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Cruise Line Details Events After Man's Disappearance

January 05, 2006|From Associated Press

STAMFORD, Conn. — A woman whose husband disappeared during their honeymoon cruise this summer was found sleeping in a corridor far from the couple's cabin the night he vanished, the cruise line said Wednesday.

George Allen Smith IV of Greenwich disappeared July 5 from a Royal Caribbean ship in the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Greece. The FBI has been investigating, but no one has been charged and no body has been recovered.

Blood stains were found running from the balcony of Smith's cabin to life boats.

The whereabouts of his wife, Jennifer Hagel-Smith of Cromwell, during the time around his disappearance have largely been a mystery to the public. Federal authorities have said she is cooperating in the investigation. She has declined to comment on details of the cruise, citing the ongoing inquiry.

Royal Caribbean International, after facing criticism from Smith's family and Hagel-Smith for its handling of the disappearance, issued its first detailed account of the events surrounding Smith's disappearance.

The cruise line also said the FBI was investigating an alleged rape of a female passenger by the same young men last seen with Smith. The alleged sexual assault occurred three days after Smith disappeared, and was videotaped by the young men, according to Royal Caribbean.

The FBI has declined to comment.

The company denied allegations from Smith's family that it mishandled the investigation and from Smith's wife that she was treated poorly after her husband disappeared.

A guest relations manager accompanied Hagel-Smith during the investigation after her husband's disappearance, Royal Caribbean said.

"This situation was very serious. We took it very serious," the ship's captain, Michael Lachtaridis, told Associated Press in an interview in New York. "We never abandoned Jennifer."

Royal Caribbean said it called authorities, sealed the cabin and did not clean up the blood until given permission by Turkish authorities.

Turkish authorities have said Smith and his wife had been drinking heavily and gambling before his disappearance.

On the night her husband disappeared, Hagel-Smith was found at about 4:30 a.m. sleeping on the floor of a corridor on the other side of the ship, far from her cabin, Royal Caribbean said. She was taken back to her cabin by wheelchair -- a standard procedure -- at 4:47 a.m. by two security guards and a supervisor, the cruise line said.

Smith was not in the cabin and his wife said she was OK, Royal Caribbean said.

James Walker, Hagel-Smith's lawyer, criticized the cruise line for not getting her medical help or noticing blood around the cabin. He described her as unconscious when found, though Royal Caribbean said she was sleeping.

Royal Caribbean said "nothing appeared amiss" in the cabin when Hagel-Smith was brought back to it. After the blood was discovered about 8:30 a.m., Smith's wife was found shortly before 10 a.m. getting a massage in the spa, wearing the same clothes from the night before, the cruise line said.

"She responded that she was not aware that Mr. Smith was missing or where he was," Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

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