A freighter disappears with nine people on board after leaving Miami for Haiti.

Lisa Bishop

Missing:

Gender:Female
Height: 5’2”
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown

 

Florian Bourch befriended Lisa

Missing:

Gender: Male
Height: 6’2”
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Blonde

 

CASE DETAILS

The Freedom never made it to Haiti

In January, 1989, Falcon jets from the United States Coast Guard searched the Old Bahama Channel in the Caribbean for an 82-foot freighter called the Freedon. The ship was on its way to Haiti but had been reported missing. On board were seven Haitian crewmembers, a young sea captain, and a 23-year old American journalism student named Lisa Bishop. Lisa’s mother, Linda Bishop, said that Lisa had called her to say goodbye on the morning of her departure:

“I could feel something was wrong. Mother’s intuition, I guess you could call it. Lisa was to call me when she arrived. And that call never came.”

Lisa wanted to write an article about the contrasts between the wealth of America and the economic devastation of Haiti. Her voyage on the Freedon was the chance of a lifetime, even though it meant leaving behind her boyfriend of three years, Paul Cornwell:

“We had a long discussion the night before she left, that she had to make her own decisions in life, that I couldn’t follow her and take care of her wherever she went.”

Somewhere between Miami and Haiti, the Freedon simply vanished. No one has any idea what happened or why. People have suggested everything from pirates, to smugglers, and even the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.

A witness claimed he saw the missing ship

Lisa’s voyage began when she met a 28-year old German national named Florian Meyer Bourch at a nightclub owned by her boyfriend. Florian was a marine mechanic and sea captain who had sailed throughout the Caribbean. According to Linda Bishop:

“From what I’ve learned about him, Florian is a drifter, and he sponges off of people. Freeloads.”

A year after their first meeting, Florian told Lisa of an upcoming voyage from Miami to Haiti. He invited her to join him. Paul was upset when Lisa told him that she planned to sail to Haiti with Florian:

“I didn’t trust him with Lisa. Of course, I was concerned about Florian, you know, being a young guy. And she tried to tell me there was nothing to worry about, there was nothing romantic. I tried to discourage her as her parents tried to discourage her from going.”

Lisa’s father, Bill Bishop, said there was no talking Lisa out of it:

“I expressed my feelings about it, that I didn’t want her to go or anything, and Lisa was a very headstrong girl when she made up her mind to do something.”

On the morning of December 17 th , 1988, at 2:30 in the afternoon, tugboats eased the Freedon through the Miami River on its way out to sea. The Freedon’s planned route would take the ship 600 miles past the coast of Cuba to Gonaives, a small port on the western coast of Haiti. There were no storms and no distress calls, but the Freedon never arrived. When Lisa didn’t call on Christmas Day, her family became concerned. Lt. Cdr. Jeff Karonis was with the U.S. Coast Guard:

“The relatives of the people on board kept calling us, asking us for information. We kept in touch with the port authorities in the various ports in the Caribbean area, and likewise, down in Haiti. We sent several search and rescue flights in the most commonly traveled areas in the Old Bahama Channel, which is the area between the United States and Haiti. Still, it was unsuccessful.”

Linda Bishop and her husband traveled to Miami:

“We came to Miami hoping to maybe get some answers from some of Florian’s friends or just find anything we could. We were desperate.”

An actual photo of the Freedon

Finally, Lisa’s parents received a promising lead. An underwater salvager named Bob Nyberg said that he had seen the ship two weeks after it was supposed to have disappeared:

“I remembered that while I was working in Grand Cayman in January of that year, there’d been a boat that came in. We were working underwater, directly in the harbor area where the ships pulled up and tied up. When I heard the ship coming in, we came up, and as I was coming out of the water, we looked back and noticed that the name was Freedon. F-R-E-E-D-O-N. And I made a statement to my friend, that those guys need their freedom, they can’t even spell the word. They were there for some time that afternoon. The next morning the boat was gone.”

Nyberg saw the Freedon in Georgetown Harbor on Grand Cayman Island, over 500 miles from Haiti. It was the kind of news Linda Bishop had been hoping for:

“The fact that the ship was spotted, and that it had not gone down, brought me hope that Lisa was alive and had to be held against her will in order for her not to contact us.”

The Freedon was supposed to dock at Haiti

Lisa’s boyfriend, Paul Cornwell, and Bob Nyberg went to Grand Cayman to pursue the lead. They met a number of witnesses who claimed to have seen Florian around the same time that Nyberg spotted the Freedon. Apparently, Florian was not alone during his mysterious visit to Grand Cayman. Some saw him with a short man with black hair.

Paul returned to Atlanta and questioned a woman who had been storing Florian’s personal belongings. There he found a picture of the man seen with Florian in Grand Cayman. The woman said his name was Phillipe. Paul later found out that it was actually Phillipe who had chartered the Freedon.

“The girl told me that he mentioned that he was involved in a large scale smuggling thing, and that something had gone wrong, and that they had gotten involved in something too deep that Lisa didn’t know about and couldn’t handle it. I feel that if Florian is out there, eventually, I’ll find out about it, and I’ll locate him.”

Authorities believe that Florian Meyer Bourch is the key to the Freedon’s disappearance.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina.

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24 Comments

  1. Pegg

    Lisa was my best friend when we were in high school. I was so sad when I heard about this happening I think that this story revolves her because the rest of the people were foreigners. She was very sweet never met a stranger and even though it has been a long time ago I think about her often and miss her as well. We went to Morrow High School together.

