracie claimed that Rebecca was depressed, and had been considering suicide for quite some time.
Critique of the Investigation
When his piece was published, Ronson claimed that the Coriams had yet to receive any additional details on the investigation status from Disney or the RBPF. “Every time we phone someone, they only reply, “The investigation is underway,” said Michael Coriam.
“We’ve tried writing them to let them know how we feel and that it’s becoming more difficult. However, nothing. It’s ongoing, that’s all.” Ronson’s calls to the Bahamian policeman assigned to the case went unanswered.
Officials from the British government, Rebecca’s crewmates, and supporters of the families and victims of other cruise ship catastrophe victims have all joined the Coriams in criticizing the probe. The latter, in particular, point out that 170 passengers and crew have vanished from cruise ships since 2000, many of whom have yet to be correctly or generally reported on.
All critics agree that Disney, like other cruise companies, is more concerned than anything else with avoiding negative publicity due to these accidents.
The Coriams’ MP, Stephen Mosley, brought up the matter in the House of Commons in November 2011. “The investigation into Rebecca’s abduction was horrible,” he told Mike Penning, the Minister for Shipping.
He explained that the RBPF was “internationally recognized as basically toothless” and that “the Bahamas authorities made virtually little attempt at probing Rebecca’s abduction.” He added, “very few people know that when they board a cruise ship, they are so badly protected.”
Governments like the Bahamas, frequently chastised for the lenient requirements for “flag of convenience” ship registrations, lacked the investigative tools necessary to handle such events.
In response, Penning declared that the Marine Accident Investigation Branch would look into any deaths or disappearances of British nationals from ships anywhere in the world.
This announcement was in line with legislation similar to that signed by U.S. President Obama, which gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation that authority in the case of any American citizen’s death or disappearance.
The government will also work with the International Maritime Organization to strengthen international cooperation on such inquiries. Penning also criticized Disney, claiming it was “more interested in getting the ship back to sea than in looking into the situation of the missing crew member.”
After his own daughter vanished from the Celebrity Mercury in 2004, American Kendall Carver created the advocacy group International Cruise Victims. “With other corporations, police get involved,” he claimed. “Security officers are present on cruise ships, but they work for the cruise companies. When the lines are sued, they won’t take any action.”
Jim Walker, a Miami attorney and the author of the harshly critical site Cruise Legal News, agrees. He wrote in Ronson’s essay, “The Coriam family does not deserve Mickey Mouse games. Walker later acted as the Coriams’ legal representative when they filed a lawsuit against Disney in US courts.
In 2015, they settled with the firm for an unknown sum and a promise to keep their dispute private.
According to Carver and Walker, Disney has more information than disclosed, including security footage of the area near the pool. It hides its knowledge of what occurred out of concern for bad press.
Carver informed Ronson, “If a video shows your daughter going overboard, that is the end of the matter. There is no possibility that someone could leave a ship without it being documented.”
As the pool sits next to several other crucial offices, such as the payroll division and human resources, where money and private documents were held, Melissa told Ronson it was unlikely that there was no footage.
Since the pool is located immediately below the ship’s bridge and would therefore be the area of the ship where a fall would most likely be observed by someone in a position to start a rescue, she believed any coverup by Disney may have been as much about protecting themselves from claims of negligence.
She told Ronson, “If it was six in the morning and they were doing their job and watching the front, someone must have seen her cross over. Or, if they didn’t, they’re lying about the reason why.”
Disney informed Ronson that they are giving the RBPF priority. “We’ve been informed that the investigation is still ongoing by them. We haven’t received a timeline from them either.”
Whether there is additional security camera footage or a phone call tape, their representative declined to comment on the specifics. “We would like to know what happened more than anyone. Everyone has found Rebecca’s abduction to be challenging and upsetting.”
RIP Rebecca Coriam.
Next, if you’re interested in what happens when reporters come across restricted information, read the Tragic Case of Gary Webb, The Man Killed by the CIA. Or, if you like to read about more government coverups, read the Horrifying Case of the Nuclear Tomb of Runit Island!
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