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claudia kirschhoch disappearance - Eamonn O'Neill

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TI{IN AIR?

VESTIGATES

THE

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THls time ofthe year thc Lfcathraking

Scvcn Mile Beech ncrr Ncgril

on-lamaicat south-wcst cdgc rvill bc

fillcd l ith winter-flccing toufists

soaking up thc sun. But thc Lcxch toivn's

famous goldcn sirrr


and linia Grossinger arrived in thc Beaches

resort jn Negril around noon on 1'hursday, 25

May. It is an imprcssive resort dcsigned

exclusivcly for families rrld, to a lcsser extent,

singles. It's a sjstcr to Sand'rls which catcrs fc,t

couples and is located a mile or two rlong thc

3

4

5

the rirport grounds irld to their hotel grounds

,nd vcnture out only on cxpensive organised

rours. fhosc who warrr ro src 'the realJamaica'.

or at letlst see thc island ill grcater depth, should

lrc prep:rred for some hasslc. Should you gol By

nll means, yes. Re pru(lcnt xnd c.rutious, just as

ifyou werc visiting New York, Miami or LA."

In theory, an all-inclusivc rcsort in one ofthe

hetter locations iD Jamaica should have posed

no thr€xt !o a well-trirvcllcd, strcetwise woman

from New York. llrrt it tlid ancl within rwo d.rys

she had v.,rnishcd.

S:rnJrls i' owncJ hy liurch Srewart, thc

richesr rn,lrrgrrbly rhc nrusr influerrri.rl nr:rn in

Jern,ric,r. I Iis chrin ol rll-in..lrisivc f(!L,rts is

worth $250 'nillion:rrd rcgul,rrly srvecps thc

board in travelindusty lvrrds. lts orylnisrtiond

abilities arc awesorne rnd the stlndlrd is very

high. Any conrplaints are mild: as some of the

resorts are for couples only and are often used

for wetidings, they can have a slight Stepford

Wives feel. It crn also feel slightly rvcird to be

confinctl ro r conrpourrrl. though rhcre is i

strong sense of being protectcd.

Most tourists, parriculirly thosc who stry in

rhesc..rll-irrclusive r€sorts, scc 0 version of

Jlmlica thlt is.r f.rlsc paratlisc. Whcn Cl.rudir

arrived in J.rnuicr in rhc su'n,rt€' of 2{XX), [rx

cxrnlfllj, over 570 nlurdcm h.rd.rlrc.rdy bccn

connrittetl on thc island drrrt ycrrr. Whilc nrost

ofthcsc took phce in thc King$l()n rrca, it cun

sccnr sorDetinl€s rs though crime is (,t't (rf

control in Jrtll:ric'r .n(l il's nor uncomtllorr for

soldiers to be dcployed on the streets. \4/hen I

visited in 1999, .r senior tourism insider colfitlcd

hc fully expecterl inrnrinenr social :rntl econorric

breakdown and admitted the police wouldn't

stand a chance in the ensuing .lr.ros. T was giren

a very lasr rour ofsome of rhc rvorst inner-ciry

drug-gang run areas of Kingston where th€

palpuble tension reminded me ofthe dark mood

preceding Northern Irelxndt marching season.

Tir put it rn perspecrivc, guD-crime InJamaica

is proportionarely 50U pcr cent higher than in

d1c States. OneJamaican newspaper said: "Any

country \r'hich is not at war.rnd has no declared

tcrrorist organisation lrrrt which has so rrrany of

its citizens murdered has a nrajor problem.'

Although nrost tourists are protected from

this by staying in all-inclu:iivc rcsorts, Butch

Srewam and othcls are t{' tsom happy with the

ishn


) collcagucs rvcrc still cxpecting her to r*urn to

Ncrv Yr;rk.rt 8.3Opn on'l'hursday, I June,..rs

origin;rlly pl.rnnerl. lVhcn her parents hadn't

herltl anything by the foilorving tlay, they called

hcnrpartrrrent in New Yolk.'l'hcre w:rs no

leplv.'Ihcy then phoned her office but were

told she hrdr'r rrrived for work. They knew

inrnrediate\' sornething wlrs rvrong. They c.rlled

Janrricr rnd spokc to somcone rt a Berchcs

officc iu Montcgcr Ii.ry. FIc suggested th:rt

(ilrudia Iud perh.rps cxtentied her st:ry. I{er

prrrcnts insistccl thrr this wrs norscnse - she'd

h.rvc told rhem ifshe'd rnrtlc such a decisror.

'l hcy kcpt phoning until they wele finrlly

rold ofthe discovery rhrt hcl bed Iudn't been

slept irr antl that hcr belongings were rll int..rct.

Onrinously, the safe-deposit box still held her

plrssport, return tickcc, credit cards.rnd $180

iD c:lsh.

Events then took a more sinisrer turn. A "PR

rlan" whom Mr Kirschhoch spokc to at Negrilt

chimed that Clrrrdia hrd fril€d to rncet']}ni,

when she w.rs dcpalting, descritring this as

"typical bchaviour" since

"ncvcr she showed rrp

for anything rve did for hcr". T he rnan alsr>

chimed he'd seen Clarrdia on the Sunday and

that she'd failed to turn up tbr.r Iifi to the

rirport on Mond;ry.

According to the Kirschhochs, rhe PR manb

claims were nonsense, He'd lost tr.rck of

Claudir :rnd it would later be shown tlrar he was

simply covering himself.

'fhc fa'rily crlled their rcpresenrarives in

14/rshingron for help. Claudia's publishing

conrprny Bor involvcd roo lln rhc lollowing

Wedncsdny flerv her parents to Kingston. A

reward of $25,000 was established, quickly

dorrbled by Stew:rrt and wonlr a hefty two million

JanBicaD dolhrs. Posrers were disrributed to tne

local press and the firlily rnade radio appeds.

Srew.rn provided thern with accommodation and

covered sonre of their erpenses.

Already worried about theJamaic.rn policet

.bility to solve the nrystery they contacred th€

liBL -fhcir congressm:rn threw his weight

trchintl the crse ud ensurcd the FBI were grvrn

icc€ss to thc casc. ByJuly 2000, si-r FBI agents

rvere on rhc islarrd investigaring Claudia's

dislppearlncc.'l'hey turned up vital but rs yet

inconclusive evidcncc which casr rloubt uporr

lhc stalcn€nt ofAnthony Crtlnt, rh€ bartender.

'l'hey :rlso fbund nrconsistencies in rhc evidence

ofothcr pcoplc.

A scnior S.rndals PR rnan told the prcss that

linir Crossinger hacl told hirn in confldence

thrt (llaudia atlnittcd she'd had scx with the

tnrmun aficr the reggac concct.'l'his shockcd

hcr prrents arrd'Iinia, who "vehcmently denics"

evcl urakilg such a st:rtenrelt.

IlLrt Clrudia's morals wcrc srrddcnly in

(tucstion.'l hc Pll. ru.rn's claims, hcr prrents

bclicve, wcrc falrricrtctl so that he wouklnt losc

his job. l)enigr'.rting rhcir darrghrer's chrracter.

rrlso .rllowcd hinr to push hcr ink) the "sex-rnds.,trrrl"

rrtcgoly oftorrrists who hcarl toJunrica

to nrcct l local ur:rn tbr thc night,

Stcwrrr rcprimrnrlerl his st:rfTrnd clrlle(l thc

farnily to apologise. The press picked up on He failed some parts of it buc did reportedly

these r

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