(LOS ANGELES) -- Police have reopened the investigation into the drowning death of actress Natalie Wood, and a witness has now come forward to say she heard the actress screaming for help on the night she died.
Wood died on Nov. 29, 1981 while she was boating with her husband, Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken, off Catalina Island in California. Wood reportedly could not swim.
Even though the couple had reportedly argued that night, there was no determination of foul play following Wood’s death. The Los Angeles County coroner’s office said the actress could have slipped and fallen into the water while trying to secure a dinghy to the boat.
The official cause of death was determined to be accidental drowning, but because there has been little concrete information about the circumstances surrounding the events of that night, speculation has been rife and the case remains one of Hollywood’s longest-running mysteries.
But now, California resident Marilyn Wayne, who was boating in the same area that night -- approximately 40 yards away from the Splendour, the yacht upon which the actors were staying -- said she heard a woman’s cries for help.
In a sworn statement to investigators, Wayne said she and her boyfriend, John Payne, were sleeping aboard a sailboat, the Capricorn, on Nov. 28, 1981. The window of the cabin was open.
“A woman’s voice, crying for help from drowning awakened John, and he awakened me. ‘Help me, someone please help me, I’m drowning’ we heard repeatedly. Alarmed, I called out to my son, who also heard the cries, and looked at his new digital watch: it was just minutes after 11:00 P.M.,” she said in her statement.
According to Wayne’s statement, Payne turned on the sailboat’s beam light and played it over the area while she went up onto the deck, though it was dark and damp and she says that she was unable to see anything.
“While listening to the cries, we called the harbor patrol but no one answered. Then we called the sheriff’s office in Avalon, 12 miles away, and whoever answered told us a helicopter would be sent, but it did not come. We heard loud music coming from somewhere, so thought there was a party on a nearby boat,” the statement said. “Then I heard a man’s voice, slurred, and in aggravated tone, say something to the effect of, 'Oh, hold on, we’re coming to get you,' and not long after, the cries for help subsided, but we heard the cries for up to 15 minutes. We returned to bed, terribly disturbed.”
When she woke up the next morning, she says, she saw police at the boat located near Wayne's sailboat Capricorn, and learned that Wood, a passenger on that board, had drowned.
Wayne, a former stockbroker, said in the statement that she doesn’t believe the initial investigation was thorough enough, that police never interviewed her and that she received a threatening note cautioning her to keep quiet about what she knew.
“After all I’ve learned since my own direct experience with the death of Natalie, I am stunned that Robert Wagner has never been properly interrogated in regards to Natalie Wood’s death. In my opinion, Natalie Wood’s case is one of the top most botched cases of the 20th century, and I am still willing to offer my assistance should you finally realize that this case needs what every death case deserves: a full and proper investigation,” her statement said.
Wagner has never been charged, and police plan to reach out to him as part of the re-opened investigation, but they say he is not a suspect.
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