Hers was the fate that launched a thousand conspiracy theories, including the bizarre suggestion she might have cut off her own foot before going on the run.
But an Australian coroner has ruled that missing fraudster Melissa Caddick is definitely dead, although how exactly she died remained a mystery—with only her husband knowing the truth.
The 49-year-old investment adviser disappeared from her home in eastern Sydney on Nov. 12, 2020, the day after a dawn raid by police investigating claims that she had defrauded customers of about $20 million in a Ponzi-style scheme to bankroll her own lavish lifestyle.
The case captured the public imagination, fueled by a series of confusing and contradictory claims from her husband, Tony Koletti, who told police she had left the house at 5:30 a.m., leaving behind her car, cellphone, and personal belongings. Koletti, a hairdresser and DJ, failed to report her missing for 30 hours.
The trail went cold until, in February 2021, a rotting foot found in a running shoe on a beach 300 miles south of Sydney was DNA-matched to the missing woman.
Criminologists, both real ones and the armchair variety, had a field day, with the case spawning a top-rating true crime podcast and a TV dramatization. Caddick’s husband, meanwhile, released a musical concept album that included the track “Melissa is Missing.”
Theories on her disappearance included the outlandish suggestion that Caddick may have cut offer her own foot to fake her suicide before going on the run.
The simpler answer was that she had thrown herself from the cliffs near the couple’s luxury home in Dover Heights. Her body, the suggestion went, would then have been eaten by a shark, which then spat out the trainer-clad foot.
According to the BBC, police at one point even considered throwing dead pigs wearing running shoes on their trotters over the same cliffs to try to stand up that theory.
In a ruling Thursday that appeared to raise as many questions as it answered, Elizabeth Ryan, deputy state coroner for New South Wales, said the Caddick case would have to remain a mystery.
“The conclusion I have reached is that Melissa Caddick is deceased,” she wrote, adding: “I do not consider the evidence enables a positive finding as to how she died, or when and where this happened.”
The coroner’s court had heard from a line of experts as it tried to pin down the truth on Caddick’s disappearance. Ryan said Caddick’s body might have entered the waters off Dover Heights on the day she disappeared, but equally could have “gone into the water at innumerable coastal points between Hobart and Brisbane.”
“A finding that a particular scenario is plausible does not equate to acceptance of it on the basis of reasonable satisfaction,” she said, according to ABC News Australia. “I have concluded it is not possible to find Ms. Caddick died as a result of falling from the cliffs near her home with the intention of taking her own life.”
In her ruling, Ryan strongly criticized Koletti, the missing woman’s husband, for his “lack of candor” and said his evidence was “riddled” with conflicting statements. But it was “notable,” she added, that every police officer who had dealt with him on the case suspected he was hiding something.