The mystery that broke Olivia Newton-John's heart: Boyfriend Patrick McDermott vanished at sea in 2005

The mystery that broke Olivia Newton-John's heart: Boyfriend Patrick McDermott vanished at sea in 2005
Olivia Newton-John, Patrick McDermott and her daughter Chloe (Newsmakers, Chris Weeks/Liaison/ Getty Images)

SANTA YNEZ, CALIFORNIA: Olivia Newton-John, 'Grease' movie star died at the age of 73 on Monday, August 8, after a courageous and incredibly public battle with cancer over several decades. Olivia had been surrounded by numerous relationships with men throughout her life. However, the most striking one was with her ex Patrick McDermott, who mysteriously went missing in 2005 after he went on a fishing trip with 22 other people and never came back.

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Theories circled around Olivia's on-off boyfriend McDermott's mysterious disappearance. McDermott vanished on an overnight 22-hour fishing trip on the boat 'Freedom' out of San Pedro marina in Los Angeles on June 30, 2005. The crew on his fishing boat discovered the American's car keys, passport, and wallet on board, and his car was discovered parked at Los Angeles' San Pedro Marina. However, no one realized he was missing until he failed to appear at a family event on July 6, at which point police were called in. The trail had gone cold by then, and investigators found nothing.

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For nearly two decades after that, he was said to be in hiding in Mexico, fleeing crushing debts. Despite constant reports of him being spotted, repeated manhunts by police, media, and private detectives have never yielded conclusive evidence. "I don't think I will ever really be at peace with it,'' Olivia once admitted in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2016. "I think there will always be a question mark". Olivia hooked up with McDermott after her divorce in 1995 from first husband Matt Lattanzi and began a nine-year on-off romance with the cameraman.

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Olivia was on a promotional tour in Australia when McDermott vanished, and it took another week for his disappearance to be discovered. McDermott had previously been married and had a son, and had recently been ordered by a court to pay $8000 in postdated child support. He had filed for bankruptcy with debts totaling more than $30,000, prompting speculation that he had faked his death in order to flee and start over.

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A Coast Guard investigation found "no evidence of criminal action, suicide, accident, or hoax in McDermott's disappearance." A three-year investigation into the 'Freedom' fishing boat discovered that no head counts were performed on the day of the trip, allowing McDermott's disappearance to go unnoticed. Both investigations concluded that McDermott was most likely lost at sea during the night.

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10th Annual Human Rights Campaign Gala
385570 01: Actress Olivia Newton-John poses with her boyfriend Patrick McDermott at the 10th Annual Human Rights Campaign Gala, February 17, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Newsmakers/Getty Images)
10th Annual Human Rights Campaign Gala 385570 01: Actress Olivia Newton-John poses with her boyfriend Patrick McDermott at the 10th Annual Human Rights Campaign Gala, February 17, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Newsmakers/Getty Images)

However, witnesses continued to report about seeing him in Mexico, where he was said to be living on a yacht off the coasts of Sayulita and Acapulco. TV networks sent teams of undercover film crews and private detectives to track him down and set up sophisticated online website traps to catch him.

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In 2016, one investigator, John Nazarian, stated, "It's rumored he was with a German national. I spoke to people there. The girl he was traveling with was described as having a German accent. To come up with the conclusion that he fell off the boat, and allegedly no one saw him fall off the boat, is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard in my life." All of the manhunts, however, were futile, and McDermott remained elusive. New Idea magazine published photographs of a man and a woman believed to be McDermott and his new lover in Mexico in 2017. However, the claims were debunked weeks later when a Canadian couple claimed to be the people in the photograph.

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Many of the officials and conspiracy theorists insisted on the fact that he may have gone on another boat. While others believed that he might have planted his belongings on the boat before slipping off, possibly before it even left port, without any notice. Private investigators set up the website FindPatrickMcDermott.com to try to trick the missing American into revealing his location, identifying everyone who visited the site. 

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Olivia Newton John, center, daughter Chloe, left, and boyfriend Patrick McDermott, right, arrive at the Los Angeles opening of
Olivia Newton John, center, daughter Chloe, left, and boyfriend Patrick McDermott, right, arrive at the Los Angeles opening of "Mamma Mia!" at the Shubert Theatre February 26, 2001 in Century City, CA. (Photo by Chris Weeks/Liaison)

One investigator claimed to have tracked him down and spoken with him in 2009, claiming he simply wanted to be left alone, but the claim was unsubstantiated. Another claimed to have definitive proof he was alive and was about to reveal it but never did. There have been at least 20 spottings of him in Mexico and Central America over the years, but many have proven to be false. One set of photos purported to be of McDermott, who was half-Korean and adopted at the age of two, turned out to be of a Canadian couple.

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His ex-wife, Yvette Nipar, the mother of their son Chance, pleaded with the media to stop the speculation for the sake of their child. Nipar pleaded with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to stop the publication of a book about her ex's disappearance written by private investigator Philip Klein.''My son has suffered enough emotional anguish as a result of this,' Nipar wrote, branding Klein a serial liar. "He hasn't been able to move on because of Mr Klein's ongoing efforts to keep him in the public eye. May he rest in peace", she wrote.

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On the other hand, Olivia put an end to the tragedy by moving on in her life by meeting her future husband John Easterling, and marrying him at an Inca ritual in Peru in 2008. But the mystery haunted her in the years that followed, even though she had accepted that McDermott was most likely dead. ''He was lost at sea, and nobody really knows what happened,'' Newton-John said in 2016 on 60 Minutes.

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''It's natural to wonder. Because there are always those concerns when going through a difficult time. Those are the things in life that you must accept and let go of. Of course, questions arise, which is natural", she said. ''But you know, I'm still alive.''

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