By Paul Motter
George Allen Smith disappeared from Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas in July, 2005. It is still as much a mystery today as it was when it first happened.
The young Connecticut couple chose to honeymoon on a Mediterranean cruise. They immediately befriended three younger men from Brooklyn and a fourth from California. On just the second night of the cruise the Smith's neighbor heard loud partying in the Smith's cabin until 3:00 in the morning. He was a retired police detective from Redlands California with some homicide investigation in his background.
On the third day the ship stopped in Livorno, Italy, but George had been drinking brandy he had "smuggled" aboard in his luggage with one of the boys the night before. The next morning the Smiths were riding to Florence, Italy, when George became ill and literally went blind for about 20 minutes. His wife sat him under a tree until early afternoon when he started to feel better. They went for ice cream and George also had a beer.
Returning to ship the New York boys asked George to carry something back onboard, a bottle of absinthe, liquor once outlawed in the United States due to its rumored hallucinogenic effect.
The fifth night of the cruise they went to the casino. Jennifer played blackjack and George played craps. Contrary to reports neither won. When the casino closed about 3:00 the group decided to go to the disco. All of the boys, the Smiths, the casino manager and his assistant crowded into the elevator. Everyone was very intoxicated, but in a good mood. Some people said the Casino manager "made a move" on Jennifer in full sight of George, but if that is true George just laughed it off.
The group took a table together and took shots of absinthe. Within a few minutes the casino manager and his assistant left, the ship recorded them entering their crew cabins about 3:15 a.m.
About 3:20 Jennifer stumbled out, too. A custodian helped her onto the elevator and dropped her off at deck nine. A few minutes later all the boys decided to leave, but George was too intoxicated to walk. All four boys helped him to his stateroom, room 9064.
George expected to find Jennifer there, but she wasn't, so at 3:45 they all went looking for her at the Jacuzzi & solarium. With no luck they returned to George's stateroom. Once again the retired officer noted partying sounds from the Smith cabin at 4:05, like a cheering drinking game lasting until about 4:20. But the guys say they were just trying to help George get into bed.
The neighbor called ship security and knocked on the wall. The voices got quieter and moved onto the balcony. The neighbor said he thought he heard arguing tones, but soon the words were just "goodnight, goodnight" repeated, as if someone was being ushered out the door, He looked out the door and says he saw three men (not four) leaving the Smith stateroom about 4:20.
Here is the mysterious part. Soon there were very loud banging sounds along with a singular voice talking, but we don't know whether George was alone. The boys all swear they left together. Three minutes of silence followed - then a loud, singular thud.
At 4:30 ship security showed up. The neighbors on the other side, 9066, looked out and said, "You'd better get in there. That cabin has to be a mess." But the security officers just waved. With everything quiet inside, the security officers knocked twice but got no response. They walked away.
Meanwhile, Jennifer had been found at 4:20 a.m. by ship personnel on deck nine in the hallway at the opposite end of the ship. She had gotten lost, sat down and fallen asleep. Two men and one woman soon arrived with a wheelchair to take her home.
At her cabin they knocked but there was no response, so they went in. By now she was awake and said she was fine. The room was a mess but Jennifer later said it was just looked "lived in." They did not see the chair that had been moved on the balcony with its back to the railing. The best reasons to position a chair this way are to use it as a step over the railing or as a footstool to sit on the railing.
Was George Smith murdered? Jennifer believes he was not, but the Smith family believes he was. He was a 6' 2" 200-pound football player. What would it take to lift him over a railing much higher than his waist? Jen says the Smiths have to come to terms with the fact that George had a problem with drinking and prescriptions drugs.
Three years later the once newlywed Jennifer Hagel settled with Royal Caribbean for $1.1 million dollars as she was legally entitled as George's surviving spouse. But George's family had become estranged from Jennifer and won a challenge to seek a different settlement from Royal Caribbean.
The new settlement is for $1.3 million, with Jennifer getting her original share and the Smiths getting the rest - which will all go to the lawyers, the Smiths say. The settlement also says Royal Caribbean will share with them all the evidence they have on the case. Royal Caribbean says it is the same information as they gave the FBI in 2005, which technically still has the case open.
Why would Royal Caribbean be responsible for anything in this case? You can discuss this article in our CruiseMates Forums: More Woes for "Cruise Widow" Jennifer Hagel