Discover why the eerie disappearance of Rebecca Coriam has left authorities and amateur sleuths baffled for years.
Since the 1980s, the cruise industry has enjoyed steady growth in popularity and revenue. Massive, floating self-sufficient cities headed towards exotic destinations have been a huge draw for vacationers for several decades now, with no signs of that draw waning.
However, such a world of leisure and luxury is not without a shady underbelly. Since 2000, there have been 313 documented cases of people going missing from cruise vessels, with only about 10 percent of those cases resolved. And because cruise lines are not legally required to make public every case of a person who goes missing or overboard, it is estimated by some in the industry that only around 15-20 percent of such cases are documented and become public via media reports.
One such case that did go public, but remains thoroughly disturbing and baffling, is that of Rebecca Coriam, last seen aboard the cruise ship Disney Wonder on March 22, 2011.
The Disappearance Of Rebecca Coriam
At the time of her disappearance, Rebecca Coriam was a 24-year-old Chester, England native who worked with children aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship. En route to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from Los Angeles, Coriam was last seen on CCTV footage on March 22, 2011 at 5:45 a.m. in the crew lounge talking on an internal phone line, wearing men’s clothing, and acting visibly distressed.
After hanging up the phone, she was neither seen nor heard from ever again.
When Coriam failed to report for her 9 a.m. shift, Disney staff were alerted to search the ship for her, but to no avail. The United States Coast Guard and Mexican Navy were then contacted to perform a search of the surrounding ocean, but also came up short of clues as to Coriam’s whereabouts.
According to Mike Coriam, Rebecca’s father, Disney disregarded standard operating procedures and didn’t turn the ship around to look for his daughter. Additionally, he states that the Navy and Coast Guard teams were given incorrect coordinates and likely searched the wrong area of the sea.
Under the Flags of Convenience system, jurisdiction of the case fell to the country of the ship’s registration, which in this case was the tax haven of the Bahamas. Three days after Coriam’s disappearance, Disney contacted the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to conduct an investigation.
RBPF responded by assigning one detective, Supt. Paul Rolle, to the case and he was flown out by Disney via private jet to Los Angeles. He spent one day aboard the Wonder once it returned to port, interviewing six of the 950 employees and zero of the 2,000-plus passengers.
After several days of “stalled” communication, Disney flew out Rebecca’s parents, Mike and Anne Coriam, to meet with the detective and ship’s captain in Los Angeles. In the matter of their missing daughter, the Coriams were treated “Disney-style”.
According to Anne, “Everything was staged by Disney. We were taken in a car with blacked out windows, on the boat’s back entrance, as passengers disembarked from the front. They took us to a room where they played the CCTV footage of Rebecca where, largely, she appears to be fine.”
Onboard, the ship’s captain offered the family his conclusion as to the fate of their daughter. He explained that it was likely Rebecca had been swept off of Deck 5 by a rogue wave. Mike and Anne were then shown Deck 5, a crew swimming pool area directly in front of the ship’s bridge and guarded by walls reaching over six feet in height. They were then taken to the crew quarters and Rebecca’s cabin, where they were shown a sandal that allegedly belonged to Rebecca and was recovered on Deck 5.
The following day, the Coriams watched from shore as the Disney Wonder left port to set sail on its next cruise. Despite the RBPF case being an ongoing investigation, Disney considered the “heartbreaking” matter to be put to rest and laid flowers upon the site on Deck 5 of the alleged rogue wave accident in a ceremony attended by some of the ship’s crew.
The Theories About What Happened To Rebecca Coriam
Unsatisfied with Disney’s account of their daughter’s disappearance, the Coriams hired private investigator Roy Ramm, a former specialist of Scotland Yard, and sought the aid of Chester MP Chris Matheson and former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott. What they unearthed outside of the official investigation has disturbing implications as to the possible fate of Rebecca Coriam.
