It’s the running shoe that ignited a myriad conspiracy theories.
When a shoe with skeletal remains that were later DNA-matched to missing fraudster Melissa Caddick washed up on a remote beach three months after she vanished, some hypothesised she faked her own death.
However, a coroner has ruled that it was unlikely she severed her own foot in order to go on the run, saying there was no trail of evidence and she would have needed medical attention.
In handing down her coronial findings on Thursday morning, Deputy State Coroner Elizabeth Ryan said Ms Caddick was dead; however, it could not be determined how, when and where she died.
Ms Caddick’s husband, Anthony Koletti, and son told the inquest they heard the front door of their Dover Heights mansion open and close around 5.30am on November 12, 2020.
Ms Caddick has not been seen since.
Just hours earlier, ASIC and AFP investigators had raided the property over an alleged $23m Ponzi scheme, seizing luxury items including designer clothes and jewellery.
There is no suggestion Mr Koletti was involved in any wrongdoing.
Reports of Ms Caddick’s last known contact could not be corroborated by other evidence, with Ms Ryan noting there was no CCTV footage of her walking out her door.
It’s suspected that she died by suicide by jumping off the cliffs near her home before the foot washed up on Bournda Beach, on the NSW south coast, on February 21, 2021.
Expert evidence given at the inquest found that while it was feasible Ms Caddick went into the waters off Sydney in November 2020, and her foot washed up some 450km south three months later, it could not be determined with certainty because of the innumerable variables involved in calculating its path.
The heavily decomposed foot was DNA-matched to Ms Caddick “beyond reasonable doubt” according to the coroner.
Pathologist Jennifer Pokorny told the inquest that the foot’s amputation would not in itself be a mortal injury.
Orthopaedic surgeon David Lunz told the court that it could not be determined whether fractures found in the foot were suffered before or after she died.
“The foot was in very poor condition,” Ms Ryan said in her findings published on Thursday.
“This together with the lack of more complete remains made it impossible to discern any pattern to the fractures which might point to their likely cause.”
The grisly discovery of the running shoe gave rise to innumerable theories, including that she had chopped off her own foot to fake her own death
Dr Lunz said it was “unlikely” that a person who was not medically trained could amputate their own foot and survive.
“The person would lose a fair amount of blood and would need sterile bandages to tamponade the bleeding,” Dr Lunz said in his report.
“There would be a very high risk of the person developing an infection in the open stump which, if untreated, could be fatal.”
After Dr Lunz’s evidence was received by the inquest, investigators made inquiries with NSW-based prosthetic specialists about whether a woman matching Ms Caddick’s age range had asked for a prosthetic foot.
“None had,” Ms Ryan said.
Ms Ryan concluded: “It is most unlikely Ms Caddick’s foot separated from her body as a result of a deliberate act to sever it, performed either by herself or with the assistance of others.”