Rebecca Coriam: 'Bad dream' for missing girl's parents

Mike and Ann Coriam
Image caption Mike and Ann Coriam now support other families whose loved ones are missing at sea

Twelve months ago Ann Coriam was settling down to make a bedtime drink when she and her husband Mike received a late-night phone call telling them their 24-year-old daughter Rebecca was missing at sea.

The trauma of their youngest daughter's disappearance has been compounded by a frustrating and debilitating quest to find the truth.

"It is like we are in a permanent fog," said Mr Coriam, 58.

Mrs Coriam, 52, added the family had been "in limbo" ever since disappearance of her daughter, known as Bex.

Rebecca had been working organising children's activities and games on the 83,000-tonne Disney Wonder, sailing off Mexico's Pacific coast.

She was last seen on Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at about 05:45 GMT, when CCTV footage showed her making a phone call to her friend from the staff quarters.

Four hours later the alarm was raised when she failed turn up for the start of her shift.

'Disney-style treatment'

Despite a search of the ship and the efforts of the Mexican coastguard, she was not found.

As the Coriams flew to Los Angeles from their home in rural Cheshire three days after Rebecca was reported missing, they were told in advance by cruise officials they would be treated "Disney-style".

In hindsight, Rebecca's parents said "Disney-style" meant a tightly-controlled visit to the ship before it set sail again.

"We were met with a car with blacked-out windows," said Mrs Coriam.

"It was obvious they did not want us to leave the hotel alone," added her husband.

They met with the captain and officials from Disney in a small room on board the ship where they were shown the CCTV footage of their daughter.

"We asked if we could have a copy and we were told 'no'," said Mrs Coriam.

The couple said they had no opportunity to question the crew.

Instead, they said they were shown her room, the staff quarters and to Deck Five, where they said officials put forward a theory that Rebecca had been swept overboard by a wave.

However, the Coriams said they had doubts that was possible and said as the deck was in front of the ship's bridge, they believed someone would have seen what had happened to their daughter.

'More frustrations'

When they looked around the dock in LA where the ship was berthed, they said they showed Rebecca's picture to one worker.

"He told us he remembered her loading her luggage but then she said, 'you never saw me'," Mr Coriam said.

The family's Miami-based lawyer Jim Walker, who specialises in maritime law, said he had been "deeply troubled" by the "lack of co-operation and transparency demonstrated by Disney".

He added: "In this day and age it is inconceivable that anyone would vanish from a cruise ship - particularly a ship catering to families and children - without the circumstances being recorded by closed circuit television cameras."

In a statement, Disney said: "Our hearts go out to the Coriams. Rebecca's disappearance has been heartbreaking for everyone at Disney Cruise Line.

"We wish we knew what happened."

They said the family's next frustration came with trying to get information between the Royal Bahamas Police, called in because the ship was registered in the Bahamas, and Cheshire Police.

Image caption Rebecca Coriam had been employed to look after children on the Disney Wonder

They said progress was slow and they had not heard any updates for some time.

However, Sgt Chrislyn Skippings, public affairs officer for the Royal Bahamas Police, insisted the investigation was ongoing.

The family's supporters have set up a fundraising campaign through Facebook and the couple are in touch with other relatives who have lost loved ones at sea along with sea safety campaigners.

They have also found themselves offering support to others in the same situation.

Rebecca's parents are now also campaigning for UK authorities to be able investigate cases of British nationals who go missing on vessels registered abroad.

At some stage they plan to go to the US to resume their investigation and quest for the truth.

But, in the meantime - to mark the first anniversary of the disappearance - family and friends are gathering for a special Mass at St Werbergh's Roman Catholic Church, Chester, to pray for Rebecca, whose 25th birthday was on 11 March.

Her family said the hardest thing to deal with is the uncertainty.

There is talk of a UK inquest but a spokesman for Chester's coroner said that would be impossible in the absence of a body.

"We just don't know what has happened," said Mrs Coriam.

"We couldn't even grieve."

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