The girl who set sail on a Disney dream and vanished into thin air
Murder Suicide Or did Rebecca WANT to disappear The girl who set sail on a Disney dream but vanished into thin air
2:01 AM on 12th May 2011
With her broad smile and infectious enthusiasm for life, Rebecca Coriam was always going to be the perfect candidate for a job with Disney.
Little wonder that from among the hundreds of hopefuls interviewed for jobs as ‘children’s counsellors’ on board one of the three family-themed cruise ships in the Disney fleet, it was Rebecca who stood out.
The 24-year-old could hardly have been better qualified for the role, which involved organising children’s activities on board the 83,000-ton cruise ship Disney Wonder.
Missing: Rebecca Coriam, pictured on holiday in Mexico aged 16, disappeared without a trace seven weeks ago
She studied sports science and childhood studies at university, was a volunteer with the Army cadets, loved children and anything even remotely sporty.
‘She had to travel to London for the interview. It was evening by the time she rang. I knew straight away it was good news,’ says her mother, Annmaria. ‘I felt so incredibly proud and happy that I think I rang everybody I knew.’
Sitting next to her husband, Mike, in the conservatory of their cosy bungalow on the outskirts of Chester — where they raised Rebecca and her sister Rachael, 26, and cared for dozens of foster children — Annmaria’s face falls at the memory. For the Disney dream that began amid such excitement almost exactly a year ago has become a living nightmare.
Seven weeks ago, Rebecca disappeared without a trace from the 11-deck cruise liner as it sailed along the Mexican Riviera.
She was last seen on board at 5.45am on March 22 by a young male colleague who was concerned that she appeared upset, but when he approached to check if she was OK she insisted she was fine and on her way to bed.
Rebecca, however, apparently never reached her cabin. The alarm was raised when she failed to appear for work at 9am the following day.
Both the Mexican Navy and U.S. Coast Guard scoured the waters, but no trace of Rebecca was found.
A search on board the ship similarly yielded no clues — save for a pair of stray flipflops, which could have belonged to anyone.
Mystery: The cruise ship Disney Wonder had been at sea for just 24 hours when Rebecca went missing
So what can have happened to Rebecca Coriam Did she, as authorities seem to think, fall or jump from the ship Was something more sinister at play Or could Rebecca still be alive
That possibility has been given added weight by an intriguing new clue, in the form of an email to her parents notifying them of suspicious activity on a bank account which they suspect was Rebecca’s.
Yet there have been no sightings of her. She has vanished into thin air — and nobody seems to know why.
There was no sign that Rebecca, a super-fit triathlete, was a young woman planning to take her own life. On the contrary, she was excited about returning home on Easter Sunday and enjoying one of the perks of her job — taking her family to Disneyland Paris.
There was no boyfriend that her parents knew of, but she seemed happy and appeared to be enjoying her life on board the 3,000-passenger Disney Wonder.
‘She had so much to look forward to,’ says Annmaria, 51. ‘She had been so pleased about getting the Disneyland passes for me, her dad, hersister Rachael and one of her two foster brothers.’
Adds Mike: ‘Every time we spoke to her, she had something to tell us about what she had done or where she had been. She was excited all the time.’
The last message Rebecca sent to her mother was the day before her disappearance. It read: ‘Mum, are you OK I’m fine, I’ll ring you tomorrow.’ Hardly the words of a distressed young woman.
That call never came. Instead, Mike answered the phone at 10.45pm to be told by a Disney representative that Rebecca was missing at sea.
Worst nightmare: Rebecca”s parents, Mike and Annmaria, are desperate to know what has happened to their daughter
The next few days are a blur for the couple. ‘We flew to Los Angeles,’ says Annmaria. ‘It was the hardest journey we’ve ever made. We had no idea if there would be fresh news when we landed.’
Initially, the couple were told Rebecca may have been in a highly emotional state in her final hours on board. They were informed that CCTV footage had been found from the morning of her disappearance showing her upset, drunk and banging her head.
What they saw when they made the painful journey to the cruise ship (which completed its seven-day trip through the Pacific before docking at Los Angeles) was quite the opposite.
‘We were shocked. We were expecting to see what had been described, but instead she looked absolutely fine,’ says Annmaria.
‘She just looked like Rebecca. At first, when she walked into shot she had her hands in her back pockets like she always did.
