Police reopen investigation into death of film star Natalie Wood after 30 years
Published 18/11/2011 | 10:03
DETECTIVES in Los Angeles have reopened their investigation into the death of actress Natalie Wood, the wife of television star Robert Wagner, who drowned during a boat trip in 1981.
Thirty years after the tragedy police say they will look again at the case after receiving new information about the circumstances surrounding her death.
Wood, who starred in West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause, died after falling overboard from a yacht off the coast of California on November 28, 1981.
Her husband, American actor Robert Wagner, and her film co-star Christopher Walken, were also on the boat.
At the time, a coroner ruled that Wood had been drinking and accidentally fell into the sea, striking her face on the side of the yacht.
But Dennis Davern, the captain of the boat, has made comments in a book suggesting that the full circumstances leading up to her death have never been revealed.
He claims arguments between the actors on the night Wood died were worse than previously stated.
Police say they want to talk to Davern about his allegations and will hold a press conference on Friday morning.
"Recently sheriff's homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning," Los Angeles detectives said.
"Due to the additional information, sheriff's homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case."
Alan Nierob, a spokesman for Robert Wagner, said the family had not yet been contacted by police.
"[The Wagner family] fully support the efforts of the LA County Sheriff's Department and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid, and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30 year anniversary of her tragic death," he said.
Wood, 43, drowned after a night of partying with husband Wagner and Walken, her co-star in Brainstorm, on the couple's yacht, which was anchored off Santa Catalina island.
The sheriff's office found that she was "possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face".
A dinghy that had been attached to the yacht was later found in a nearby cove.
However, a number of questions about the case remain unanswered and family members have previously asked the authorities to re-examine their original findings.
County sheriff Lee Baca told the Los Angeles Times that detectives wanted to talk to the captain of the yacht, The Splendor, about comments he had made in a new book.
The sheriff's department had received an anonymous letter saying that Davern had new information about the case, it reported.
Wagner, star of the television series Hart to Hart, wrote in his autobiography in 2008 that he blamed himself for his wife's death.
He said he and Walken had been drinking at a restaurant and on the yacht, and he last saw Wood when she went into the main cabin to fix her hair.
She shut the door to get away from an argument that had taken place between her husband and Walken, he wrote.
Wagner said that despite various theories about how Wood got into the water, of which she had a phobia, it was impossible to know what exactly happened.
"Nobody knows," he wrote. "There are only two possibilities; either she was trying to get away from the argument, or she was trying to tie the dinghy. But the bottom line is that nobody knows exactly what happened."
He said he had never returned to Santa Catalina island after his wife's death.
Wood, who was nominated for three Oscars, was best known for her performance opposite James Dean in the 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause.
The daughter of Russian parents who emigrated to San Francisco, she rose to fame as a child actress and appeared in Miracle on 34th Street at the age of just 11.
She also starred in a number of musicals, including West Side Story and Gypsy. At the time of her death, Wood was filming Brainstorm with Walken, which was later released posthumously.
She and Wagner were twice married, first in 1957 before divorcing six years later. Wood briefly dated actor Warren Beatty, before she and Wagner remarried in 1972.
The couple had one daughter, Courtney, who was born in 1974.