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"Reprinted with permission from the international cruising newspaper WORLD
CRUISE QUARTERLY & TRAVEL GUIDE. Originally published in WORLD CRUISE
QUARTERLY & TRAVEL GUIDE's winter, 1998/1998 edition.
By Steve Reeves, Editor."
WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT NICE GIRL IN CABIN NUMBER 8564?
Amy Bradley still missing: $250,000.00 reward yields no clues
Curacao, Netherland Antilles - 23 year old Amy Lynn Bradley of Chesterfield, Virginia vanished on the morning of March 24, 1998, while a passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean International, 75,000 ton cruise vessel RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS.
Bradley, traveling with her parents and brother, had spent the day prior on the island of Aruba with her family, and that evening enjoying the ship's nightlife in the disco and casino. The family reports that Amy and her brother retired to the family cabin in the early hours of the morning, where the two went to sleep, he inside and she on a balcony lounge chair.
Amy's father recounts awaking at approximately 5:30 in the morning and, though his daughter's face was not visible from his bed, seeing her legs and feet on the balcony's deck lounge. He recalls that Amy's cigarettes and lighter lay on the deck next to her chair. He decided to let his daughter sleep, and returned to slumber himself. Mr. Bradley further remembers hearing what he believes to be the sound of the cabin door latching closed as Amy left the cabin at about 6 a.m.
When Mr. Bradley awoke at about 6 a.m., Amy was gone (as were her cigarettes and lighter), her shoes were on the deck beside the deck lounge, and the sliding glass door adjoining the cabin to the balcony was ajar. Ron Bradley remembers being surprised that his daughter, usually a late sleeper, had left the cabin so early. He decided to look for Amy, whom he guessed might have gone for coffee or to the ship's upper decks to view the port of Curacao. When Bradley reached the open decks, RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS was already alongside the island's cruise ship pier.
Bradley sought Amy in the public areas of the ship before returning to the family's cabin just before 7 a.m., but not before imforming the ship's security officer that he believed his daughter was missing. He asked the Officer to look for Amy. Subsequent to an initial search of the ship's public areas and crew spaces, it soon became evident that the attractive and popular scholarship graduate had disappeared.
According to Amy's mother, despite pleas by the family, ship's personnel opened the gangway and allowed crew and passengers to go ashore. The family also notes that Royal Caribbean Personnel refused to use the ship's public address system to aid in the critical first minutes of the search for their daughter "because it would disturb the passengers". The purser's staff consented to a brief and ineffectual announcement some 30 minutes later.
By 8 a.m. the Bradley's feared the worst. The family continued their shipboard search for the girl, whose mother notes that (despite a report by an island taxi driver that he saw someone fitting Amy's description come ashore), "Amy would just never think of going ashore or to some secluded part of the ship without telling us because she knows how we'd worry."
Once ship's personnel began to take the disappearance seriously (the family alleges that the line was less than responsive during critical hours), the U.S. Coast Guard was contacted to organize a sea-search on the premise that Amy Bradley had fallen, or was thrown, overboard. According to the family, an extensive three day search yielded only a finding by the USCG that Amy was "not in the water."
Iva Bradley recounts that she and her husband immediately contacted Curacao authorities and the U.S. Embassy for help. Not knowing where to search further, the Bradleys stayed on the island when the RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS sailed for St. Maarten. They flew to St. Maarten the next day and reboarded to meet with the Captain and other personnel. Members of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation boarded the ship in St. Maarten that Thursday and commenced seperate interviews with each family member and dialogue with ship's personnel and the Coast Guard. During initial interviews with the F.B.I. a Royal Caribbean "risk management" representative was present. The man later revealed that he was an attorney for Royal Caribbean International.
The Bradleys flew home to Virginia the next day from the island of St. Thomas, without Amy, aboard a private jet chartered by the president of the insurance company for which they worked.
