Almost 40 years after the mystery drowning of Hollywood legend Natalie Wood, a new investigation has uncovered compelling evidence that could finally confirm foul play was involved.
A podcast has shockingly revealed that the autopsy of the West Side Story actress showed injuries consistent with an attack, sparking doubt over her husband Robert Wagner’s theory that she just slipped and fell into the ocean.
‘As soon as we looked at the autopsy report and photos, the bruises just stood out. You look at the bruising and she looks like the victim of an assault,’ Los Angeles detective Ralph Hernandez told Fatal Voyage: The Mysterious Death Of Natalie Wood.
‘We have a lot of evidence that tends to point to a very suspicious death and would certainly indicate the possibility of foul play.’
Pressure on Robert has been building since 2011, after the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Office reopened the case of Natalie’s drowning in 1981, when her body was found floating off the coast of Santa Catalina Island dressed in just a nightgown and socks.
A year later, the 43-year-old’s official cause of death was changed from ‘accidental drowning’ to ‘drowning and other determined factors’, and early this year, Robert was officially named as a ‘person of interest’.
Despite an investigation at the time, and conflicting accounts from Robert and the boat’s other passengers – movie star Christopher Walken and captain Dennis Davern – police had originally ruled the death an accident. While Robert gave three interviews to police during the original investigation, since the case was reopened, he’s refused to be reinterviewed.
Unsurprisingly, rumours about his involvement have continued to gather pace.
After first marrying in 1957, divorcing in 1962, and then remarrying in 1972, at the time of Natalie’s death the heavy drinking couple’s marriage was said to be ‘volatile’.
There have been reports Robert, now 88, was angry over Natalie and Christopher’s close friendship, and in 2011, Dennis told journalists he’d overheard Natalie and Robert having an explosive fight that fateful evening.
Natalie’s sister Lana Wood has expressed her own frustration with her former brother-in-law over the years and, in the podcast, she urges Robert to ‘tell the truth for once and for all’.
She has her own theory about her sister’s death, believing the couple had a ‘horrible fight’ that ‘escalated to a point where she was either struck or pushed’.
In Robert’s 2008 memoir, Pieces Of My Heart, he confirms he got into a fight with Christopher the night Natalie died, writing: ‘I picked up a wine bottle, slammed it on the table and broke it into pieces.’
But he then insisted that ‘nobody knows’ what happened next to cause the drowning.
‘There are only two possibilities: either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened,’ he wrote.
‘The bottom line is, we have someone who died under very suspicious circumstances, and it’s just as important of a case as a murder, but our job is to get to the truth and to hopefully come up with enough evidence to prove that truth,’ says Detective Hernandez.
‘We’d love to come to the truth – whatever that truth might be. We would love to at least bring closure to the people that deserve to know the truth.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea, on sale now.