Doug Bombard, the man who found Natalie Wood’s body said reopening the case has brought back painful memories as he recalled the moment he told Robert Wagner of the tragic discovery.
Former harbour director Doug Bombard, 85, took part in the 1981 search off Catalina Island and revisited the area in a helicopter.
Recalling the moment he told Robert Wagner, Doug Bombard said: “I told him I recovered the body. He looked right at me as I said it and he just looked down.”
Doug Bombard found Natalie Wood’s body after spotting a red bubble in the water which turned out to be her jacket.
Former harbour director, who still believes Natalie Wood’s death was a horrible and unfortunate accident, told NBC: “She was hanging in her down jacket under that bubble. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we’d ever have found her body.”
Doug Bombard said he believes she went out on the boat’s deck to fix something that was banging and slipped and fell into the water.
Reopening the investigation, he said, will bring pain to many people.
“I think it’s a bad idea that Robert’s family has to deal with it again.”
According to a witness whose account has never been disclosed, Natalie Wood was screaming for help as she drowned.
Retired stockbroker Marilyn Wayne said she tried to report the Natalie Wood’s “last desperate cries for help” but was ignored.
Los Angeles police last week said “substantial new evidence” has led them to reopen their investigation into the death 30 years ago this week.
Natalie Wood’s drowning off the coast of California was ruled accidental at the time. Now a police source has described her husband, Hart-To-Hart star Robert Wagner, now 81, as “a person of interest” in the case.
Robert Wagner – who was on his yacht Splendour with his wife and her alleged lover, Oscar-winner Christopher Walken, on the fateful night – has always maintained Natalie Wood, 43, accidentally slipped and drowned as she drunkenly tried to tie up a dinghy against the boat.
According to a witness whose account has never been disclosed, Natalie Wood was screaming for help as she drowned
Marilyn Wayne, 68, believes new statements from her and Dennis Davern, skipper of the Splendour, had triggered the latest police probe.
She said: “I have been waiting for years for them to take my account seriously but they would never listen.”
Marilyn Wayne was on a nearby boat with a boyfriend called John on the night of November 28, 1981.
In a sworn statement submitted to the LA Sheriff’s department, Marilyn Wayne said: “My cabin window was open. A woman’s voice, crying for help, awakened John and awakened me, <<Help me, someone please help me, I’m drowning>>, we heard repeatedly.”
She said John turned on their yacht’s beam light but they couldn’t see anything.
Marilyn Wayne claims she called the harbour patrol officer “but no one answered” and the local sheriff’s office, who told her a helicopter would be sent. But it did not come.
The woman also claims to have heard a man’s slurred voice from the direction of the Splendour saying: “Oh, hold on, we’re coming to get you.”
“Not long after that the cries for help subsided,” Marilyn Wayne recalled.
It was only when Marilyn Wayne gave an account of her story to a U.S. TV crew for a programme scheduled to air next week, that she was asked to give a statement to police.
Marilyn Wayne’s account matches that of Dennis Davern who says he was “coerced” by Robert Wagner’s lawyer into backing his client story of an accidental drowning after the death.
Dennis Davern’s police statement describes a night of heavy drinking that ended in a furious row between Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood after Christopher Walken had retired to bed.
Lana, Natalie Wood’s sister has claimed the actress was so scared of water that she would never have tried to get into a dinghy voluntarily before she drowned.
The coroner’s ruling, based on accounts from Robert Wagner, outlined how she had fallen into the sea after attempting to secure the small boat, but that finding should not be believed, Lana Wood said.
Natalie Wood had developed a deep-rooted fear of water ever since her mother warned her as a child that she would meet her death by drowning in “dark water”, Lana Wood told TMZ.
Lana Wood said: “It gave Natalie a great fear. She hated the water, she wouldn’t even go into her own pool at home.”
Coroner’s officials at the time wrote that Natalie Wood was “possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face.”
Lana Wood, 65, also an actress best known for her part in Diamonds Are Forever, had never believed that her sister would have tried to sail herself at night, even after drinking for several hours.
