Amy Bradley: What is the Truth About Her Disappearance?

A Caribbean cruise should be a chance to relax, party a little, and generally have a good time. But sometimes, a cruise turns out to be something other than fun in the sun. That was the case with Amy Bradley, who vanished during a cruise with her family in 1998.

Amy Bradley

Amy Lynn Bradley was born to Ron and Iva Bradley in Petersburg, Virginia, on May 12, 1974. She played basketball in high school and attended Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, on a basketball scholarship, majoring in Physical Education. After graduation, she planned to work for a computer consulting company.

Amy Lynn Bradley (FBI)
Amy Lynn Bradley (FBI)

Like many recent graduates, Amy wanted to celebrate her accomplishment. She and her family decided to take a Caribbean cruise. On March 21, 1998, Amy, her parents, and her brother boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship’s next port of call was the Dutch island of Aruba. Seven years later, Aruba would be in the headlines after American teenager Natalee Holloway vanished while visiting the island. But in 1998, Rhapsody of the Seas’ stay was uneventful.

On March 23, the ship left Aruba, sailing for Curaçao, about 80 miles to the east.

Amy Bradley Visits the Ship’s Disco

On the evening of March 23, Amy and her brother, Brad Bradley, visited the ship’s onboard disco. Photos later released by the FBI showed Amy smiling and dancing, surrounded by fellow passengers. Later, witnesses saw Amy dancing and drinking with Alister “Yellow” Douglas, one of the members of Blue Orchid, the live band playing the disco.

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas in 2018 (Kefalonia2015 - Own Work)
Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas in 2018 (Kefalonia2015 – Own Work)

Around 3:30, Brad decided he’d partied enough for the evening and returned to the family’s suite. The cabin’s computerized door lock recorded him entering at 3:35 a.m. Amy followed five minutes later. Brad said they sat on the suite’s balcony and talked for a while before he turned in for the night. Amy stayed up a bit longer before going to sleep.

Amy Bradley Disappears

Between 5:15 and 5:30, Amy’s father, Ron, woke up and checked on his son and daughter. He saw Amy asleep in a lounge chair on the suite balcony. However, when he woke again at 6:00, Amy was gone, along with her cigarettes and lighter. For the next half hour, Ron Bradley searched the cruise ship’s common areas but found no sign of his daughter. At 6:30, he woke his wife and son and told them that Amy was missing.

Amy and Alister "Yellow" Douglas dancing in the ship's disco (forensictales.com)
Amy and Alister “Yellow” Douglas dancing in the ship’s disco (forensictales.com)

The Bradleys reported Amy missing to the ship’s personnel. In response to their urgent request to prevent the 2,000 passengers from debarking, the purser’s office said it was too early to raise an alarm. At 7:50 a.m., after most of the passengers had left the ship, the crew made an announcement asking Amy Bradley to come to the purser’s office. There was no response. Thus, possibly the best chance to find Amy was lost, assuming she was still on board.

The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard conducted a four-day search for Amy that ended on March 27 without finding anything.

Did Someone See Amy Bradley?

At first, authorities suspected that Amy had fallen overboard or died by suicide. However, she was known to be a strong swimmer, and her body was never found in the water. Furthermore, there was no evidence of foul play.

A cruise ship enters Curaçao past the Isla Oil Refinery in January 2021 (Aatu Dorochenko - Own Work)
A cruise ship enters Curaçao past the Isla Oil Refinery in January 2021 (Aatu Dorochenko – Own Work)

The morning she disappeared, two passengers told Ron Bradley they had seen a woman matching Amy’s description with cigarettes and a lighter taking an elevator to the ship’s deck. However, nothing came of this unconfirmed sighting.

A Curaçao cab driver also reported seeing a woman who looked like Amy and appeared distressed. He said she approached him and said she urgently needed a phone. Authorities were unable to confirm this incident.

Five months after she disappeared, a Canadian computer engineer claimed to have seen a woman matching Amy’s description walking on a Curaçao beach with two men. He said she appeared to be constantly trying to get his attention. Reportedly, the woman’s tattoos matched Amy’s, and the man was sure it was her, but again, nothing came of this possible sighting.

In January 1999, a U.S. Navy petty officer claimed to have seen a woman in a Curaçao brothel who claimed to be Amy Bradley. He said she begged him for help and told him she was being held against her will.

Years later, in March 2005, a witness claimed she saw Amy in a department store restroom in Barbados. She said three men accompanied the woman and threatened her if she failed to follow through with a “deal.” The witness reported the incident to police, and an artist created composite sketches of the three men, but nothing came of it.

What Happened to Amy Bradley?

Three theories seem to be the most likely explanation for Amy’s disappearance. One is that she was kidnapped and sold into the illegal Caribbean human trafficking industry. Some evidence supports this, including the Navy petty officer’s report and inconsistencies in the story told by band member “Yellow” Douglas. In addition, a professional photographer printed photos of the cruise to sell to passengers, but the Bradleys could not find any of Amy. They suspected someone had carefully removed her pictures.

Amy Lynn Bradley, photos age-progressed to 42 years old (FBI)
Amy Lynn Bradley, photos age-progressed to 42 years old (FBI)

Another theory is that someone murdered Amy and threw her body overboard. However, there is little evidence to support this.

The final theory is the one authorities proposed when Amy disappeared: that she either fell or jumped overboard.

Epilogue

Amy Lynn Bradley was declared legally dead on March 24, 2010, twelve years after she vanished into thin air.

Amy’s disappearance and years of searching put an unbearable strain on Ron and Iva Bradley’s marriage. The couple divorced in 2016.

The FBI continues (in 2024) to offer a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to finding Amy or that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

Don’t Miss Out! Subscribe to the Newsletter

Subscribe to True Crime in the News, a monthly email newsletter that looks at recent news stories that will interest any true crime fan. There is also a summary of the previous month’s blog posts. You won’t want to miss this. Join the newsletter mailing list today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *