Diary Of A Hollywood Refugee

Friday, January 06, 2012

Cruising The Med: Murder Mystery Mayhem

Originally Posted:  July 13, 2005

I am re-posting this four part story  in order that I wrote the blog pieces back in 2005  since DATELINE will be airing on this story tonite alleging they will reveal never before 'heard' information.  

I was on the ship and blogged about this as it was unfolding. Upon return from the cruise I published Murder Mystery Mayhem.  It generated a response from I communicated with the Russian American kids who were the last to see George alive which I shared in a subsequent post ( Setting the Record Straight). I received over 1000 interview requests from Larry King to Nancy Grace - I granted three interviews only-  the first interview was to Joe Scarborough on MSNBC. I received over 200 Instant Messages from media who had stalked me via various message boards and uncovered my IM address  AND over 3000 emails from conspiracy nuts to law enforcement to those simply intrigued with the story.

I doubt NBC has anything new to share - at least nothing was revealed in the interview with Ann Curry.  The photos of the room were already shown in the media as was the blood stain on the awning. EVERYONE covered this story- but without a body or a weapon or a motive NOTHING was ever determined beyond the conclusion drawn in the Vanity Fair piece which I also reference in this series of blog posts.  In all likely hood George fell overboard from his cabin.  End of Sad Story. 

Cruising The Med:  Murder Mystery Mayhem
A honeymoon couple board a cruise ship, and he disappears under mysterious circumstances, with blood found in his stateroom and on the awning underneath his balcony, his new wife is escorted off the ship, to the American embassy in Turkey, where she is met by her parents; a young woman is raped aboard the same cruise ship, and a 52 yr old man dies of a heart attack or possible aneurism brought on by heaving endless vomiting, at least 5 members of a family travelling together are offboarded in Italy accompanied by the FBI and Italian authorities, divers are dispatched to make sure the British Cruise ship while in several ports of call, remains safe from potential terrorist attacks, and the family of the missing man are alleged to have boarded the ship in Italy, while FBI agents remain on board to further investigate these incidents.

Is this the script for a new adventure at sea feature film, a movie of the week, a new book about to become a best seller?

NO! This is what happened on the " Brilliance of the Seas" Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship during my 12 nite Cruise of the Mediterranean!

Here is a link to one of many articles FBI Continues Investigation of Missing Greenwich Man discussing the first incident.

With all due respect to the families involved, this is really a very glossed over pretty in pink version of the facts surrounding this incident.

First of all, I saw pics taken by a passenger of the blood that was spotted on the awning...this was NO small amount of blood, and several sources confirmed that blood stains were noticed along the side of this large cruise ship which seemed to draw the attention of the Turkish Naval Security as we arrived into port. I noticed the Turkish Navel Security boat from my balcony - the security officer was focused intently on one area of the ship. Later I would figure out that it was Georges blood dripping down the side of the ship that had caught the attention of the Turkish Naval Security. I wonder if a man his size falling approximately two stories off his balcony would generate that much blood loss simply from the fall? My stateroom attendant and several other people told me that blood was also found in this couples stateroom.

The couple was paged incessantly by the staff on the morning July 5th and neither responded to the pages.I was told that the new Mrs George Smith, aka, Jennifer Hagel, was originally found  at approximately 4:00am on July 5th,  passed out on Deck 9; on the opposite side of where her stateroom was located not in the gym working out, as his been reported in the press.   She was returned to her stateroom via a wheelchair by ship's security personnel at approximately 4:15-4:30am. She was coherent and had told ships security that because she was drunk she got lost trying  to find her stateroom door and simply curled up on to the floor in  a drunken sleep.  After returning to her stateroom, she simply went back to bed, assuming George was still on the ship probably partying with other passengers.  Sometime around 9:00am ( possibly earlier)  Jennifer was located in the spa having a massage. George was still missing.

My stateroom was located many doors down from their room, my uncle and his wife were in a stateroom that was even closer than mine. He remembers being awakened by a LOUD thump around 3am. He opinioned that the thump was the body hitting the awning..but again..this is MERELY his opinion. However a woman I spoke to a great length while descending the steps that lead from Fira down to the tenders in Santorini(more about that adventure later) also heard the same loud thump at the same time. She and her husband had a stateroom near the Smith's stateroom and reported hearing loud noices, loud male voices telling George to calm down...they heard George ranting, and heard alot of indistinguishable banging sounds. They also heard security knocking several times on the Smiths stateroom door in the early hours of the morning,- no one answered the knocks. Security left, came back about half an hour later, knocked again several times, again no answered. For some reason security then knocked on this woman's door, and asked her and her husband if they had heard any unusual noices or disturbances; she replied no.

Later on that day, this same couple would be interviewed by the FBI and other authorities about what they heard and witnessed. For several days they had complained about loud partying, loud aggressive voices, mostly male, and also commented on how often this young couple in their mid twenties were seen partying with a group of loud obnoxious much younger teens...well...I think it was safe to assume that they were 18..or 19 or 20...but clearly several years younger than the couple. The Smiths were seen buying these young adults alot of drinks.

This article states that the couple were seen in the disco and in the casino on the nite in question.
Well that's true...but what it doesnt mention is that the couple were seen and heard arguing loudly, there was a disturbance that occured in the disco with them at the heart of it, as well as the "group of young adults they frequented" . In the disco or possibly the casino several witnesses saw and heard them fighting and Mrs Smith was seen kicking Mr Smith in the family jewels!

I was told that at both these incidents, they were escorted out of the disco and casino by security personel, altho I cannot confirm that.

The FBI boarded the ship to investigate. I was told by several sources that George's parents had flown into one of the ports of calls, either Greece or Naples, and boarded the ship, undoubtedly to investigate first hand what had occured but I can't confirm this.

Several other sources also shared with me that George had been bragging endlessly about having 50k dollars in cash in his safe, and there was alot of sexual innuendos being banted about with regards to the newly married Mrs Smith and these young men they were partying with. NONE of this is verifiable AND I have doubts about the veracity of the statements, but several sources did mention this to me independently of each other.

I later found out that these same young friends who the Smiths had befriended, were implicated in the alleged rape of a young woman - In not certain of her age- on the eve of the ship arriving in Naples. I do know that these young friends were part of a large family ( cousins, siblings, aunt, uncles, parents) travelling together...and that they were considered obnoxious, loud mouthed, overbearing, and allowed to roam recklessly throughout the cruise ship, they drank alot, they partied alot, and they were none to bright. As the entire family was being escorted by the FBI off the ship, the daughter was heard telling her Mom " we ought to go shopping since we will be hear alot longer now". They were removed or" Off boarded " by the FBI and local authorities, pursuant to an investigation into the rape that they allegedly instigated. Coincidently, they were the same guys at the heart of George's mysterious disappearance.

An extensive land, air, sea search was conducted, but the body was never found.

I question whether George did fall into the ocean by accident, but I'm not expert. There was too much blood on the awning and along the side of the boat to have been caused simply by a short two story fall, not to mention the blood in his stateroom. The awnings are not flat, they form a slight pyramid, that would cause a body to roll off, and they do not have a rail that would prevent anyone from falling into the sea, so they are a great place to dump a body you want to feed to the fishes. Coupled with the blood that several stateroom attendants say was found in their stateroom, it's hard to imagine that this was simply an accident.

No matter what's happened, its a sad situation, and one that will most likely leave us with many questions and too few answers.

As for the alleged rape...its been kept low key....few people know it even occured...no announcement was made by the captain, as he had done about the "tragic accident that occured where a man fell overboard". I can understand why it was best not to make any announcement about it....the identity of the rape victim and her family needs to be protected...especially if she is younger than 18, and Im sure the investigation into what happened is still ongoing,not to mention, for PR purposes, this isn't exactly the best kind of press a cruise line wants. Rumours were spreading that the guys that raped her, video taped the act. .

Several passengers began video taping the "offboarded" family while they were confined to the ship in Naples.

I'm not sure why these passengers were filming them....but look for the film to" mysteriously" appear on the internet! ( who me, cynical?? - yupp cuz I know human nature)

Incidentally the pics taken on board of the newlyweds were immediately removed(for those of you who have never gone cruising - pics are taken by onboard photographers when you board, you have dinner, you meet the captain...etc and are displayed for you to view and purchase ) I would not be surprised if a pic of this couple taken on board "mysteriously" appears on the internet! * rolls eyes* ( yupp Im cynical but I know human nature!)

While at sea enroute back to Barcelona, a plane appeared out of the blue, flying very low over the cruise ship. Several of us suspect that this plane belonged to paparazzi as opposed to terrorists! But one can never be too certain!

Shortly after the London Subway Bombings by Islamic Terrorists( I won't sugar coat this like the BBC did) our cruise ship security became somewhat tighter. I was told divers around the ships are considered post 9/11 security protocal so they may have in fact been present in all ports of call..but I was only aware of them after the bombings.

So there you have it...now I promise to update you all later on the highlights of the cruise.
My three favorite ports of call:
Cap Ferrat ( the port of Call is Nice (Villefrance) but we had all seen Nice, Monacco, Cannes - so we hired a driver to take us to Cap Ferrat - its beautiful, quaint, and the shopping is great!
Mykonos - I could have stayed there forever!
Barcelona- Is a beautiful city full of life, energy, beauty, art, and great food, and the famous unfinished Gaudi church which defys description!

Cruising The Med: Setting The Record Straight
Cruising The Med: The Final Word
Yet Again
Desperate Lies
Cruising The Med: Honeymoon Murder Mystery

Cruising The Med: Setting The Record Straight

Shortly after I posted this entry I received an email from someone claiming to be a close friend of the guys at the heart of the both the rape allegations and the disappearance of George Smith. He wanted to sort out what was truth from what was rumored, and to make a few things quite clear. While I have no way to verify the veracity of his claims and to verify if he is indeed a friend of these guys we witnessed being offboarded, I also have no reason to believe he is lying.

I did ask if I could post their side of the story as he told it to me, and he agreed.

"Let me try to clear this up for you, 3 of those guys are my very close friends. Two brothers and my best friend, the other two involved were a cousin of the brothers and the other was some guy from california"

" When my friends called me from Turkey to tell me about being questioned in the murder of George Smith, I thought they were joking because I know these guys very well, they are not at all capable of murder. They were probably one of the last people to see George
alive, they walked him to his room after his wife was seen leaving with one of the employees from the casino.. ."

" George was very drunk and asked the guys to help him to his room. They walked him to his room, not really walked, more like carried him. They helped him get his shoes off and laid him down in his bed and left to go back to their own cabins. There was no one else present at the moment they left George's cabin. His wife was nowhere to be found and the room was in order. Whatever happened to George occured after the guys left. They were awoken the next morning by security and they were all hung over and didnt understand what was going on because they helped him to his room and went to sleep"

He went on to agree that no doubt his friends were probably loud and obnxious and drunk, but they are all between 17-20 and they were simply having a good time as guys that age are known to do.

He stressed several times that there was never a rape. While they did indulge in sex with this one girl it was mutual and voluntary on her part. She told them she was 18. They did indeed videotape the encounter, and it would seem that the tape also served to exonerate them of all charges, which according to his friends, she never made. She never laid any charges or made any allegations of rape against the guys involved .."....the cruise line charged them without any proof. Anyways, the girl never came forward and said she was raped. She was talking to people about how she was fucking around and was taped.....she knew it was there. Anyways, the girl didnt come forward to charge them, the cruiseline did that..."

Now I must admit...it seems very strange to me for any cruise ship to charge anyone with rape without allegations from the victim....but he reiterated that while he cannot explain their reason for doing so, they did.

When I mentioned that neither the FBI nor the Cruise Line have called George's disappearance a murder, but simply said he may have fallen overboard, he replied"The ship may have said man overboard but my friends were questioned in regards to a murder. They were the last people to see him. We're from New York, we meet people all the time and we drink with them and we're loud and out there but we know how to have a good time. From the accounts of my friends, George was a fun guy who was having a good time with them pounding out shots while his wife was running around with her panties around her ankles. It's a very unfortunate incident. My friends were exonerated and yes that does not negate the fact that they were accused but they were not charged with anything and so far no further legal action is being taken against them"

He went on to say that no other women had come forth with rape allegations against them.
" and the other girls who came forward weren't in regards to my friends, they only partied with that one girl. ...I may have not been on the ship but I have heard the real story from people that were involved and the people who I trust most and know for over 10 years.
They're cleared of everything and now the cruise line will be sued because they illegally searached their rooms, and removed contents without warning or notification and had no evidence to go on. Lets not even get into the lawyers fees, hotels fees after getting kicked off the ship and mental distress."

I asked him to clarify one point regarding receiving a call from Turkey since I saw them being off boarded in Naples.

"They called me from Turkey because they were taken to a Turkish Police station for questioning, Apparently that night they were not allowed to leave their cabin, they said there were 2 guards outside their rooms. I don't know if they're serious but they said the couldn't go out of the room until they were cleared of suspicion. They were offboarded in Naples after they were exonerate of the rape charges".

Cruising The Med: Murder Mystery Mayhem
Cruising The Med: The Final Word
Cruising The Med: Honeymoon Murder Mystery

Cruising The Med: Honeymoon Murder Mystery

It's hard to believe that when I first wrote that I'd be going on a wonderful 12 day cruise of the Med on "Brillance of the Seas", my dream of "Love Boat-Mediterrean Style" would have turned into "Murder She Wrote At Sea".

