Lost and Found: The Disappearance of Amy Lynn Bradley

In March 1998, Amy Lynn Bradley went on a cruise with her family. She boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas in Puerto Rico with her mom, dad, and brother, Brad. They headed to Aruba and Curacao, docking in different locations to see what the islands had to offer.

A photo of Amy
Source: Pinterest

It was supposed to be a fun family vacation, but it took a dark turn when Amy suddenly disappeared. She had spent the night partying with her brother, and her father saw her lounging on the deck before she vanished. It took seven years for her family to understand what happened to Amy.

A Fun Family Vacation

On March 21, 1998, Ron and Iva Bradley and their adult children, Amy and Brad, boarded the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship in Puerto Rico. The ship was headed to Aruba and Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. It was a beautiful vacation with tropical weather and family fun.

A photo of Amy and Brad at the cruise ship.
Amy Lynn Bradley, Brad Bradley. Source: Pinterest

The Bradleys took regular vacations together and enjoyed their family time. Even as the kids got older, they made it a point to travel as a family at least once a year. On the second night of the cruise, they docked off the shore of Curacao. It was a perfectly normal evening.

Enjoying the Sun and Fun

The family flew from Petersburg, Virginia, to Puerto Rico to catch the cruise ship. At the time, Amy was 23 years old and excited about the family vacation. She sent a postcard from Puerto Rico to her friend, writing, “Hey girl, it’s gorgeous here. We leave for Aruba tomorrow. I’ll be home Saturday.”

A photo of the Bradley’s at the cruise ship.
Amy Lynn Bradley, Iva Bradley, Ron Bradley. Source: Pinterest

Amy bought souvenirs in Aruba for her friends at home and packed 15 rolls of film to make a collage for her coffee table. She was enjoying seeing all the beautiful sights and snapped pictures with her family. The Bradleys were all smiles throughout the trip, until the morning of March 24.

Partying All Night

On the second night of the voyage, Amy and Brad spent the night partying in the ship’s club. They were having a great time dancing to the ship’s band, Blue Orchid. Amy was seen talking to the band members and dancing with the bass player, Yellow, aka Alister Douglas.

A photo of Amy partying in the ship’s club.
Source: YouTube

Around one in the morning, Brad and Amy called it a night and returned to their family’s cabin. Before Brad went to sleep, he told Amy, “I love you,” and got in his bed. It was the last time he saw his sister, but their last exchange has comforted him over the years.

She Was Gone

A few hours after Brad and Amy returned from the club, Ron woke up around five AM and saw his daughter lounging on the deck of the family’s stateroom. Amy looked peaceful, so he didn’t disturb her. Ron then left the cabin for about 30 or 45 minutes before returning.

A dated picture of Amy and Brad.
Amy Lynn Bradley, Brad Bradley. Source: Pinterest

When Ron returned, Amy was no longer on the deck. He checked her room to see if she had gone back to bed, but she wasn’t there. Her shoes were left behind, but her lighter and cigarettes were missing. He waited for a bit, but Amy didn’t come back to the room.

Nowhere to Be Found

When Iva and Brad woke up, they helped Ron search the ship’s common areas for Amy. It was odd that she hadn’t taken her shoes and hadn’t come back. None of them found her, causing them to become increasingly concerned. The family started to panic.

A surveillance tape of Amy dancing in the ship’s club.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: YouTube

They reported Amy missing to the ship’s staff, begging them to cancel the docking at Curacao until the entire ship was searched. Unfortunately, the staff ignored their concerns. That morning, the ship docked according to schedule, allowing passengers and staff to deboard.

Gone Without a Trace

The Bradleys believed Amy was removed from the ship when everyone got off. It gave a potential kidnapper ample opportunity to take her away and blend into the crowd. Once everyone was off the ship, the Royal Caribbean staff started to search the boat.

A picture of the Bradley’s on their first day at the cruise ship.
The Bradley’s. Source: YouTube

The Netherlands Antilles Coast Guard was also called to search the surrounding waters for any sign of Amy. They spent five days looking for her but found no sign of foul play or evidence that she went overboard. The family was left with more questions than answers.

She Had Plans

If Amy left on her own accord, the docking gave her a chance to slip away. However, her family didn’t believe that she would run away or harm herself. Amy had big plans for the future, and it was out of character.

A dated picture of Amy with her mom.
Iva Bradley, Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

Amy was due to start a new job a few days after returning from her vacation and had just moved into a new apartment. She had also adopted a bulldog named Daisy that she was supposed to pick up when she returned home. Amy was looking forward to exciting things.

