Disney Settled With Family of Missing Cruise Worker

Rebecca_Coriam - H 2016
Courtesy of The Rebecca Coriam Search Foundation Ltd.

Rebecca_Coriam - H 2016

The company settled with the family of Rebecca Coriam, a former employee on the Disney Wonder who went missing while the ship was cruising off the coast of Mexico in 2011, but investigations continue.

The family of a former Disney employee who disappeared under mysterious circumstances off one of the company’s cruise ships in March 2011 settled out of court with the entertainment giant for an undisclosed amount sometime in 2015, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Rebecca Coriam, a British national from Liverpool who was employed as a Youth Activity worker on Disney’s cruise ship Wonder, was 24 when she vanished from the ship while it motored off the coast of Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta, en route to Cabo San Lucas. At the time, the Wonder was registered in the Bahamas.

“The case has been resolved,” says Jim Walker, the Miami-based attorney who has represented the Coriams in the U.S. “They’re pursuing an inquest in the U.K., but I’m not supposed to talk about the case.”

But while the settlement appears to have ended any legal challenge in the U.S, the mystery of Rebecca Coriam seems far from resolved. Several current and former government and law enforcement officials in the U.K., convinced that Coriam was the victim of foul play, are pushing to open alternative investigations into her disappearance. British Parliamentarian Chris Matheson, who believes Coriam may have been murdered, has teamed up with a former police investigator to probe the former Disney employee’s final moments. A website dedicated to Coriam is appealing to the public for tips. And U.K. officials have told friends of the family that they are contemplating opening a formal inquiry.

“My worst fear is that Rebecca Coriam was murdered,” Matheson told the Liverpool Echo. “It’s a possibility and it needs to be investigated properly. The more you look into this, the more it smells rotten, the more it smells like a crime has taken place.”

“I am fully convinced that a sexual assault took place and they were aware of it on board the vessel,” says Bill Anderson, a maritime investigation coordinator in the U.K. who has worked with the Coriams.

British press reports have quoted former Labour deputy John Prescott as saying he believes that Coriam was “thrown over the side” of the Disney Wonder. A British ex-shipping minister called the Bahamian investigation “appalling.”

And now, Roy Ramm, a 27-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police and former Commander of Specialist Operations at Scotland Yard, has joined forces with Matheson and the two plan to visit Los Angeles and the Bahamas to pursue their own independent investigation.

Disney has said it stands by the results of an investigation conducted by Paul Rolle, the Bahamian policeman who, after a two-day investigation on the Wonder during a docking in L.A. shortly after Coriam’s disappearance, concluded that Coriam must have fallen overboard. That investigation concluded that Coriam’s vanishing was “not suspicious.”

Disney declined to comment for this article.

After Disney learned that Coriam had disappeared, the company notified the U.S Coast Guard, the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Royal Bahamas Police Force, as well as the FBI. The U.S. Coast Guard advised Disney to notify the Mexican Navy, which it did.

But Coriam was never found and her fate remains unknown.

In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, Rolle said, “Respectfully, I have no further comment to make on the Coriam case.”

Anderson says Rolle had promised to make the results of his investigation available to the Coriams, but never did. Instead, his report was sent to the local police in the U.K., who also have declined to make it available to the Coriams, despite repeated requests.

Anderson filed several Freedom of Information Act requests with U.K. authorities. But the British police have said they won’t release the report because it contains “restricted” personal details.

“I have tried getting this under the FOIAs, but [they] refused,” Anderson says. “[The Cheshire police] informed me and the family that they have a botched report but can only tell us this and cannot show it to us.”

“You could safely say that the cop who promised to send the results never did,” adds attorney Walker.  

The Coriams are prevented by the terms of their settlement from discussing the case. Prior to the settlement, the family had reached out to the FBI for help, to no avail. They also wrote a letter to President Obama but received no response.

Disney and Bahamian investigator Rolle have asserted that Coriam was probably swept overboard by a rogue wave, catapulting her off Deck 5. But British press outlets have published CCTV footage showing that Coriam was last seen on Deck 1, four levels below, and that she was wearing what appear to be oversize clothes that may have belonged to someone else. Two months after Coriam’s disappearance, her credit card was used, according to news reports.

Anderson maintains the rogue wave theory is preposterous.

“I checked out the sea states and water temperatures at the time and they were all normal,” he says, adding that a rogue wave would have inflicted further damage on the boat.

“The way cruise lines work, they’re not going to disclose anything they don’t have to disclose,” says one source close to the investigations who also is familiar with Disney. “There are certain legal defenses they’re able to use that are appropriate and proper.”

“It does not matter what avenue you go down,” laments Anderson, who says the Coriams' requests for U.K. authorities to investigate have been delayed repeatedly. “All doors are closed.”