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Honeymooner's ship disappearance probed

U.S. officials are investigating the disappearance of a Connecticut man who vanished from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean while on his honeymoon.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The night a newlywed vanished from his honeymoon cruise, the sounds of a loud party were coming from his stateroom, followed by male voices arguing on the balcony and then a “horrific thud,” a fellow passenger says.

The ship was in the Mediterranean Sea when Connecticut resident George Smith IV disappeared more than three weeks ago.

No one has been charged, but Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor said Tuesday that the 26-year-old’s disappearance is being aggressively investigated and reports of blood on the ship raise concerns. The comments are the first by a U.S. prosecutor on the case and the strongest indication yet that officials suspect foul play.

“We think the circumstances are unique enough and suspicious enough that a thorough investigation is warranted,” U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor told The Associated Press.

O’Connor said investigators were still interviewing passengers and staff from the ship, and he declined to discuss details of the investigation.

Wife not suspected
A Turkish prosecutor told the AP last week that Smith’s wife, Jennifer Hagel, was not suspected in her husband’s disappearance.

The couple had been drinking and gambling at the ship’s casino that night, the prosecutor said. The next morning, he said, Hagel woke up and went to the gym. Smith was reported missing after cleaners found blood in their cabin. There was also blood on the balcony and a hand print on the side of the ship, the prosecutor said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Clete Hyman, a passenger in a neighboring stateroom, described what he heard during the cruise in an interview Monday night on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country.”

The night Smith disappeared, Hyman said he heard what sounded like a loud party in Smith’s room, then “some very loud arguing out on the balcony.”

Male voices heard
He said he heard several male voices and then noises in the cabin that sounded like furniture being moved. Then, he said, he heard a “horrific thud.”

O’Connor wouldn’t comment Tuesday on Hyman’s account.

Smith’s and Hagel’s families, who live in Connecticut, have not publicly commented and did not return phone messages.

Turkish authorities handled the case after the disappearance was reported July 5 when the ship docked at Kusadasi, a resort area in the Aegean region of Turkey. U.S. officials were given the case last week.