Though authorities initially believed that Amy Bradley was the victim of suicide, a man-overboard accident, murder of abduction, the family and others who know Amy well flatly rule out suicide. Amy, known for her positive attitude and zest for life, had recently adopted a pet, moved into a new apartment (for which she had purchased artwork while aboard the ship), and had many plans upon her return. She has a loving circle of friends (for whom she purchased gifts while on the cruise) waiting for her in Chesterfield. Postcards she sent home during the trip indicated the good time she was having and her awe of some of the sights along the way. One read, "I'll be home Saturday at 10."
A man overboard accident (i.e. the possibility of falling off the cabin balcony or other rail-side location on the ship) is thought to be statistically unlikely, unless hazardous behavior is involved. Such activity would be most likely to be detected by ship's staff during the maneuvering of the large ship in the causeway approach to the Curacao pier.
Murder is solemnly dismissed by Amy's mother, who says she knows her daughter is alive. "It's not just intuition," says Iva Bradley, "It's communication." "I would know if she was gone, and I'm certain she's not!"
Given the Coast Guard's determination that Amy was not in the water and the dismissal of other theories based on the family's feelings, investigative experts hired by the Bradleys feel that it is most likely Amy was abducted at the hands of passenger(s) or crew, drugged or otherwise incapacitated, and spirited off the ship at Curacao. One corroborative theory suggests Amy might have fallen victim to suspected "white slavery" activity in the region, and others theories, which are part of the confidential ongoing search, are being taken seriously by investigators.
The Bradleys state that, despite requests for help from the cruise line, they have not received a single phone call from Royal Caribbean International since their daughter vanished aboard RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS in March. F.B.I. offices in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands participated in the initial search but, according to Iva Bradley, those F.B.I. offices (where the Senior Agent in Charge of the case is based) have not initiated a single official phone call to the family since. Emergency phone calls by the family to the Bureau have been treated casually. According to the family's private investigator, "Only two F.B.I. agents are currently assigned to look for Amy, and we believe their role is to show presence and generate clerical things....that's all". The family questions the contrast between this effort and the "over 100 agents" assigned to find missing Polly Klass who was abducted from her mother's home in Petaluma, California, and found murdered an hour away.
Family members have since returned to Curacao twice to peform searches, at their own expense, for the missing Virginian. At one point, the family thought they'd found clues suggesting that Amy had been on the island following the alleged abduction. These, and about two dozen other clues generated by an April, 1998 episode of "American's Most Wanted" did not produce meaningful leads in the search for Amy.
Theories on the whereabouts and well-being of Amy Bradley become more convoluted amidst mention of white slavery in the region, and the harbor presence of numerous "Gypsy Boats" which (with little or no inspection and restriction) sail in and out of Curacao's port city of Willemstad most mornings to market produce and "other commodities" from the South American mainland. The rough port city of La Guaira, gateway to sprawling Caracas, Venezuela (South America) is but 35 miles away by sea, and modern, high speed air and ground transportation connects the congested (and largely lawless) Caracas area with drug and crime capitals (like Cartagena, Columbia) throughout both remote and metropolitan areas.
At WORLD CRUISE QUARTERLY's press time, Amy Bradley had not been found, and no new clues have been forthcoming as to whereabouts or fate. The family, still enduring the daily emotional crisis, has exhausted its financial resources and is convinced that neither the government or the cruise line is doing anything meaningful to find their daughter. Friends, family and private donors have posted a quarter of a million U.S. dollar reward for the safe return of Amy Lynn Bradley. Efforts are underway to publish this reward offer to the "Gypsy Boats" of the southern Caribbean, port cities along the north coast of Venezuela and on other Caribbean islands, and to the staff and crew of the Caribbean cruise ship fleet.
The family maintains a website which provides information and a safe manner in which to input information, at http://www.amybradley.net/. A trust fund has been established for those who may wish to assist the Bradley family in their ongoing search for Amy Lynn Bradley, now 24 and believed the victim of abduction. Donations may be sent to
the "Find Amy Bradley Fund", c/o The Community Bank, P.O. Box 2166, Petersburg, VA 23804.
If you have ANY information concerning the whereabouts of Amy Bradley please phone the
FIND AMY HOTLINE at (804) 276-8503