Shortly after I blogged about George Smiths disappearance in "Cruising The Med: Murder Mystery Mayhem" I received an email from a friend of the russian -american boys who were at the heart of this mystery since they had been the last to see George alive.

After engaging back and forth for days via email, I got permission to share what he told me in an effort to put forth his friends side of the story, and did so in "Cruising The Med: Setting the Record Straight".

Who knew that I was about to be hit with a media tsunami, the likes of which I've not experienced even though I worked in Hollywood for years: hundreds of emails relentlessly requesting interviews even before the mention of my blog on a now defunct tabloid news show which then resulted in even more media requests; 1000s of Google searches that directed people to my blog; the onslaught of relentless instant messages (I had NOT listed my instant message screen name on my blog but apparently some people had enough time on their hands to track down my screen name from message boards I used to post on) from media and others pretending to be "friends of one of the boys or friends of George or Jen"- to those willing to admit they were the media and relentlessly trying to secure an interview or further comments; thousands of non media emails from the curious(what was the Smith's cabin number, did George win alot of money, how far is the disco located from their stateroom, was their marriage on the rocks, did I know Clete, what did I think of Clete's account ) and the crazy ( from those posing as either George or Jennifers "close friend", to psychics claiming to know what happened but apparently unable to correctly identify Jennifer Smiths maiden name, to some wingnuts insisting that boys were part of the Russian mob and that I was being "obviously" coerced and or threatened by them, and a lot of raunchy sexual requests - honestly some peoples children!) all of which continued relentlessly even after I penned my last post "Cruising The Med: The Final Word".

Exhausted from being endlessly pursued by the media - and against my better judgement- I agreed to give three interviews :
1) ABC - Good Morning America 2) Joe Scarborough 3) Fox News .
I regretted doing all three and expressed my regret and anger in "Yet Again".

The onslaught didn't stop there - the media continued their sad attempts to gain information from me, which led me to pen "Desperate Lies" -my admonition to the media.

I kept hoping this story would quickly fade away - to be replaced by a mulititude of other far more important stories - but human nature and the media being what they are - combined with the fact that neither Jen Hagel Smith nor George Smiths family nor the russian american boys themselves would give interviews - but just like the energizer bunny, it kept on going and going and going.......

Everytime some media outlet ran the story - I got emails and more emails and more emails.

Convinced by November that this story was FINALLY put to rest- my illusion was shattered in December when Jennifer Hagel and The Smiths began to appear all over the media in what was a very obvious attempt at wanting to publically blame Royal Caribbean in order to help win litigation against the Cruise Line.....................and along came more emails!

I just ignored them, I had refused to even talk about this story with my family and friends from as early on August. I blogged about alot of other things..and yet people still emailed wanting me talk about the Cruise Ship Honeymoon Mystery - Fowl Play or Simply A Tragic Accident??

Over the course of time "the friend" and I stayed in touch, sharing bits of our lives with each other - and he continued to share with me more details of that night on the cruise ship...all of which would much later appear in the media as they continued their pursuit of "the truth".

Even though he made me privy to information that I could have shared weeks before its revelation by Greta Van Sustern, and Nancy Grace, and the rest of the media, I chose not to!

These media "luminaries" spent so much twisting what I had previously written and continued speculating and incorporating their sordid hypothesis into every segment they aired or article they wrote that the Da Vinci Code plot began to sound more plausible!

It also came to my attention that the FBI was reading my blog. Hello to the FBI and by the way if you think I don't know that some of the people Instant Messaging and emailing me were "moles" for you......think again!!!

So why am I revisiting this now?

The April issue of Vanity Fair features "The HoneyMoon Cruise Mystery".

Fearing the worst and expecting much of same recycled tabloid trash I had decided not to buy Vanity Fair until I got an email early this week from Rusty's friend ( the guy whose been emailing me). He and Rusty felt it was the most fair and balanced piece of reporting to date.

Having just read it myself.......... I have to wholeheartedly agree!
Major kudos to Bryan Burrough who does a terrific job of piecing together what may have led to this honeymoon tragedy. It's an in depth non salacious fact driven piece.

Based on the evidence presented to him-which for the most part matches up with what Rusty's friend told me and what I gleaned and/or witnessed while on the cruise and subsequently blogged about - he draws the only conclusion that one can realistically believe at this time.