“She wasn’t stumbling like she was drunk. She didn’t look drunk at all. In fact, she wasn’t a big drinker. I don’t think we’ve ever seen her drunk.
‘Yes, she made a phone call, and then she ran her hands back through her hair, but there was no banging her head. We’ve been told she was upset on the phone, but we have since spoken to the girl she called, who also worked on the ship. She said Rebecca was a bit upset but that she calmed right down and said she was going to her room.’
The couple do not know what had upset their normally cheery daughter in that final phone call, and their requests to return to the ship to try to lay their questions to rest have been turned down.
That the couple have not been given more information, nor even been told what their daughter did after finishing work on the evening before her disappearance, is an indictment of the investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance.
They did speak with Rebecca’s colleagues and visit the tiny bunk room she shared with a young American woman, but there was nothing to suggest she had been in a troubled state. The walls were covered with family photographs, and on the desk were the passes to Disneyland Paris.
With no further clues to work on, the couple returned to Britain. But just over a fortnight ago, this baffling tale took a fresh twist when an email dropped into Annmaria’s inbox.
It was a message from Rebecca’s bank reporting unusual activity on her account. It said that on April 19 somebody had tried to access the account.
The email was sent just before the Easter holiday, and the couple read it on Good Friday. Annmaria and Mike have been asked by police not to divulge the precise content of the message, but it was from a major British bank and gave every indication of being genuine.
Sea mystery: Cruise worker Rebecca was last seen at 5.45am on March 22
The parents do not know if Rebecca had given their details as an emergency contact for the bank. Such emails are not unusual when there is irregular activity on a credit card.
Mike, 57 and a self-employed gardener, tried to speak to the bank concerned, but was thwarted by ‘customer confidentiality’ and told he would have to wait for the police to get in touch.
It was only after the police started to investigate the email and Rebecca’s banking arrangements that the parents realised they had paperwork for an account in their daughter’s name that should have linked with a credit card — but the card was not among the belongings they brought back from the ship.
So was it Rebecca using her card Was someone — a thief, an opportunist, possibly her killer, even — using her card These are just a few questions among the many that this bereft couple want answered. ‘We are still waiting to hear back,’ says Mike.
They have passed the email to police but dare not hope too much. It could be a mistake, or even a cruel hoax.
Painful: Rebecca”s family making a TV appeal for information on Rebecca
So what do her parents think has happened to their daughter
‘We just don’t know,’ says Mike. ‘But what we do know is that Rebecca wouldn’t want to put us in this situation. We’ve never believed she simply disappeared overboard and drowned.
‘Maybe she fell in the water and was picked up by a fishing boat. Maybe she lost her memory and is in a little village in Mexico. Maybe she was attacked. Maybe she was on board after all and got off.’
He is too diplomatic to criticise the police, but it is clear he feels frustrated at the limited scale of the investigation. Thanks to the vagaries of ocean law, the inquiries are being handled by authorities in the Bahamas, because that is where the ship was registered.
Puerto Vallarta: The Disney Wonder was three days into a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise when Rebecca disappeared
Mike points out that when the couple visited the Disney Wonder they were told that just one police officer from the Bahamas had boarded, fully three days after Rebecca’s disappearance.
‘One officer to interview everyone,’ he says. ‘The boat was never emptied of passengers or crew. Some people told us they didn’t even realise something had happened until they saw it on the news.’
Mike lives in hope that someone — anyone — might come forward with a fresh lead. But unless or until they do, the agony of uncertainty continues.
‘Some days are worse than others,’ says Annmaria, ‘but today it’s been seven weeks and any anniversary of her disappearance is especially painful. In our hearts and minds, though, we feel she is alive.’
Fears: Rebecca as the Disney cruise ship made one of itsregular weekly trips from Los Angeles along Mexico”s Pacific coast
Mike adds: ‘It’s not that we are not prepared to face the alternative. But we know she would never harm herself. We just know. That’s why we have been totally mystified from day one.’
Their worst fear is that Rebecca is never found. ‘What then How do you carry on and cope’ asks Annmaria.
For now, the cycle of anxiety and despair continues, mixed with the small flame of hope of two parents determined not to give up.
‘As much as we want answers now, we have prepared ourselves for a long wait,’ says Mike. ‘We think somebody has to know something. There must be a lead.
‘We will do anything and everything to keep searching for information until we know what has happened to our beloved daughter. We will never give up.’