Melissa Caddick’s husband and family have made a dramatic exit from court after a coroner found the missing fraudster was dead, but could not rule on how or when she died.
Deputy State Coroner Elizabeth Ryan on Thursday handed down her findings after a long-running coronial inquest examined the circumstances surrounding the 49-year-old’s mysterious disappearance.
Ms Ryan was highly critical of Ms Caddick’s husband Anthony Koletti, condemning his 30-hour delay in reporting his wife missing after she vanished from their her Dover Heights mansion, and his numerous and often contradictory accounts.
She said she had “formed the opinion that it is likely that on 13 November 2020 Mr Koletti had some awareness of Ms Caddick’s movements over the previous two days” however that he chose not to disclose it to police.
Ms Ryan added “bitter” criticism of the ASIC, made by Mr Koletti and Ms Caddick’s mother Barbara Grimley, was “entirely without foundation.”
There were dramatic scenes outside the NSW Coroner’s Court on Thursday morning as Mr Koletti, Ms Grimley and Ms Caddick’s father exited the court.
Mr Koletti was seen to push one television reporter while his brother in law Adam Grimley loudly honked his car horn before driving off.
Minutes earlier, Ms Ryan had concluded that Ms Caddick had died, however: “The evidence does not enable a finding as to the place of Melissa Caddick’s death.”
She added that a finding as to the date and cause of Ms Caddick’s death could also not be established.
The corporate watchdog has accused Ms Caddick of operating a Ponzi scheme and misappropriating $24m, including from her friends and family, to fund a lavish lifestyle including holidays, designer jewellery, watches, clothing and shoes.
Ms Ryan said Caddick’s crimes left her victims with a “profound sense of betrayal”.
“For many, their losses represented all the money they had saved for their retirement or for their children’s education,” she said.
“The financial and emotional harm they have suffered will reverberate for many years to come.”
It was suspected that Ms Caddick took her own life by jumping off the cliff at Rodney Reserve, approximately 500m from her home, on the morning of November 12, 2020.
Mr Koletti and Ms Caddick’s son told the court that they heard the door of their home closing about 5.30am.
However, Ms Ryan found that because neither had seen her walk out the door, it could not be established that is when she vanished.
Ms Ryan said it was possible that she died by jumping off the Dover Heights cliffs near her home.
She said it was plausible her body went into the water as far north as Brisbane and as far south as Hobart between November 2020 and February 2021.
“I regret that positive findings cannot be made as to the cause and manner of Ms Caddick’s death,” Ms Ryan said.
She said her death was a source of “deep and ongoing sadness” for her family.
The inquest examined Ms Caddick’s final hours, the actions of her husband Anthony Koletti, as well as the police investigation.
Mr Koletti did not report his wife missing until he contacted Rose Bay Police Station at 11.45am on November 13 – a full 30 hours after she was last seen.
During his evidence, Mr Koletti told the court he was under the mistaken belief he had to wait 24 hours to report someone missing.
“Did you delay reporting her missing until that point in order to give her time to try to go somewhere?” Counsel assisting the coroner Jason Downing asked.
“No,” Mr Koletti said.
NSW Police Sergeant Trent Riley told the court during the inquest that he found it “extremely strange and unusual behaviour” that Mr Koletti had initially told police he did not want them to come around to his house or go to the station to make a statement.
Sergeant Riley also told the court that Mr Koletti provided differing versions of when he had last seen his wife alive.
Ms Ryan said on Thursday that Mr Koletti had given multiple, contradictory accounts to police, media and the inquest since Ms Caddick’s disappearance.
“Mr Koletti’s unusual demeanour, when combined with the delay in his report to police and the significant discrepancies in his accounts (as to which he has been unable to provide any acceptable explanation) give rise to the strong suspicion that during the period 11 to 13 November 2020, he was in possession of information about his wife’s disappearance but withheld it from the investigating police,” Ms Ryan said.
