Melissa Caddick case: The many theories surrounding the mysterious vanishing of millionaire Sydney conwoman

The 49-year-old woman who is accused of stealing millions of dollars from investors, most of them family and friends, suddenly disappeared in the early hours of November 12 last year


                            Melissa Caddick case: The many theories surrounding the mysterious vanishing of millionaire Sydney conwoman
Melissa Caddick went missing in November 2020 (NSW Police)

It’s a case that has attracted the whole of Australia. A Sydney woman accused of millions of fraud goes missing after her dodgy dealings were uncovered. The woman is Melissa Caddick, who posed as a financial planner, and stole millions of dollars from investors, most of them family and friends. But she suddenly vanished in November 2020 without leaving a trace while being investigated for her crimes.

Months later, in late February, a decomposed foot was found rammed inside an Asics sneaker on Bournda Beach on the NSW south coast. As per a Daily Mail report, police declared Caddick dead on Saturday, February 27, after DNA testing said the foot was of her, which was discovered around 400 km from where she went missing from her mansion in Sydney's eastern suburbs in the early hours of November 12 last year. A day before her disappearance, the corporate watchdog the Australian Securities and Investments Commission raided her house.

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A chunk of stomach flesh was also found during the investigation on Mollymook Beach. But as per Yahoo News Australia, NSW police later confirmed that it neither belonged to Caddick nor a male snorkeler who vanished from Batemans Bay on January 25. This case has "all the makings of an exceptional mystery, which is far from over," former NSW Police officer and true crime author Duncan McNab said. He continued, "It's set in Sydney's east, with a lot of wealthy investors, and Caddick was seemingly living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Jets, Aspen ski lodges, Christian Dior shoes … absolutely every trapping of wealth about it. Then suddenly she disappears right in the middle of an ASIC investigation. Just evaporates."

Did Melissa Caddick kill herself?

Investigators have not completely ruled out the possibility that Caddick took her own life, but the chances of her becoming a victim of foul play are also there. “We have kept an open mind, however given the circumstances of her disappearance, the fact she left personal belongings behind, we have always considered the possibility that she may have taken her own life but that is a matter for the coroner,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said as reported by Mamamia.

But Tim Watson-Munro, a leading criminal psychology expert, said he did not believe she killed herself and that her foot had been decomposing there for months. “I believe she had a plan. It’s unlikely on impulse she would have ended her life,” Watson-Munro told NCA NewsWire. He added: “The decomposition of the shoe would suggest it hasn’t been in the water for three months. While it’s not my area of expertise, if that’s the case a possible scenario is that she has been murdered recently or murdered and kept on ice for a while. A severed foot is a great throw off. They (police and public) see this and let it go. Of all the beaches and feet in the world, to find hers … what is the probability of that?”

Was Caddick murdered?

Calling Caddick “too smart”, Watson-Munro claimed there is a high possibility she must have had a plan B to escape the legal proceedings. He suggested the involvement of other people in her financial dirty tricks, who “wanted to cover their tracks”. “Or there is money buried somewhere that no one has discovered and it’s good to get her out of the way,” he added.

Whatever the reason may be behind Caddick’s possible murder, the discovery of her foot has raised more questions than answers. The first thing that is baffling everyone is where exactly she went after leaving her mansion in the wee hours of November 12. Watson-Munro explained, “Not turning up on CCTV requires a degree of planning. She could have gone anywhere. When you have that sort of money at your disposal you can buy all sorts of talent who can keep you in a safe house for a fee or a split of the profit. One million takes you a long way if you disappear.”

Bond University criminologist Terry Goldsworthy said, “If the person is now accepted as being deceased, was it an accidental death, was it a case of self-harm, was it foul play involved? [Police] may never come to a firm conclusion as to what they think happened. That will depend on how well they can track her movements up until she was deceased." He added, “For instance, if say there was foul play you may recover a bit of forensic material that will show a wound or something like that, so more is better."

Is Melissa Caddick still on the run?

While Xanthe Mallett, a University of Newcastle criminologist, has an altogether different theory related to Caddick’s case. Mallett told ABC, “You can't assume somebody's deceased through the loss of a foot, because you can still survive it. But judging on the evidence we currently have, police cannot afford to assume that [she's dead] and therefore they will have to be investigating every possibility at this stage." She also stated, “[She] has got a 15-year-old son and a husband who have been left in the dark, and regardless of what may have allegedly taken place, nothing has been proven and it must be incredibly difficult for them as they wait for final answers around this."

Criminologist Carolyn McKay, who researches the ethics of true crime and is a director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, explained why “[the case] would have great appeal to the online sleuths out there". She said, “Is there some sort of element of knowing that this is a story that's happening to someone else? It's not happening to me? Is this some sort of perverse pleasure that we sometimes derive from someone else's misfortune, you know, that notion of schadenfreude? Is there also that sense of, 'There but for the grace of good fortune go I?'"

McNab raised another question into the case as he noted, “[Initially we were asking] is it suicide or has she run off somewhere? Where could she have escaped to in the middle of the pandemic? It wasn't until last week that her shoe was found that we knew that she was dead, which then starts another mystery, because we now ask, 'How did she get out of Sydney's east?'"

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