A strange phenomenon in Canada could help explain how Melissa Caddick’s decomposing foot was found last month, 400km away from where she went missing.
The accused 49-year-old Sydney fraudster, who is said to have stolen up to $20 million from investors, was last seen at her luxury Dover Heights home on November 11.
On February 21, campers found her decaying foot in her Asics runnings shoes washed ashore on Bournda Beach, south of Tathra in southern NSW.
The extensive distance the foot would have travelled if she’s entered the water in Sydney has raised some eyebrows, with some senior police officers doubting such a scenario could eventuate.
However, some people are drawing comparison to the 21 disembodied feet that have washed up in Canada since 2007.
Running shoe may have protected foot
The sheer volume of individual feet, often found inside sneakers, led to a Canadian coronial investigation into the mystery in 2017.
It ruled that the appendages belonged to people who died in accidents or by suicide and that the feet became detached during normal decomposition, Dr Matthew Orde, a forensic pathologist with the University of British Columbia, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
He said they now believe the feet were found “many, many miles” away from where people first entered the water because of the buoyancy of the running shoes.
“One of the theories is that those running shoes, by virtues of the air pockets in them, are quite buoyant,” Dr Orde said.
Forensic pathologist and Sydney University Professor Jo Duflou told the publication the footwear may have protected Ms Caddick’s feet, or it may have been taken south by a shark.
Last week, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said foul play has not been ruled out, though suicide is more likely.
"Given the circumstances of the disappearance (and) the fact that she left personal belongings behind, we've always considered the possibility that she might have taken her own life," Mr Willing said.
Modelling by NSW Police marine rescue teams, taking tides and drift patterns into account, has explored the possibility that Ms Caddick entered the water in the Dover Heights area around November 12.
The modelling deemed it possible that her body could have drifted to Bournda.
New police theory about Melissa Caddick before her death
The news comes after police told The Daily Telegraph that Ms Caddick may have been alive for weeks after she disappeared from her Sydney mansion.
Superintendent Joe McNulty, Commander of the NSW Marine Command, said it was unlikely her body could have drifted to the NSW South Coast, and thought the foot had not shown signs of being in water for a long period of time.
“Something in the water for that long, say a bit of flotsam or jetsam that washes onto the shore, has got green growth on it,” Superintendent Joe McNulty, Commander of the NSW Marine Command, told the publication.
“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.
"[A body drifting that far has] never happened in my time in the water police."
Police continue to search for remains
Police are continuing to scour beaches on the south coast for traces of remains of Ms Caddick.
Remains have been located at three separate beaches since her foot was found.
People on popular Mollymook Beach discovered a chunk of stomach flesh on Friday evening and called police.
Additional remains were found at Cunjurong Point on Saturday afternoon and Warrain Beach at Culburra on Sunday morning.
Police said on Monday evening they would forensically examine the findings to determine if they belonged to the 49-year-old.
Remains found by members of the public at Tura Beach on Saturday evening have been confirmed to come from an animal.
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