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Lost at Sea – The Disappearance of Rebecca Coriam

In 2010, 24-year-old Rebecca Coriam’s dream came true when she was successful in getting a job on Disney’s cruise ship, “Disney Wonder.” It is a much sought after job and Rebecca from Guilden Sutton beat hundreds of other applicants. She was perfect for the role – she was outgoing, bubbly, and could connect with children. She was described as a “happy-go-lucky person with plenty to live for.” Before joining the Disney Wonder, Rebecca had studied childhood studies, psychology and philosophy at Liverpool Hope University.

Credit: The Coriam family.

After being hired, Rebecca flew to Florida where she trained at Disney World. Initially, she spent four months at sea in the Bahamas before flying back home for two months. She then returned to the cruise ship which was setting sail from Los Angeles to Mexico. It was just a short seven day cruise. The grand 1,000 foot ship could accommodate up to 2,500 passengers in 875 statetooms plus 1,000 crew members.

On the 22nd of March, 2011, Rebecca’s parents, Mike and Ann, received an alarming phone call from one of Rebecca’s colleagues. Rebecca hadn’t turned up for her shift that morning. When a colleague went to her bedroom, she wasn’t there nor did she respond to her name being called from the public announcement system.

A crew member decided to trawl the CCTV footage from the past 24 hours to see if he could spot Rebecca. At 5:45am, Rebecca was seen speaking on the phone in the crew area. She appears to be distraught; she holds her head in her hands at one point. A young man then comes into the frame He approaches Rebecca and asks if she is okay to which she replies: “Yeah, fine,” before walking away. This is the last ever sighting of Rebecca. Somewhere between California and Mexico, Rebecca disappeared.

 

After it became evident that Rebecca was missing from the cruise ship, the Mexican coastguard was contacted to search the surrounding waters. As the search on the ocean was underway, Rebecca’s parents were en route to the Disney Wonder. Just one police officer was assigned to the disappearance. Just one officer to investigate and question those on board.

After just one day of so-called investigating, the officer would announce to Rebecca’s parents that it was believed that she had been washed overboard by a large wave and that foul play wasn’t suspected. However, no stormy seas had been reported that would support the theory of a freak wave. Furthermore, they claimed she went overboard at Deck 5 which has a large 6-foot wall preventing people from falling overboard.

The Disney Wonder cruise ship.

This explanation was dismissed by the Coriam family as well as senior politicians including ex-Deputy Labour Leader John Prescott.1 The investigation was condemned by many.

People would soon start to suspect that Rebecca had been a victim of sexual assault and thrown overboard. In the video of her on the telephone, she is evidently upset about something and is wearing men’s clothing. As she talked on the phone, she continually tugs at the clothing – a sign of anxiety. She was in the vicinity of the medical centre which was situated on the same deck as the telephone.

Disney officials have always claimed that the CCTV footage was captured at Deck 5 which was near the door to the bow of the ship where they say she was swept away. However, CCTV footage clearly shows that she was on Deck 1 – four flights of stairs away from Deck 5.

Police gave Rebecca’s parents some items of clothing back that they claimed belonged to Rebecca. One of the items was a flip flop that was discovered at the edge of Deck 5. However, the flip flop had another crew member’s name and their cabin number marked on the side. It didn’t belong to Rebecca at all. Another item handed to Rebecca’s family was a pair of ripped shorts. This further solidified the belief that Rebecca had been sexually assaulted.

After Rebecca’s parents went back to Britain, they discovered that Rebecca’s bank card had been used after she disappeared. While the family considered that something sinister had happened to their daughter, they still held onto the hope that their daughter could potentially still be alive. “This could be a very significant development. The fact that her credit card’s been used could only mean someone has stolen it or she’s still alive. We’ve never believed she simply disappeared overboard and drowned. I have always felt she is still alive. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that she is out there somewhere,” said her father, Mike.2 Another glimmer of hope that she was still alive came in September, when somebody changed her password on Facebook.

They decided to investigate further and uncovered a crew member on the ship had said “Disney knows exactly what happened. That phone called she had? It was taped. Everything here is taped.” If so, why would Disney refuse to disclose what the phone call was about? Two of Rebecca’s friends visited her parents and revealed to them that Rebecca had confided in them that she was scared of being sexually assaulted while on the cruise ship. This revelation sent shivers down their spin; they already thought she was the victim of a sexual assault and this indicated she was afraid of such an attack.3

A private investigator was hired by Rebecca’s parents who soon disclosed the belief that “criminal activity” was behind her disappearance. Chester MP Mr Matherson, who was coordinating the private investigation, declared that there was a “real possibility” that Rebecca was murdered and thrown overboard.4

Credit: The Coriam family.

In 2017, notes from the officer in charge were released which hinted that Rebecca had sex with a male crew member in front of her girlfriend, Tracie Medley, who also worked on board. He believed that Rebecca had been involved in a love triangle which left her depressed and fearing for her life. Rebecca’s family refuted these claims and contended that she had been sexually assaulted and that she had been killed because she didn’t want to get into an open bisexual relationship.5

The notes also reported that the male crew member had a “very nonchalant attitude” when he was questioned about Rebecca’s disappearance and that he was even laughing about the ordeal.

Another theory was that Rebecca had committed suicide. Her family disagreed. Shortly before she disappeared, Rebecca had purchased tickets for her parents to go on vacation to Disneyland Paris. Inside her cabin, these tickets were found. In 2017, Rebecca’s girlfriend, Tracie, broke her six-year silence and said she believed this theory, adding that Rebecca wasn’t as happy as her parents portrayed her as. “Rebecca felt like a mistfit. She felt that her family was ashamed that she was a lesbian,” she said.6 Tracie also confessed that the couple had partook in a threesome but that Rebecca was the one who initiated it.

“Something isn’t right about this case, something just doesn’t smell right about it, doesn’t feel right about it and we know the original investigation wasn’t really sufficient,” said Chris Matherson, MP for Chester.7

Many, including Rebecca’s family, believe that Disney knew exactly what happened to Rebecca but are covering up to save face and to protect their brand. If she had gone overboard at Deck 5 then why did they release no more footage? There was a plethora of cameras around Deck 5. Why did they lie about where the phone call took place?

Rebecca with her parents. Credit: The Coriam family.

In 2015, the Coriams settled a lawsuit with Disney for an undisclosed sum and an agreement that they would not publicly discuss the case. To this day, Rebecca is still listed as being missing at sea.

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Footnotes:

  1. Liverpool Echo, 28 May, 2017 –“Our Beloved Daughter was Raped and Thrown Overboard”
  2. News & Politics Examiner, 1 May, 2011 – “Credit Card of Missing Disney Worker Crew Member was Used
  3. The Guardian,11 November, 2011 – “Lost at Sea”
  4. Liverpool Echo, 28 May, 2017 – “Our Beloved Daughter was Raped and Thrown Overboard”
  5. Liverpool Echo, 25 June, 2017 – “Did Missing Disney Worker Have Sex with Man in Front of Female Lover?”
  6. The Sun, 21 August, 2017 – “I Have Nothing to Hide”
  7. The Daily Telegraph, 31 October, 2015 – “Murder Claim Over Disney Cruise Worker Who Vanished on Ship”

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