Cruising The Med: The Final Word

Monica posted a comment to me that I'd like to answer in a new post. She mentioned she was surprised more people had not commented on my blog in light of the story last night mentioning it.

I don't know that there will be many more comments simply because there is not much more that can be said or offered up by the general public.

I blogged here and here about several events that occured and were somewhat connected.

Some were witnessed by me, some by members of my family, and some by various other passengers and crew. Many people I spoke to often shared the same accounts, which were factual, while others shared innuendo and pure speculation. I tried to differentiate between the two in my blog and assumed it was clear when I was offering up my opinion. Alot of the innuendo I heard, I chose NOT to blog about, BUT some of the innuendo was consistent by different sources, and I believe is based in truth. An ugly truth...but truth nonetheless. Its that innuendo that I chose to include.

There are some who would argue that's not fair or right...and perhaps their criticism is valid. However, I find the "official" story put forth by RC spokeswoman of Ms Hagel claims that she woke up, didn't find her husband in the cabin, assumed he was on deck somewhere with friends at 7:00 am, did not see anything amiss in their cabin, and left to either work out in the gym(as some stories have reported) or go to the spa( as yet others have reported) to be somewhat suspect.Frankly I don't believe it...I think its completely fabricated. Nonetheless, she was not charged or held on any charges. So the "official" story stands as it is, for now.

Perhaps there are some who feel I'm not entitled to offer up my opinion or thoughts on my blog because they deem it" speculation" and feel that's unfair and unkind. So be it. I won't argue that they are right or wrong - they are after all, like myself, entitled to their opinion and are free to blog their opinion in my "comments" section. However I will say that IF my opinion had been one in support of Jen's story and or been more supportive of her....I suspect they'd have no quarrel.

A man is missing under very strange circumstances, and several people were implicated, and then apparently, exonerated. Whatever truly happened remains for the FBI to uncover.
In time, one can only hope they will and that that all speculation and opinions will be proven either right or wrong but finally laid to rest.

However, in watching the coverage on Fox, and other major news outlets, there has always been doubt,on the part of those journalists reporting the story, towards the official Hagel story as put forth by RC. People find it very strange that a new bride would not think twice about her husbands whereabouts, and did not notice what passengers NOT in the room, but on their own balconies noticed as well as what the cleaning staff noticed upon entering the room, blood!
It just seems very strange, and its been the fodder for talk, speculation, opining, by all.

Human nature is such that speculation ensues when the actions of someone just don't make sense. I agree - returning home seems strange - but perhaps staying on board would be even stranger and far more disconcerting to someone who has just lost her husband. Who knows? We each come to view situations in our own way. This blog allows for diverse thoughts but hopefully in a civil albeit emotional manner.

My blog is where I voice my opinions on MANY subjects, and about many people, and what they have said or put forth in the press, on their own blogs, and in books they've written, and it should be clear to many people that I do not hold back.

I have declined the numerous offers for interviews both with and without financial remuneration. That ALONE should speak volumes to my integrity. It was NEVER my intention to blog about this in the hope of gaining attention, interviews, and financial remuneration.

When I received an email from someone close to those young adults involved who was angry and wanted to get the ENTIRE story out about his friends, I allowed him the opportunity to do so, He chose not to blog - he simply wanted to dialogue with me. After several exchanges he did allow me to post what he had shared with me.

I wanted it included in this blog in the spirit of being fair and balanced. Those young guys are entitled to have their voice heard and their side of the story told.

I have no way of being able to confirm the veracity of his comments and relationship to the young adults involved, but as I've said before...I have no reason to doubt him. Certainly if what he said is true..then it deserves to be heard, and his friends deserve to have the all the facts and the entire truth known.

Beyond that..I have nothing more to say or add.

However, I'll leave others the opportunity to continue to comment as they wish. I could if I chose to disallow futher comments...I won't YET.

However, I am moving on to blog about other things that Im interested in, and/or want to rant about.

In time, I will blog about the highlights of my trip, especially in beautiful places like Mykonos, and Barcelona; places I think others should consider visiting even though travelling in a post 9/11 world can sometimes be challenging.

My life is busy with work, volunteering for Make a Wish, supporting our troups with care packages and emails, and of course, spending down time with friends, and reading about four books a week, most of which become subjects I blog about.

Once again, I want to make it clear, that I am declining all requests for interviews.

Cruising The Med: Murder Mystery Mayhem
Cruising The Med: Setting The Record Straight
Cruising The Med: Honeymoon Murder Mystery