A teenage camper has detailed the horrifying moment he and his friends discovered the decomposed foot of an accused Sydney conwoman on a beach on NSW’s South Coast.
On Friday, police announced the remains of Melissa Caddick, the 49-year-old accused of stealing millions of dollars from investors, had been discovered on Bournda Beach, south of Tathra.
The grisly discovery was made by a group of young campers who found the remains of a foot inside a shoe washed up on the sand.
One of the campers, who did not wish to be identified, told 7 News that he and his friends thought someone was playing a trick on them at first.
“At the time we were all a bit in shock, we obviously didn’t think it was real at first,” he said.
“We were wondering whether someone had played a prank – put some chicken bones in a shoe or something.”
The group immediately notified police, with investigators later finding DNA from the foot matched samples taken from Ms Caddick’s toothbrush and family members.
It wasn’t until days later when the campers realised who the remains had belonged to.
“We were still just more in shock than anything. We couldn’t really realise what had happened to us,” the camper said.
More human remains have since been discovered on a beach about 150km away from where Ms Caddick’s foot was found.
Beach walkers made the gruesome discovery of human flesh about 9.30pm on Friday at Mollymook Beach.
DNA testing is under way to see if the remains are linked to Ms Caddick.
It comes as an expert has doubled down on her claims that the accused conwoman’s foot washing up on a beach wasn’t confirmation of her death.
Speaking to Weekend Today on Saturday, University of Newcastle Associate Professor of Criminology Dr Xanthe Mallett pointed out that losing a foot didn’t automatically spell out death.
“When it was just a foot I would caution against the possibility that somebody is deceased. You can survive without your foot,” she said.
Dr Mallett further explained her comments, telling The Daily Telegraph that she was not convinced Ms Caddick was deceased when she first heard about her partial remains being discovered.
She told the publication that losing a foot didn’t immediately point to death as the only possibility for the accused conwoman, though if more remains were confirmed then that would change things.
“Now that we may have other human remains, if they are confirmed to belong to Melissa, then the investigation is taking another turn,” Dr Mallett said.
“All options have to remain open, including the unlikely chance of a really strange accident, suicide or something more sinister.”
Police still don’t have confirmation on how Ms Caddick’s remains came to be in the water or how long she may have died after her disappearance.
“At this point we can’t rule out anything. We have kept an open mind, however given the circumstances of her disappearance, the fact she left personal belongings behind, we have always considered the possibility that she may have taken her own life but that is a matter for the coroner,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said on Friday.
Ms Caddick was last seen leaving her $7 million Dover Heights home to go for a run on the morning of November 12.
Her disappearance came two days after the Australian Federal Police and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) raided her home over allegations she was misappropriating investor funds through her finance business Maliver Pty Ltd.
The majority of her alleged victims were family members and longstanding friends, none of whom had any idea up until recently that they were being fleeced of millions of dollars.
Leaked documents, obtained by news.com.au earlier this month, showed each of the investors happily handed over their money following a “strong personal recommendation from people they trusted”.
Over the years, no red flags over Ms Caddick or her business were ever raised.
Any investor who wanted to withdraw their funds had done so with ease, and on repeated occasions.
However, on Monday the Federal Court heard liquidators had found just $5600 in the 49-year-old’s bank accounts, described as a “significant shortfall” between the millions investigators allege Ms Caddick owes her investors.