The disappearance of brazen high-rolling conwoman Melissa Caddick after stealing more than $20million to fund her glamorous lifestyle has quickly become one of Australia’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
In less than 18 months, it has consumed news headlines, been the subject of countless podcasts, YouTube clips, social media threads and spurred a television miniseries.
In months and years to come, you can bet we’ll see a lot more – book deals signed, docudramas, and even a movie.
Although Caddick is long gone from her Wallangra Road mansion in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where she was last seen on November 13, 2020, the public remains fascinated by her disappearance, not just in Australia but also worldwide.
With Caddick missing, many of her secrets remain hidden, but for how long?
Here are some of the questions we all want to be answered – and how likely they are to be ever solved.
Secret one: Could Melissa Caddick be alive?
Could she be alive? Yes. Is she alive? Very, very unlikely – but the lack of definite answers will continue to fuel speculation.
While police suspect she is deceased, she has not officially been declared dead.
The NSW Coroner’s Court confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that the ‘inquest into the disappearance & suspected death of Melissa Louise Caddick’ remains before the court.
Caddick’s second husband Anthony Koletti claimed he will never know the cause of her death because CCTV footage was taken from their home during an ASIC raid (pictured) the day before she disappeared
Mr Koletti is pictured with Caddick and her son several years befor she disappeared
The matter is expected to return to the coroner’s court this year, although no further hearing dates have yet been set.
A post-mortem examination of the foot found at Bournda Beach on the NSW south coast on February 21, 2021 – and matched to her DNA – proved inconclusive.
An affidavit signed by ASIC’s Isabella Allen last May said it was ‘unclear at this stage if the pathologist can determine the condition of the remains’.
Tellingly, NSW Police confirmed to Daily Mail Australia on April 7 that they consider the investigation closed.
‘I can confirm the NSW Police Force investigation into the disappearance of Melissa Caddick has been finalised,’ a NSW Police spokeswoman said in a statement.
The Dover Heights home where Melissa Caddick was last seen on November 12, 2020 before she vanished
In February, her husband Anthony Koletti’s blue convertible Audi R8 V10 was sold off at auction for $295,000. She bought it for him in 2016
‘A coronial brief of evidence was submitted to the NSW State Coroner on Friday 17 September 2021.’
Last May, Detective Sargent Michael Foscholo, of Paddington police, lodged a ‘Report of Suspected Death to the Coroner’ in Caddick’s case.
He noted she is no longer on any missing person registers.
A month before that, in April 2021 – two months after her detached foot washed up – her family held a private funeral service at Matraville, Sydney.
Secret two: What happened to the money Melissa Caddick stole?
Melissa Caddick stole at least $23million from 72 investors via her fake financial advice firm Maliver.
She used much of the missing millions – by some estimates up to $40million – to fund an expensive lifestyle including buying expensive overseas holidays, jewellery, sports cars, high fashion label dresses and shoes and artworks.
Police records detailed some of her extraordinary spending, including $250,000 with fashion label Christian Dior and $50,000 with Chanel.
She spent hundreds of thousands on jewellery, with one report a single diamond ring from Canturi jewellery she owned cost $300,000.
She took overseas holidays, often flying first class. For example, she spent $120,000 on flights to go skiing at Aspen, Colorado and $63,000 on just two trips to Fiji.
She even spent $25,000 on protein shakes.
As Caddick operated a Ponzi scheme via her company Maliver, by definition, she would have used some investors’ funds to make her scam look successful.
As she got hold of funds from new investors, she would make payments to earlier ones – encouraging them to invest even more.
But Caddick had assets that are currently the subject of a Federal Court case as investors seek redress.
The court ruled Jones Partners could sell her assets to pay the investors, including a ‘significant’ share portfolio, money held in bank accounts and vehicles.
In February, her husband Anthony Koletti’s blue convertible Audi R8 V10 was sold off at an auction for $295,000, and Caddick’s black Mercedes Benz CLA45 AMG went for $66,000.
Mr Koletti protested the sale, although court records showed she bought it for him on May 6, 2016, for $390,000.
The $361,250 from the sale of the cars will be distributed amongst her defrauded investors.
The liquidators also hope to sell two properties she bought.
Her Wallangra Road home at Dover Heights is valued at $9million, and she bought a penthouse at Edgecliff for her parents, valued at $2.5million.
Secret three: Did Melissa Caddick have an escape plan after ASIC raided her Dover Heights home?