Stalled Case

After five days of searching, the Coast Guard and Royal Caribbean staff stopped looking for Amy. They found no sign of her, so the investigation reached a standstill. The ship’s staff were unhelpful throughout the process, refusing to page Amy until the ship was at port.

An image of a coast guard patrol in the sea.
Photo by Scott McIntyre/For The Washington Post/Getty Images

They didn’t want to announce her disappearance or post photos of her around the vessel. The staff worried it would upset other passengers. When the crew finally searched the boat, they only looked in the common areas, not in the staff or passenger cabins.

Special Attention

While it was possible (but unlikely) that Amy had fallen overboard, she was a strong swimmer and lifeguard. She could have easily swum to shore, and there were no signs of her in the water. Therefore, her family turned their attention to the ship’s staff.

A video still of Ron and Iva during an interview.
Ron Bradley, Iva Bradley. Source: YouTube

The Bradleys noticed the staff had been giving Amy “special attention.” Iva said, “We immediately noticed there was a tremendous amount of attention toward Amy from the crew.” They wanted to know her name and paid more attention to her than other guests.

A Disturbing Recollection

Ron remembered that one of the waiters approached Amy, saying “they” wanted to take her to Carlo and Charlie’s Restaurant when they docked in Aruba. Ron asked Amy about the encounter, and she said she would never go with them because they gave her “the creeps.”

A dated portrait of Amy.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

The memory became more disturbing years later because Carlo and Charlie’s Restaurant was the last place Natalee Holloway was seen when she disappeared in Aruba in 2005. Ron told authorities about the strange interaction with the waiters. But it led to a dead end.

A Possible Suspect

In Amy’s case, some believe one person should have been a prime suspect. Two college-aged women on the ship told Amy’s parents they saw Amy with Alister Douglas, the bass player from the band in the ship’s club, around 5:45 AM.

A picture of Alister Douglas.
Alister Douglas. Source: YouTube

The women said Amy got out of the elevator, and Douglas followed her. This information was alarming because Douglas approached Brad the morning Amy disappeared and said, “I’m sorry to hear about your sister.” However, the only people who knew she was missing were the captain and security.

They Reported Him

The Bradleys reported Douglas to the FBI, and he was brought in for questioning. They asked how he knew about Amy’s disappearance before it was announced. Douglas changed his story, claiming he knew nothing about her disappearance. The FBI had him do a polygraph test to confirm.

A picture of Alister Douglas.
Alister Douglas. Source: Pinterest

Despite the polygraph test and being questioned by the FBI and the ship’s security, there wasn’t enough evidence to bring Douglas into custody. According to reports, he was the last person to see Amy alive, but they didn’t find anything to connect him to the crime.

They Were Angry

While Douglas was questioned, Amy’s parents sat outside. As Douglas came out, he gave the Bradleys a thumbs up, like everything was “cool.” Her father, Ron, said he practically had to be restrained because he felt Douglas had something to do with Amy’s disappearance.

A dated portrait of Amy.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

Ron did his best to keep his composure, but he was boiling inside. No one was giving them answers, and it seemed like the cruise ship’s employees weren’t being helpful. The captain only let the guests know about the missing person when the FBI got involved.

Missing Photos

As the search continued, investigators discovered an interesting clue. The ship’s photo service, which snaps pictures of guests to sell, had somehow lost every photo of Amy. Her pictures were missing about nine to ten hours before she disappeared, according to her mother.

An exterior shot of a cruise ship.
Source: Wikipedia

Amy’s pictures were the only ones missing out of every guest on the ship. Between the missing photos and Douglas’ strange behavior, there was growing concern that Amy’s disappearance was part of a larger kidnapping conspiracy. But there was no evidence on the ship.

A Useless Investigation

When the FBI got involved, they looked into Amy’s background and interviewed her friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, and even her college coaches. Ron, Iva, and Brad took polygraph tests, but they weren’t suspects. The cruise line was also useless in the investigation.

An image of FBI officers approaching a woman.
Photo by Digital vision/Getty Images

Not only did the ship’s staff not help with the initial search, but the cruise line’s attorney intervened in every interview. Why would a multi-million-dollar cruise line not help in the search for a missing guest? Why did the captain allow all the guests to get off the ship before checking the boat?

The Case Went Cold

Unfortunately, there were many dead ends in the case. The Bradleys wrote congressmen, foreign officials, and the White House, but no one was helpful. They hired a private detective, built a website, and started a 24-hour hotline. They wanted any information to find Amy.