    Reply

  2. f

    freeliaint

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    I am not being disrespectful, I have a wife and daughter too. I know if this would have happened to me, I would spend the rest of my life searching for them. Is it possible that a sinister spin was placed upon this that need not be? Is it possible that the ship just sank? I looked at pictures of that ship, it did not look that sea worthy. I just find it hard to believe that no one has spotted them, the ship is very noticeable it would have been spotted by now. I just think the ship sank and they have passed shortly after they set off on the trip and nothing underhanded happened. I could certainly be wrong, but it is just hard to keep hidden this long, unless you are on the bottom of the ocean. I have worked in Law enforcement and have seen reports that have sighting of individuals all over broad areas, they can be very convincing and appear to be accurate, later to find out that they were completely wrong. That maybe what happened here with the sightings of the two men.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    There are many, many conjectures as to the fates of Ms. Bishop, Mr. Fourche, and the crewmen. Why would the total focus reside mainly on Ms. Bishop when it can be interpreted as a relationship between the two. She left her partner, he left his, (the belongings, I don’t believe were ‘stored’) and the following story was wrapped around it. How did Paul know the lady who was in possession of abandoned items? Why does Paul say that he ‘will’ find him? Hmmm. Paul easily traveled abroad-could she just as easily have done the same? Florian was younger and better looking-by society’s standards-than Paul-he mentioned it-and that in itself lent credence that something else is afoot. The ship sank. The ship was repainted and renamed. The ship was sighted. The cargo was a smuggler’s paradise-by hearsay. What’s the real story? If none of the people have actually been seen, except for the purported views of Florian and Felipe/Philippe(st?) yet information is relayed by Paul… For one to vehement about leaving for places unknown does not come lightly. They had known each other for a year-as stated-and if nothing happened onshore during that period, is it a given that she actually made it beyond the shore? Something’s fishy.

    Reply

  5. Jaime Britten

    I don’t think this case will be solved, to many twists and turns, though somewhere down the Iine I believe she was taken from that freight trailor by pirates or even sold, I think this will stay as a mystery.

    Reply

  6. James

    Obvious this woman was having a fling with this guy. Women don’t just jump up and proclaim they are traveling with a guy and tell family and their BF who are begging them not to go to basically mind their own business if they are not romantically involved with the person.

    Find me one woman who would go anywhere with a guy they are not sleeping with and I’ll show you an ostrich that eats bologna sandwiches.

    This is a strange case no doubt but this was not some innocent little journey she was taking.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    @UnsolvedMysteries Is there an investigating agency assigned to this case?

    Reply

  8. Ciara

    So many speculations! I think it simply sank…

    Reply

  9. carlos

    hi how are ya

    Reply

  10. Involved

    Read the New Times (Miami) article on the Freedon case. It is the most comprehensive account of what was known at the time of the vessel’s disappearance. Of note was the poor (rough) weather right after the vessel departed Miami, it’s lack of communications and survival equipment, and poor condition. A tragic event for sure. The most likely outcome is that the vessel sank before it was ever reported missing.

    Reply

  11. joe

    Dont docks have log book was the bout actually there or any were with that name or even that type of bout.??

    Reply

  12. Derek

    Wow look at that boat. It’s obvious she was having some sort of fling with this foreigner. Some females get swept away by the mysterious type. She trust this man with her life. Maybe she wasn’t happy with bf or bored so she wanted to test the waters. So sad because this cost her life.

    Reply

  13. Jill

    Is it possible that she was smuggled and sold? Is it possible that Paul allegedly is involved.
    Maybe she ran away from Paul. Has anyone checked to see if she is in a sex ring? Something I saw on a show that people are sold. Scary. Maybe paul got rid of them both. This is tragic. I am so sorry for the family of Lisa Bishop. Anyone, if you are seeing this. Know that your family will never stop looking for you. Prayers to the bishop family. May you have an answer and a safe return of your daughter.

    Reply

  14. bill

    When i was stationed in Miami beach with the Coast Guard, We were going up the Miami River and I remember seeing a Haitian freighter tied up. I can’t remember the name of the boat, but what really stuck out at me was there was a different name that had been painted over underneath the name. It was back in 1990. I am not 100% sure, but I really believe it said Freedon. Sorry, but I wasn’t aware of this mystery at the time and I realize I could be wrong but it has always bothered me.

    Reply

  15. unsolved

    test comment

    Reply

  16. Rebecca

    It seems Paul knew Florian a great deal. How did he know where Florian stayed. Paul returned to Atlanta and questioned a woman who had been storing Florian’s personal belongings. A witness claimed he saw the missing ship, but no sightings of the passengers. This story just doesn’t add up Florian invited Lisa along on the voyage to Haiti, knowing she was in a relationship with Paul. Lisa accepted his offer she had known him little over a year. It seems that Florian or someone else took the ship in another direction and not the direction toward Haiti they led people to believe. The ship was painted and renamed why? Paul said I feel that if Florian is out there, eventually, I’ll find out about it, and I’ll locate him.” it sounds like he knows more about Florian that he is saying. This must be devastating for Lisa’s parents their daughter vanished without a trace, not knowing what happened to her is too much for any parent to bear. My prayers goes out to this family.

    Reply

  17. Ashley

    When I Google the name “Floridan Bourch” it has 2 images that pop up. One is the photo that you have of him before he went missing. The other photo is a recent photo of a older man, probably around his current age, that appears to look very similar to him??? Has he been found?

    Reply

  18. Anonymous

    any updates

    Reply