When Caddick disappeared on November 13, 2020, it looked certain she had a getaway plan.
When her foot washed up on Bournda Beach in February, 2021, it either ended the escape plan theories or took them up a notch – depending on your imagination.
The point of the television miniseries, Underbelly: Vanishing Act, was to convert public fascination with her disappearance into TV audiences by dramatizing her supposed escape.
The show explored theories, including that she had a ‘safehouse’ on the NSW south coast where she stashed cash, that she was picked up by a yacht and she chopped off her own foot.
None have been proved true, and all appear to be little more than storytelling.
The theory about her disappearance makes the most sense is that after ASIC raided her Dover Heights home on November 12, 2020 she took her own life.
But conspiracy theorists rightly point out this hasn’t been proved either.
Many people find it unthinkable that a meticulous fraudster like Caddick would not have had a plan ready to go for it, and when it appeared, she might be busted.
But what could it have been?
Secret four: Did Melissa Caddick fake her own death?
Probably the most tantalizingly popular question for all who have followed the Melissa Caddick saga.
This is impossible to know – in theory it’s possible, but regarded as extremely unlikely.
‘It’s possible [she’s alive], at the extreme end of what’s possible, in that what’s been recovered is a foot and medically you can survive without a foot,’ criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett told Daily Mail Australia.
NSW police commisisoner Fuller said many people had fell from eastern suburbs cliffs without their remains washing up several hundred kilometres away
‘I know fact is stranger than fiction, however I don’t think we can stretch the fact this far.
While people have faked their own deaths before, the emergence of her foot complicates any wild escape theory in more than the obvious way.
But it still didn’t prevent speculation.
Even the NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller added to it.
There’s always a chance she cut her foot off and is still alive, though it’s pretty fanciful,’ he told 2GB in March 2021.
‘A severed foot is a great throw off.’
Secret five: Did Melissa Caddick sail off in a yacht or hop on an early morning flight?
The yacht scenario was made up by the producers of Underbelly: Vanishing Act.
Caddick did not have a passport in another name and all five of her known passports were handed over by her husband in the days after she disappeared.
This would make leaving the country via plane highly unlikely.
But one theory the show puts forward is that Caddick had given a mysterious yacht captain a payment to ferry her out of the country as her ‘plan B’.
In the show this falls apart when her husband holds a press conference and she becomes the most high profile missing person in the country.
There has been no suggestion of any such yacht in the official investigation.
It is understood police in their investigations are satisfied Caddick did not depart Sydney.
Secret six: Could cutting off your foot work as a getaway plan?
Again, in theory, it’s possible but extremely unlikely.
Because a foot amputation was featured in the horror movie Saw, it has been discussed at length online.
Generally, doctors have said a DIY foot amputation without the best medical help immediately at hand is not survivable.
Arterial bleeding means the person who lost a foot would die within an hour, passing out through shock and ultimately through loss of blood.
The counterview is that people have survived the sudden and traumatic loss of limbs, including feet – and more – during war.
So while unlikely, it is true to say surviving a foot amputation is possible because there are living examples.
Secret seven: Was Melissa Caddick murdered?
Underbelly: Vanishing Act show posited that Caddick was involved with a fictitious underworld figure called George.
In the show, Caddick ‘runs into’ him on her morning jogs along the cliff where she later allegedly jumped.
These characters appear to be either fictional or composite characters that serve a plot purpose rather than based on any specific people known to Caddick.
George is depicted as a ‘gangster’, who screenwriter Matt Ford invented.
The route Melissa Caddick’s severed foot apparently took before it was found 450km from her Sydney home
However, it is understood that in police circles, there is a feeling that Caddick may have been murdered.
It is a theory shared by criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett.
‘Based on her personality profile I don’t thinks she’s likely to have committed suicide,’ Dr Mallett said.
‘I think the most likely outcome is she was sadly murdered, second that she took her own life and third is that she’s still alive.’
Anthony Koletti believes it too. He told Channel Seven’s Spotlight program it would ‘make sense’ she was murdered.
But by who?
‘My suspect list is long,’ he said.
‘If it came out, if the police came to me and said ‘Melissa was murdered’, I’d be like ‘it makes sense’.’
Secret eight: How did Melissa Caddick’s foot get severed and how was it found intact 450 kilometres away four months after she disappeared?
The unforgettable image of a single Asics shoe sitting on Bournda Beach with the foot itself blurred out by photo editors so that viewers don’t lose the lunches is now iconic.