Disney has always maintained that it was a rogue wave that swept Rebecca off of Deck 5 sometime between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m., March 22. However, there are numerous inconsistencies to this account. One is that the weather and ocean conditions near Puerto Vallarta where the ship was located do not show any indication of stormy weather, much less a rogue wave that would need to be about 100ft high to sweep a person above the six foot walls surrounding Deck 5 and overboard, according to Ramm’s account.
The primary piece of physical evidence in Rebecca’s disappearance is the CCTV footage of her talking on an internal phone line at the time of her last known sighting. In his investigations, Ramm retrospectively discovered that the CCTV footage had been cropped to hide the timestamp and location. According to Disney, that CCTV footage was shot inside on Deck 5, near where Rebecca was allegedly swept overboard. After viewing the undoctored copy of the footage, Ramm and other investigators learned that it was actually shot on Deck 1, not close to the vicinity of Rebecca’s alleged accidental death. Copies of this footage have been denied to the family repeatedly.
Another notable piece of physical evidence provided by Disney was that of a sandal allegedly discovered on Deck 5 that belonged to Rebecca. However, this sandal had the name and cabin number of another individual altogether, and both family and crew members insisted that the sandal was both the wrong size and not in the style of Rebecca.
A few months after Rebecca’s disappearance, investigative journalist Jon Ronson of The Guardian sailed aboard the Wonder in an attempt to make sense of the Coriam incident.
In talking with crew members, he uncovered suspicious and even sinister intentions behind Disney’s explanation of the Coriam case. One crew member disclosed, “Disney knows exactly what happened… That phone call she had? It was taped. Everything here is taped. There’s CCTV everywhere. Disney have the tape.”
When asked about Rebecca, another crew member replied to Ronson’s inquiry by saying, “I don’t know anything about it… it didn’t happen… you know that’s the answer I have to give.”
Rebecca’s family and friends from England described her as “happy-go-lucky” and “energetic.” Working for Disney would require one to be of an overall sunny disposition, or “Disney wouldn’t hire you if you weren’t that sort of person,” according to a member of the crew.
However other crew members and close friends to Rebecca on the ship paint a more nuanced version of her character than her parents and media. When asked about Rebecca, one crew member described her as “a lovely girl with underlying sadness.”
In 2017, Tracie Medley, Rebecca’s girlfriend and co-worker aboard the Wonder broke her silence on the events of March 22, 2011. She claims that night her and Rebecca engaged in a threesome with a male boyfriend of Medley’s. According to Medley, Rebecca had been distraught over their “fiery” and “passionate” relationship in the weeks prior.
The shock of sharing her lover with a male friend or perhaps sexually vying for Medley’s attention might have been enough to swing Rebecca’s usually sunny mood into a state of despair; Medley retrospectively believes that she wanted off of the ship and her life, and climbed over the 6ft railings of Deck 5 to jump into the ocean. Family and friends from England have vigorously denied that Rebecca took her own life.
According to the accounts of crew members, family, friends, and members of law enforcement, Rebecca Coriam’s case was a botched investigation. With only six officially recorded interviews, withheld evidence, and no forensic investigation, it is objectively hard to be satisfied with the level of police work conducted.
A good friend and one of the last people aboard the ship to see Rebecca alive offered his opinion to BBC and stated, “I was never spoken to by any security or police at all… to call this an ‘investigation’ is an insult.”
In 2016, investigator Ramm uncovered a ripped pair of shorts within Rebecca’s remaining personal effects from her cabin. He and other law enforcement believed this pointed to signs of a struggle, perhaps even a sexual assault, before her disappearance.
Months after Rebecca’s disappearance, the Coriam family noticed that there had been activity on her bank account, as well as a changed password on her Facebook. According to MP Matheson, “I believe there’s sufficient evidence to indicate a crime may well have taken place.”
More than seven years later, friends and family are still searching for answers to the same nagging questions. Although the case has largely gone cold, closure and answers are still needed. If you have any information regarding the story of Rebecca Coriam please visit rebecca-coriam.com.