A surveillance tape of Amy walking with an unidentified man in the cruise ship.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: YouTube

The case grew cold because there was no reliable information. However, they received tips about possible sightings of Amy over the years. None of them led to anything concrete, but her family hasn’t given up hope. They even offered a $250,000 reward for Amy’s return.

They Went Back to Look

About a month after Amy disappeared, the Bradleys returned to Curacao. They rented a car and drove around hanging up missing person flyers. Within 24 hours, they received a critical tip. A taxi driver recognized Amy from the flyer, saying he saw her the morning she vanished.

An image of Amy’s room at the cruise ship.
Source: YouTube

The driver told the Bradleys that Amy approached his car minutes after the ship docked and frantically asked where the payphone was. The driver said, “I’ll never forget her green eyes.” Amy’s family knew the man had seen their daughter because she had bright green eyes.

She Was on the Island

The tip was the break her family needed. They got confirmation that Amy had been on the island and began to search with the help of local authorities. Ron and Brad scoured the island for any trace of Amy. They looked everywhere for clues.

A photo from the beach at the island.
Photo by Andreas Nöthen/picture alliance/Getty Images

Four days into the search, Brad heard Amy call his name. He knew it was her voice because she had a distinct way of saying his name. The voice seemed to come from a passing van. They started to follow it, but she wasn’t there. Either they followed the wrong car, or Brad imagined it.

They Found a Body

The Bradleys searched the island for about a week and decided to go home. Ron and Brad hadn’t found anything conclusive, and they felt defeated. However, before they got home, Iva called to say the police found a body in Curacao. The remains were of a female with brown hair.

An image of a palm tree.
Photo by Claudio Beduschi/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

The officer believed it could be Amy. Investigators needed 24 hours to identify the remains, and the wait was excruciating. When the phone rang the following day, the Bradleys were told it wasn’t Amy. It gave them a sliver of hope that Amy was still alive.

Someone Might Have Seen Her

The initial investigation led nowhere, but multiple people have claimed they’ve seen Amy in the Caribbean over the years. Two Canadian tourists saw a woman on the beach who matched Amy’s description a few months after she went missing. The woman had the same tattoos as Amy.

A picture of the Bradley’s in a postcard sent by Amy before her disappearance.
The Bradley’s. Source: Pinterest

The missing person report said Amy had a Tasmanian Devil with a basketball on her shoulder, a sun on her lower back, a Chinese symbol on her right ankle, and a lizard on her belly button. The tourist, David Carmichael, said he was sure it was Amy.

He Called Her Family

Carmichael reached out to the Bradleys when he saw Amy’s picture on TV. He said he had been in Curacao and saw a woman that matched her description walking down the beach, flanked by two men. When the woman heard Carmichael speaking English, she started to walk faster toward him.

A dated picture of Amy at home.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

The woman got closer to Carmichael, but just before she could talk to him, the men pulled her into a nearby café. Carmichael thought it was strange, so he followed them. He noticed her tattoos, and her family said they perfectly matched Amy’s.

Authorities Didn’t Find Anything

The Bradleys called local authorities in Curacao to tell them about the tip, but after a search of the area, they didn’t find anything. However, Carmichael’s tip convinced the Bradleys that Amy had definitely been kidnapped. She was being controlled by someone and couldn’t escape.

A portrait of Amy.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

Her mom, Iva, said, “It was just a confirmation that someone has her because she was definitely under control. She was not walking along the beach of her own free will.” Even though they knew she was there and most likely alive, they weren’t closer to finding Amy.

They Had Hope

After many tips that led the Bradleys nowhere, the family received what they thought was a promising clue. A witness told them Amy was being held by armed Columbians in Curacao. A man named Frank Jones claimed to be a former US Army Special Forces officer.

A still of Brad speaking during an interview.
Brad Bradley. Source: YouTube

Jones said he could round up a team of ex-Army Rangers and ex-Navy Seals who could help him rescue Amy. He told her parents he would “put Amy on his back and swim her out of there. The Bradleys had hope for the first time since Amy disappeared.

He Seemed Legitimate

Officials in Curacao said they couldn’t do anything because there was no evidence of a crime. Jones seemed like their first legitimate option, so the Bradleys agreed to hire him to save Amy. He told the family he had sent two men to Curacao to speak to the witness.

