It happened by chance.
Campers at a little-known beach find a shoe – in it, the “badly decomposed” foot of a high-profile missing person.
The upsetting discovery provided some answers about what happened to missing Sydney woman Melissa Caddick, but it also posed new questions.
The 49-year-old was being put under the microscope by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which alleged she had misappropriated investors funds.
Her disappearance on November 12, sparked a police investigation.
Here’s how those two probes collided last week.
Shoe key in discovery
ASIC raided Ms Caddick’s Dover Heights home – in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs – on November 11.
The search warrant was filmed and inadvertently provided a clue that would prove crucial months later.
“It’s ironic that part of that search warrant footage included footage of her feet and the shoe that she was wearing,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said on Friday.
“The shoe that was found down south of Tathra there was the same type and size.”
NSW Health matched DNA from the foot to that taken from Ms Caddick’s toothbrush and family members.
It has helped provide crucial clues in what Assistant Commissioner Willing described as one of the most “high profile” missing persons cases he had seen in 30 years.
Modelling was ‘spot on’
NSW Police conducted extensive searches to try to find Ms Caddick and their publicly stated working theory was that she was still alive.
However, they received advice as to where her body could have travelled if it entered the water near her home in the coastal suburb.
“The Marine Area Command use modelling software looking at drift patterns and coastal patterns,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
“They advised us that an object that went into the water around the Dover Heights area on or around the 11th of November could possibly drift down as far as Bermagui and even further south, which appears to have been the case.”
Over the course of the investigation, there were no confirmed sightings of Ms Caddick, including on the south coast.
Her foot was discovered roughly 430 kilometres south of Sydney.
When asked if the Marine Area Command modelling was “spot on”, Assistant Commissioner Willing agreed.
A ‘fortuitous’ discovery
Campers at Bournda Beach, near Tathra, found the “badly decomposed foot”, on Sunday.
Assistant Commissioner Willing said her remains had “been in the water for some time”.
“Luckily, scientists were able to extract DNA for that foot,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Willing said it was “very fortuitous” there were campers at the beach, and that they spotted the shoe on the sand.
The matter will be referred to the NSW coroner, but police will continue to investigate, as well as search the area near where her remains were found.
“How Melissa came to enter the water is still a mystery and will be the subject of ongoing investigations,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.
“Police have always kept an open mind in relation to what the circumstances were for her disappearance including the fact that Melissa may have taken her own life.”
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