WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO NATALIE WOOD?
Almost 40 years after the screen goddess drowned, her death remains Hollywood’s greatest mystery
There’s no doubt Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner had one of Hollywood’s most volatile, tempestuous love affairs – marrying twice, fighting over rumoured lovers, and jealously clashing during their celebrated careers.
But could Robert Wagner really have killed his beautiful wife in a drunken rage after an argument on their yacht Splendour sometime in the early hours of November 29, 1981?
Detectives now believe it’s one explanation of her shocking death – and have named Robert as a “person of interest” in the investigation into Natalie’s death.
“We want to talk to Robert,” says Lieutenant John Corina from the LA County Sheriff’s Department, revealing he had refused 10 police requests for an interview. “What he told the original investigators and what he’s portrayed since then really don’t add up to what we found.”
SKIPPER ADMITS LYING
The case was re-opened in 2011 when Splendour skipper Dennis Davern claimed he originally lied to police and alleged Robert, who was the last to see Natalie alive, was responsible for her death.
“I made some terrible decisions and mistakes,” Dennis said at the time, revealing Robert had asked him not to turn on a searchlight to look for Natalie after she disappeared from the yacht, and delayed reporting her as missing to authorities.
“I did lie on a report several years ago,” Dennis admitted. “We didn’t take any steps to see if we could locate her.”
Robert, now 88, has always insisted “the last time I saw my wife, she was fixing her hair at a little vanity in the bathroom” in a stateroom below deck. He has denied any involvement in her death, claiming he believes she slipped overboard after going to tie up a loose dinghy. Natalie, 43, who had a lifelong fear of drowning and dark water, was found dead in the ocean off California’s Catalina Island, dressed for bed in a long nightgown and socks, with a red down jacket over her nightclothes.
She and Robert, together with Oscar-winning actor Christopher Walken, were drinking heavily. Robert and Natalie had fought publicly in a bar and on the boat the day before her death.
Dennis told investigators he heard the couple having a violent argument before they took their fight up onto the deck just hours before she disappeared – and Lt Corina says two “very credible” new witnesses back him up.
“There was arguing… and then silence. Nobody heard a splash. Nobody heard anything. I don’t think she got into the water by herself,” he says.
Natalie was nominated for three Oscars and starred in West Side Story, Rebel Without A Cause, Splendor In The Grass and Miracle On 34th Street.
This new investigation, which has uncovered 150 new clues and brought forward 100 new witnesses, has divided Natalie’s family and reignited a bitter feud between her younger sister Lana Wood and Robert.
Natalie’s daughters have always stood by Robert, with Natasha Gregson Wagner stating that she’d never blamed her stepdad for her mother’s death.
But Lana recently told US news program Inside Edition, “Something bad happened and something wrong happened, and I want him to own up to that.
“Not a single day passes when I don’t wish Natalie was here.”
Splendour. Natalie died after a fight on the yacht