Disappeared Without A Trace On A Cruise Ship
The truth behind the idyllic façade
Victims Helping Victims
Together We Are Making A Difference
No one has been accused of the death. Not until this year was the autopsy hearing re-opened in Australia. Eight men were identified as “persons of interest.” Before the death that night, one of them was seen running naked around on the ship. But the security guards said that naked people on deck were not uncommon.
Digital camera pictures revealed that at least one man had sex with Brimble. Pictures were even taken while she lay lifeless and naked on the cabin floor. They were planning to throw her over board, but there were too many witnesses in the corridors.
The Brimble investigation brought to light a foreign cruise culture that openly encourages senseless round the clock drunkenness, drug abuse and casual sex. An advertisement for one of the cruise companies was shown in the court room. It showed sun tanned bikini-clad women with the text: “Seamen wanted.”
“Young women are especially vulnerable, especially to the crew,” declares the former English security officer Geoff Furlong, who worked for six years on two cruise ships. “The police were never involved. If the passengers complained, they were mollified with campaign and free vacations. Such complaints were not even recorded. If I came across a crew member picking up young female passengers, I would report him to the captain to be put off at the next harbor at his own expense.”
Robert Nelson, USA: February 15, 2001, “Sovereign of the Seas,” Bahamas. Went out on a diving trip arranged by the ship on a day others cancelled because of heavy seas. Was never found.
Christopher Caldwell, USA: July 22, 2004, “Carnival Cruise,” Mexico. Last seen on deck at 3:30 AM by a bartender who said that Christopher was dead drunk after a night in the casino. He did nothing to help him.
Annette Mizener (37), USA: December 4, 2004, “Carnival Pride,” Mexico. Reported missing the last evening of a nine day cruise. Her purse was found near the railing on the lower deck. A nearby surveillance camera had been covered over.
Andrew Gready, Australia: January 7, 2005, “Pacific Sky,” Brisbane. On a cruise with eight friends. Jumped over board (for fun?) on the last evening. Life-preservers were thrown to him, but he went under and was never found. No life boats were put to sea.
George Smith, USA: July 5, 2005, “Brilliance of the Seas,” Turkey. On his honeymoon when reported missing. Blood found on the balcony under the cabin. The case led to the first congressional hearing on security on cruise ships.
John Dresp, USA: November 16, 2005, “Norwegian Dream,” Belize. Was snorkeling by the barrier reef in Belize with his brother Don and wife Winifred. Strong currents, poor safety precautions and supervision caused him to go under. He was never found.
Cruise passengers can end up in a complicated legal situation since ships are registered under flags of convenience from Panama, the Bahamas, or Bermuda. The companies assert that the ships are safe, considering the millions of passengers that travel each year. “Then the number of disappearances, reported sexual assaults, and robberies look good compared to the number on land,” says the director of the British cruise business, William Giddons. “When something does happen on a cruise ship, it’s always big news.”
On March 28 Kendall Carver and International Cruise Victims testified at a Congressional hearing for the third time. One of the victims, Laurie Dishman (36) was subjected to a sexual assault by a ship security officer on a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico in February 2006. “There were three security officers working a ship that had 3000 passengers,” he noted. “In principle it was a small town without any laws.”
Sailing from Europe
Just the threat of Dishman’s testimony forced the cruise companies to make a deal. It promises now to report disappearances, rapes, and robberies on their ships immediately to the FBI. In the USA all the bad PR has led to a large decrease in the number of cruise passengers, and ticket prices have fallen to give away levels. Several companies plan to move much of their traffic to Europe, where passengers continue to flock to the ships. Royal Caribbean, for example, transferred seven ships to Europe in March.
This year over 15 million people world-wide will take a cruise. Monster ships with stores and theaters bigger than those on land are being built. The passengers hardly notice they are out at sea. As long as no one falls overboard.
Who Killed Merete?
In the wee hours of November 18, 1994 the cruise ship “Regina Renaissance” was underway from the Greek island of Kos to the resort town of Antalya in Turkey.
Loved Ones Making Waves
The law suggested by Kendall Carver and his organization International Cruise Victims.. Here are some of its features:
Cruise companies are to be held responsible for the passengers’ security, and the background of the crewmembers is checked by database
An international police force attached to Interpol at the cruise companies’ cost is to provide obligatory training of security officers in professional crime procedures
Higher railings, etc. to keep people from falling over board, and the use of more, clearer, and better quality surveillance cameras
Obligatory security bracelets for everyone on board with a data chip containing the passenger’s and ship’s name. Immediate stop of the ship when someone has fallen overboard or is missing
Complete documentation of those boarding and leaving the ship and accurate logs accessible
Cruise companies held responsible for companies to whom they sell excursions
The 90 passengers were dreaming of dawn and more tourist experiences. But not everyone was sleeping; parts of the crew were on their feet, doing the jobs they were paid for. In a crew cabin there was a party for Lisa Upsher, who the next day would conclude her job on the crew and fly home to England.
At the party was her old cabin-mate Merete Breiven (24) from Sörum [Norway] and six other young people. They’re drinking and dancing and having a good time. Seven nationalities are represented. Several times in the course of the night Merete leaves the party, no one afterwards will be able or want to explain why. Around 2:30 she leaves the party for the last time. She is going to the bakery to get fresh croissants.
This is the last that is seen of Merete Breiven. The police never found out what happened to her. She was just gone. Suicide is hardly likely, neither is a fall overboard (with the railing chest high). The police investigation suggests murder, but can find no clues or motive. Still the names of all on board, both passengers and crew, are present in the police records. Surely among these individuals is the one who killed Merete?
[Translated by: Dr. Kathleen Stokker, Professor of Norwegian, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, May, 2007] Article by Tone Sutterud appearing in VM Magazine in Norway
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