In May of 2000, 29-year-old Claudia Kirschhoch had what many might consider to be sort of a dream job. An assistant editor for Frommer’s Travel Guides, she was based in New York City and got paid on the company’s dime to travel all over the world and write about the various exotic places she’d been to. In May of that year, she took a full expense paid trip to the new Sandals resort in Cuba, landing in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on the first leg of the journey on May 24, 2000. She met up with some other travel writers, but they soon realized that they were not going to be heading on to Havana after all due to visa issues. At the time, flights back to New York were fully booked for the entire week, and so Claudia was stranded in Jamaica with fellow travel writer Tania Grossinger, and they had to “rough it” at the Sandals Beaches Resort in Negril for the time being. The quaint town of Negril was known for its tranquility, turquoise waters, and expanses of relaxing white sandy beaches, and Claudia enjoyed it there so much that even when Grossinger secured a flight out, she opted to stay a few more days. This would prove to be an unwise decision, and would lead into a strange tale of mysterious disappearances, strange clues, and ominous conspiracies.
When June 2 rolled around, Claudia’s parents became concerned, which was made only more ominous when they called Frommer’s to find that their daughter had not returned and had not shown up to work. They contacted authorities to report their daughter missing, and police launched an investigation focusing on the resort at Negril. There they would find that the last time anyone had seen the missing woman was a lifeguard who had seen her walking alone along the beach in her bathing suit on the afternoon of May 27. She was described as seeming calm and composed, just taking a leisurely stroll, without any sign of distress. However, after this she seems to have vanished into thin air. Resort staff said that she had been absent from her room for several days, and so the search was on.
Claudia’s room at the resort was checked to find that nothing was missing except her bathing suit, portable radio and t-shirt, with her clothes, cash, passport, credit cards, cellular phone and flight ticket to New York all accounted for. Unbelievably, despite the fact that the room was being treated as a potential crime scene, the hotel removed the items and rented the room out again, during which time Claudia’s mobile phone mysteriously disappeared. Also rather odd was that during this time it would seem that the log book that kept track of all license plate numbers of cars entering and exiting the resort also managed to go missing. Where did these things go? Were they misplaced, stolen, what? Know one knew, and the resort claimed they weren’t certain how this had happened. Confounding the investigation even further was that it was found that the CCTV footage from the hotel during that time frame had already been accidentally recorded over, leaving practically nothing to go on. However, Tania Grossinger would offer some potential leads.
When police questioned Grossinger, they learned that during their stay Claudia had become pretty close friends with a bartender at the resort named Anthony Grant. In fact, Claudia had allegedly met with Grant to smoke weed and go skinny dipping the night before Grossinger last saw her. Looking into Grant would turn up some pretty suspicious stuff. It was found that he had called in sick to work for a few days after Claudia had been last seen, and when he was questioned, he at first denied knowing her, only to then admit that they had gone out for drinks once on May 26. The FBI became involved, and they managed to use sniffer dogs to determine that Claudia’s scent was all over Grant’s room and in his car, and they also found a hair belonging to Claudia in the car as well and a knife with a small amount of blood on it. Although Grant denied having anything to do with Claudia’s disappearance, it all seems to at least paint him as a possible person of interest, but bizarrely the FBI dropped him as a suspect, citing a lack of evidence and the fact that Grant passed lie detector tests. In fact, he was never arrested or charged with anything at all.
Claudia’s parents did not agree, insisting that Grant at least knew something, and that probably the resort did too, but this fell on deaf ears. They also did not get much cooperation when they personally approached the resort, forcing them to launch a lawsuit against them for contaminating the crime scene, mishandling the items that had gone missing, a lack of security measures, and for allegedly holding back information. As this was going on, the story was going wild in the media, with the resort painting Claudia as a reckless and irresponsible party animal foreigner who drank and smoked weed, practically inviting trouble. The Jamaican authorities came to the conclusion that Claudia had drowned or run away from home, but there was absolutely no evidence for either of these scenarios at all. Indeed, the water where she was last seen was shallow and without strong currents, and there was nothing at all in her life to suggest she’d want to run away. Making it all even more confusing were several sightings of Claudia in the remote areas of the region after her disappearance, some of them describing her as being with a Rastafarian man and seeming to be happy with him. Unfortunately, none of these reports can be confirmed and officially Claudia has not been seen since that day on the beach, and she was declared legally dead in 2002.
Along the way, Jamaican officials were claimed to be very uncooperative, refusing to let the family look at the files or divulge much information at all, leading Claudia’s mother to lament, “Nobody’s saying that Claudia was murdered. She died. How that happened is a matter of speculation. Without cooperation from the Jamaican authorities, it’s very, very hard to get to the truth.” The investigation has since been closed, no suspects were ever found, no new clues discovered, the resort never answered for their negligence, and Claudia has never been seen again. We are left with questions. What happened to Claudia Kirschhoch and what did Anthony Grant have to do with it, if anything? What is the meaning of all of the strange clues and what happened to the phone, license plate log, and the CCTV footage? Was this just accidents or is there something more insidious at work? Why was the resort so difficult to deal with and why was the Jamaican government so opaque about it all? These questions and many more remain unanswered, Claudia Kirschhoch has never been found, and it is a mystery that may never be solved.