HEATHER CREAMER WRITES — Melissa Caddick, age 49, vanished from her luxury $6.1 million home in Dover Heights, a coastal suburb of Sydney, in New South Wales, Australia. Her disappearance occurred November 11, the day after corporate watchdog Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) executed a search warrant at her residence.
So, who is Melissa Caddick, and why is she missing? Caddick is an Australian businesswoman and financial investor, now believed by authorities to be the mastermind behind an expansive Ponzi scheme. The ASIC report claims she misappropriated around $25-$40 million of over 60 investors’ funds. Reports also claim that all the while she flaunted a lavish lifestyle complete with designer shoes, clothes and jewelry and boasted about international trips by private jet.
Caddick left her residence around 5:30 am on November 12. Her son and husband believed she was out on her usual brisk morning run since she left her keys and phone at home, but when she didn’t return and there was no trace of her, they reported her missing. That was where the case went cold, as authorities couldn’t locate any CCTV footage or sightings of the alleged fraudster… until February 21, when DNA testing matched a foot found at Bournda beach, 250 miles away from her Dover Heights Home, to Caddick. Police believe it’s unlikely her body could have drifted that far, and the foot itself did not show signs of being in the water for the three months since Melissa Caddick went missing.
All this might suggest that Caddick was on the run weeks before her death. Superintendent Joe McNulty, Commander of the NSW Marine Command, told The Daily Telegraph, “At first examination, the shoe doesn’t appear to have been in the water for three months. The shoe needs extensive analysis to see how long it was in the water. It’s a vital clue where hopefully marine biology can provide some answers.”
Oddly, the rest of her body has yet to be discovered. A piece of human flesh, as well as multiple bones, were discovered even further down the coast, but they were determined to not be those of Caddick. The police have declared Melissa dead, but some aren’t convinced, including her own victims and even experts.
Dr. Xanthe Mallett, an Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Newcastle pointed out, “When it was just a foot, I would caution against the possibility that somebody is deceased. You can survive without your foot.”
Melissa’s former friend Michelle Leslie, who reportedly entrusted her with her life savings, told “60 Minutes Australia,” “She could still be alive… It’s only a foot. Where’s the rest of the body? Where’s the cement evidence to say she’s actually dead?… She’s capable of anything.”
Worst of all, many of Caddick’s victims were friends and family. The allegation is that she unwittingly forced them, the ones who loved and trusted her the most, to foot the bill of her lavish lifestyle. “She’s a sociopath who was always smarter than anyone else and who thought she could get away with it – she did for many years,” one of her angry victims, Cheryl Craft-Reid, told 2GB Radio. Their worst fear is that she may have gotten away with it, and they’re footing the bill for her escape as well. “She would have got a private flight from Sydney the night she went missing to Vanuatu or somewhere, then she would have got a yacht from one place to another,” an anonymous victim told The Guardian, Australia, a respected newspaper.
Perhaps most tragic in all of this is the grief of her innocent teenage son, who says he is losing everything in the aftermath of his mother’s Ponzi scheme, disappearance and possible death. Cheryl Craft-Reid, admitted, “That’s a sad, tragic outcome for her son but it’s also just a sad tragic outcome for us because we just don’t get closure.”
With Melissa’s victims left to pick up the pieces of their millions lost, their hope of repayment is dwindling as investigators discovered just under $6000 left in Caddick’s account. Her teen son is left without a mother, in a house that will be sold off to repay his mother’s debts any day. Police are still considering many options, from the chance of a really strange accident, suicide or something more sinister. For now, the fate of Melissa Caddick and the missing millions remains mostly a mystery.