A general view of the island of Curacao.
Photo by Andreas Nöthen/picture alliance/Getty Images

Judith Margaritha told the family she knew Amy was being held by Columbians on the island. She said she regularly saw Amy grocery shopping and going to the gym with a man with long blonde hair and tattoos. Maragritha also gave an accurate description of Amy.

Accurate Details

Not only did Margaritha give a perfect description of Amy, but she also told the family that the woman she saw hummed a lullaby Iva used to sing to Amy when she was a baby. The family was convinced she was telling the truth.

An image of the island.
Photo by Markus Matzel/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Jones reported that Amy was in a dangerous situation. He told the Bradleys his men were forced to leave the island because they were “fired upon by an estimated ten men.” Over the next few months, Jones said he sent more operatives to do surveillance.

Time to Rescue

Jones provided several reports on the latest sightings of Amy. They were terrified that Amy was in imminent danger of being killed. After many months, Jones told the family that it was finally time to attempt a rescue. However, he needed more money first.

A picture of Amy.
Amy Lynn Bradley. Source: Pinterest

The Bradleys demanded proof that the woman they were tracking was their daughter, so Jones sent them photos of her sitting with the blonde-haired man on the beach. Iva recognized the tattoo on her daughter’s ankle and said, “I knew Amy was okay.”

They Gave Him More Money

The Bradleys sent Jones more money, bringing their total payment to $210,000. They paid $24,000 out of pocket; the other $186,000 was from a fund set up by the Nation’s Missing Children Organization. The family flew to Florida to wait for their daughter.

An image of a woman counting dollar bills on a glass counter.
Photo by Image Source/Getty Images

They were on edge because they thought Amy would be home soon. Iva and Ron waited in a hotel room, and a private jet provided by Ron’s employer was ready to bring the family home. However, a week passed, and they didn’t hear from Jones.

Not Telling the Truth

Days went by, but Jones never called. In Curacao, one of Jones’ men, a former Army Special Forces sniper named Tim Buckholtz, started to wonder if Jones was telling the family the truth. Buckholtz was assigned to watch the house where Amy was supposedly being held.

Iva cries during an interview.
Iva Bradley. Source: Dr. Phil

Instead of armed Columbians, the residents of the home were an ordinary family. They weren’t suspicious at all. Buckholtz overheard Jones telling the Bradleys that his “people” were watching the home, but that was a lie. Buckholz knew something was wrong.

He Tricked Them

Another member of Jones’ team, Jono Senk, said the photographs sent to the family were fake. Senk posed as the mysterious blonde-haired man, and the woman posing as Amy was an acquaintance of Jones. Buckholtz knew he had to reach the Bradleys.

An image of a male’s hand holding a phone.
Photo by Comstock/Getty Images

When the Bradleys got the call from Buckholz, they were crushed. They had been so hopeful that Amy would be back in their arms soon, but that was a lie. The Bradleys couldn’t believe Jones had fooled them for so long. He took their money and left them with false hope.

The Game Was Over

The Bradleys discovered Jones had never served in the Special Forces, and he made up all the information he gave the family. Jones was arrested for defrauding the Bradleys. In February 2002, he was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to repay the $210,000.

A photo of a telephone connected to a laptop computer.
Photo by Comstock/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Margaritha, who gave a fake tip, was also a fraud. Margaritha denied lying to the Bradleys, saying, “Maybe I’m a bad person, but with all my badness, I want Mrs. Bradley to find her girl.” The family had paid her $8,000 for information.

A Waste of Time

Although Jones was brought to justice, the Bradleys were frustrated because he wasted two years of their time. They could have been using that time to do legitimate things to find Amy, but Jones took that time by giving them false reports.

An image of a cellphone.
Photo by Comstock/Getty Images

Iva said it made her angry because it was such a waste. Whoever had Amy could have taken her to another country within those two years, and they would have never known because they believed Jones had eyes on her. They didn’t want to think of what could have happened to Amy.

Not the First People

Sadly, Jones and Margaritha were not the first people to deceive and take advantage of the Bradleys. Her family had no choice but to trust anyone who might have credible information. Ron said, “If there’s a chance, I mean, what else do you do?”

A view of the streets at Curacao island.
Photo by Markus Matzel/ullstein bild/Getty Images

They took a chance and lost, but the Bradleys would have done anything to find Amy. Any sighting or tip was a chance for them to get closer to finding Amy. Unfortunately, their most hopeful lead was a sham, but they didn’t give up.