“I have formed the opinion that it is likely that on 13 November 2020 Mr Koletti had some awareness of Ms Caddick’s movements over the previous two days, but chose not to disclose it.”
She said that Mr Koletti had “not managed to explain” the “manifold contradictions” in his accounts, including one given to the Spotlight program one year after Ms Caddick was last seen.
“Put simply, the discrepancies are too numerous, and too persistent in nature, to be attributable to stress and a lack of intellectual sophistication,” Ms Ryan said.
Mr Koletti has been persistently critical of the ASIC investigation.
In an affidavit tendered to the court, he claimed he and Ms Caddick were denied food, water and medical attention during the 12 hours when ASIC and the AFP were present at their home.
However, the court heard that during the raid, Ms Caddick drank a protein shake, Mr Koletti made her several coffees and they on occasions smoked cigarettes in their backyard.
In a statement he said: “I believe (Ms Caddick) died as a direct result of ASIC’s negligence, cruelty and inhumanity.”
Despite conceding Ms Caddick was responsible for defrauding millions from investors and that they were allowed to roam freely around the house on the day of the raid, he still maintained ASIC was responsible for her death.
Ms Ryan found that Mr Koletti’s claims were: “in the light of other evidence … entirely without foundation.”
In a statement, ASIC said it “maintains that Ms Caddick was treated with respect, decency and in accordance with the relevant ASIC and AFP policies and procedures at all times.”
THE POLICE INVESTIGATION
The inquest heard that during the early stages of the investigation police suspected that Ms Caddick had either died by suicide or had gone on the run to escape prosecution.
During the inquest, police defended the decision not to alert the NSW Homicide Squad.
Ms Ryan said that Mr Koletti’s “inherent unreliability imposed upon the investigating police a significant burden”.
She said it was “premature” to dismiss the possibility that Ms Caddick was killed and that police should have referred the case to the NSW Police Homicide Squad.
“These circumstances ought to have prompted (police) to have made an early referral of the matter to the Homicide Squad,” Ms Ryan said.
Mr Koletti has never been charged in relation to Ms Caddick’s disappearance.
A foot – which was later identified as belonging to Ms Caddick – was found washed up on Bournda Beach on the NSW south coast in February, 2021 – three months after she vanished.
The court has previously heard that Ms Caddick’s shoe was covered in 250g of goose barnacles when it washed ashore.
According to an expert’s report, the barnacle growth suggested the shoe would have been free floating on the surface of the water for three-seven days before washing up.
The court heard that it’s possible the shoe drifted on the ocean floor for several months before floating to the surface and onto the beach on the NSW south coast.
Oceanographer Dr David Griffin said that according to calculations using ocean currents, it’s plausible the shoe went into the water at Dover Heights in November and was found 400km south three months later.
However, Ms Ryan also noted that due to the many variables involved in calculating ocean currents, it’s possible the shoe went in the water as far north as Brisbane, and as far south as Hobart, before washing ashore.
Pathologist Jennifer Pokorny told the inquest in a statement that it was not possible to determine the full extent of Ms Caddick’s injuries, given all that was recovered was a decomposed foot inside a right running shoe.
Nor was it possible to determine a cause of death from the remains, she said.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr Kerri Eagle told the inquest that after reviewing Ms Caddick’s medical record, as well as witness statements, it appeared she had narcissistic personality disorder.
She said that for people suffering the disorder, their self-esteem and sense of self-worth hinged on external admiration and impressing others.
Dr Eagle told the court that as a result of being charged, she would have seen herself as being in danger of losing her work and the “respect and admiration” of others.
She told Ms Ryan that when ASIC raided her home, it was plausible it had a “very huge” impact to her self-esteem.
Ms Ryan concluded: “There is no reliable personal sighting of Ms Caddick, or CCTV capture of her, at or near any coastal area.
“This does not exclude the possibility that she died as a result of falling from a height.”