It is the most gruesome and intriguing part of the whole Caddick mystery, even more than her possible death.
The image is so unforgettable that the makers of Underbelly: Vanishing Act couldn’t help but show us what it might have really looked like: totally disgusting.
How the shoe and foot got to Bournda beach and why it took over three months – presuming it became detached after she leapt to her death from the Dover Heights clifftop – is the subject of much speculation.
One expert, Dr Paola Magni from Murdoch University, claimed the shoe found with her foot in it should have had ‘barnacles’ on it after three months floating in the ocean.
‘November to now is summer time so the water is pretty warm with a lot of plankton, full of little creatures that are extremely active because of the warm water,’ she told The Daily Telegraph.
‘I would have expected something on the shoe … based on my experience.’
Secret nine: What do police know about Melissa Caddick that that they aren’t saying?
Without doubt, a lot.
They collected mountains of evidence from her home, several laptops, and statements from her family members and defrauded investors for over a year.
There were also hundreds of supposed sightings claimed after her disappearance.
But on April 7 police told Daily Mail Australia they now consider the case ‘finalised’ – so we may never know what they suspect really happened.
At times, top cops have let slip and expressed doubts over the popular story: that she took her life after ASIC raided her home.
Back in March 2021, police commissioner Mick Fuller sounded sceptical over the appearance of her foot.
‘Of all the beaches and feet in the world, to find hers… what is the probability of that?’ he in an interview with 2GB.
‘I’ve never seen someone’s body or body parts wash up 400km south of Sydney and in reasonably good condition … but that’s not to say it can’t happen.’
Secret ten: How could Melissa Caddick live with herself after ripping off family and friends?
In a little over two years to September 2020, more than $20million was deposited into her personal bank accounts by 72 investors – who were mostly friends and family.
It was later revealed her scam involved creating a fake CommSec share trading account number – with six digits instead of the eight numbers the real accounts have.
She didn’t even have a real financial advisor’s licence.
She got female friends, family members and acquaintances to invest by boasting of 30 per cent returns and by showing off her millionaire lifestyle.
She promised she could do the same for them.
Except none of it was real: she didn’t make any money, she stole it.
Her lifestyle was a shopfront for her scam, all of it rooted in deception.
Along the way it is likely Caddick accepted the guilt as a cost of her dishonest business model.
Most of us couldn’t do this, but then again most of us are not con-artists.
As one of the investigative journalists who has covered the case since the start, Kate McClymont, says in Nine newspapers, Caddick was a narcissist.
That means she may have had no empathy for her victims, a sense of entitlement, and an inflated sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with the fantasy of unlimited success.
Secret eleven: How much does Melissa Caddick’s second husband Anthony Koletti know?
Since her disappearance, the spotlight has not shone on Mr Koletti, 41, her second husband, a former hairdresser, DJ and part-time prawn farmer.
While Mr Koletti is not accused of any wrongdoing, observers of the mystery have questioned why he did not publicly do more to try and find her initially.
It is also understood Mr Koletti was not anxiously contacting police for updates on their investigation, 9News reported last year.
As for whether Mr Koletti knows more than he’s let on, it is widely believed he was just as blindsided by the raid and her disappearance as everyone else.
Stay-at-home husband Anthony Koletti (pictured with his sports car) enjoyed the life of a multi-millionaire, thanks to his wife Melissa Caddick
Mr Koletti has staunchly defended his wife against charges she ripped off 72 investors of more than $23million
His own father, Rodo Koletti, doubts his son knew about his wife’s scams.
‘Anthony is a hairdresser. I don’t believe he has the capacity to know what a financial scheme is. I don’t think he could have been in it at all or known what was going on,’ he told 9News.
He has repeatedly claimed his wife is not a conwoman, despite the mountain of evidence stacked against her.
In a scathing letter he wrote, which was included in court documents in the Federal court case dealing with the receiver’s attempts to recoup some of the money she stole, Mr Koletti denied ASIC’s claims.
In it, he maintained, ‘Melissa lost investor funds trading on the stock market which is clearly visible through her AustralianCommsec trading account.’
ASIC found she falsified documents to make investors believe shares in their names were being held in Commsec accounts. But the accounts didn’t exist.
In the same letter, Mr Koletti accused ASIC investigator Isabella Allen of ‘severe negligence and inhumane treatment’ of his wife and of being the reason that people may never know if she was murdered or took her life.
ASIC removed CCTV cameras from the Dover Heights home during the raid the previous day.