Hidden Information

After dealing with Jones, the Bradleys received a new tip from a Naval officer stationed off the coast of Curacao. The officer said he went to a brothel, and a woman approached him, saying, “My name is Amy Bradley, and I need help. They won’t let me leave.”

An image of yellow and green bananas at the market in Curacao.
Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance/Getty Images

However, before the man could do anything, the woman was escorted away from him. The details of his story were strikingly similar to Carmichael’s encounter. The sailor had waited two years to share the information because he was afraid he would get in trouble for being in a brothel.

Nothing but Ashes

When authorities went to investigate the brothel, they realized it had been burned down. Just when the Bradleys thought they had another lead, they hit a dead end. Ron said, “It seems like a lot of places on Curacao burn down.”

An exterior shot of a casino in Curacao.
Photo by Markus Matzel/ullstein bild/Getty Images

The case hit another wall, but the information confirmed their suspicion that Amy had been kidnapped and forced into sex work. Even though they were grateful that Amy was still alive, it hurt to think about what horrible things she was forced to do.

A Mysterious Photo

In 2005, the Bradleys received photos in the mail of a woman identified as “Jas.” She was supposedly a sex worker in the Caribbean, and the FBI believed she was Amy. The woman in the photo looked just like Amy, but there was a sense of fear in her eyes.

A photo of Jas.
Jas. Source: Pinterest

The photos depicted “Jas” on a bed in just a pair of underwear and a bra. The Bradleys took the photos to a forensic specialist who confirmed that the woman in the photo was Amy. The pictures were also taken from a website advertising sex workers in the Caribbean.

Trying to Trace the Photos

The forensic expert said he would bet his career that the woman in the photo was Amy, so the Bradleys took the information to the FBI. Investigators began tracing the website, but they were having trouble locating the source of the IP address.

A sketch of the woman in the photo.
Source: Pinterest

However, with the new photos, Amy’s parents turn to the media once again. They hoped someone would recognize their daughter, who would have been 31 at that time. In December 2005, their tireless efforts produced another breakthrough in the case.

Another Lead

A woman from Ohio named Judy Mower had some critical information. She recognized Amy from the pictures on TV and called to share information. She and her husband went on a cruise, and while they were stopped in Barbados, the couple went shopping.

A picture of Amy in a missing person poster.
Source: Pinterest

She went to use the bathroom in the department store and found herself trapped in a frightening situation. When Judy got into the stall, she heard someone with a male voice come into the bathroom. She thought they were going to rob her, so she hid.

Spotted on Another Island

Judy listened as a man made a threatening statement to someone. She heard him say, “The deal is at 11; you better be ready to go. You better not mess it up.” The men left the restroom, but Judy was still not alone.

An image of two women speaking on the toilet.
Photo by Ryan McVay/Getty Images

When she left the stall, she saw a woman in tears by the sink. Judy tried asking the girl where she was from, and the girl replied, “I’m Amy from Virginia.” Judy kept talking, and the girl tried to signal her to be quiet, but it was too late. The man started pounding on the door again.

Never Seen Again

The man opened the bathroom door, so Judy quickly left and pushed past four men waiting on the other side. She never saw the woman again until she saw a picture of Amy in an article about missing persons. Judy realized the woman in the picture was the woman she had spoken to in Barbados.

A photo of a beach in Barbados.
Photo by Digital Vision/Getty Images

When Judy reported the incident, she helped the FBI create composite sketches of the woman and three of her potential abductors. Authorities followed up with employees at the Barbados department store, but no one remembered seeing Amy or her captors.

Ongoing Investigation

Although Bradley was declared legally dead in 2010, her body has never been found. Despite hitting many dead ends, the FBI investigation is still ongoing. The FBI and the Bradleys have offered sizeable rewards for information on her whereabouts, but Amy is still missing.

An image of a pedestrian walking in Barbados.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Amy could be anywhere by now, but a private investigator hired by the Bradleys believes there are still answers in Curacao. The private investigator, Tim Buckholz, said someone on the island knew what happened to Amy. He feels Alister Douglas is still a suspect.

What Happened to Amy

It has been 24 years since Amy disappeared, and the Bradleys still don’t have answers. Buckholz believes Douglas has some answers because he was the last person to see Amy before she vanished. He wants to ask Douglas, “What happened to Amy that morning when the ship docked in Curacao?”

Passengers of a cruise ship walk in a harbour.
Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images

The Bradleys have continued to search the Caribbean, looking for clues and answers, but nothing has come up. They hope Amy will come home one day. Iva said, “She knows that we love her and will fight till the day we die to find her.”