She also claimed that the actress’s husband left her to drown on the night of her tragic death.
In an emotional interview Lana Wood said that when Natalie was in the water, Robert Wagner, who she calls RJ, had forbidden the captain from helping her and said: “Leave her there, teach her a lesson.”
Speaking to TMZ, Lana Wood claimed Dennis Davern, captain of the Splendour yacht from which Natalie Wood fell and drowned in 1981, told her what Robert Wagner had said.
Dennis Davern’s interviews followed his detailed account of the evening in a book co-authored by Marti Rulli entitled, Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, which was published in September, 2009.
In the book they say before Natalie Wood disappeared from the boat, she was drinking and taking Quaaludes, a sedative, with her husband, Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken.
According to the book, Robert Wagner became enraged when he saw Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken speaking, and smashed a wine bottle, yelling at Walken: “What do you want to do, f**k my wife? Is that what you want?”
At that point, Christopher Walken returned to his cabin and Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner went to their state room. According to the captain, he heard a loud argument between the couple and thumping sounds, and eventually silence.
A short time later, the Captain went to the deck and was told by Robert Wagner: “Natalie is missing.”
The book claims Robert Wagner refused to let him call the Coast Guard.
Lana Wood, Natalie Wood’ sister, has claimed during an interview with TMZ that Robert Wagner left the actress to drown on the night of her tragic death.
Lana Wood said that when her sister was in the water, Robert Wagner, who she calls RJ, had forbidden the captain from helping her and said: “Leave her there, teach her a lesson.”
During an interview with TMZ, Natalie Wood’ sister claims Dennis Davern, captain of the Splendour yacht from which the actress fell and drowned in 1981, told her what Robert Wagner had said.
Lana Wood told TMZ: “He (Dennis) said that everyone was quite drunk and that a fight broke out and that Natalie was in the water and he and RJ did nothing to pull her out.
“He said, and this is a direct quote from what Dennis told me, <<leave her there, teach her a lesson>>.”
Lana Wood also claimed that the captain told her Robert Wagner called his attorney before he alerted the Coastguard to the incident.
Lana Wood, Natalie Wood' sister, has claimed during an interview with TMZ that Robert Wagner left the actress to drown on the night of her tragic death
The revelations come as the police confirmed yesterday that they will reopen the investigation into the death of Natalie Wood and said they may use new DNA technology after receiving “credible and substantial information”.
Investigators said, until they find evidence to say otherwise, Natalie Wood’s death will still be ruled as an accidental drowning.
The sheriff said at this point Natalie Wood’s husband actor Robert Wagner is not a suspect and would only say they planned to re-evaluate the evidence.
One of the key witnesses in the reopening of the investigation is Dennis Davern, who police confirmed they would interview.
Dennis Davern has blamed Robert Wagner for the death, claiming that – at the behest of Wagner – they did not do enough to find Natalie Wood, after he advised against calling coastguards for four hours.
When asked if he thought Robert Wagner was responsible for Natalie Wood’s death, he said: “Yes, I would say so.”
Dennis Davern, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner and her Brainstorm co-star Christopher Walken – who police say is not a suspect – had been boating near Santa Catalina Island just off the coast of California.
The three friends had been drinking heavily and investigators ruled, after interviewing all parties on board, that Natalie Wood’s death was an accident.
But now Dennis Davern has admitted he lied in the initial police report and that he believes it was her husband who was responsible for her death.
Dennis Davern told NBC today: “I made some terrible decisions and mistakes. I did lie on a report several years ago.
“I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report.
“We didn’t take any steps to see if we could locate her. I think it was a matter of, <<We’re not going to look too hard, we’re not going to turn on the searchlight, we’re not going to notify anybody right now>>.”
Robert Wagner has yet to speak out about the new claims and has remained out of the public eye, holed up in his Hollywood mansion.
The actor’s publicist released a statement saying they were leaving the matter in the hands of the LA County Sheriff’s department but appeared to blame Dennis Davern for trying to profiteer from her death.
The statement said: “We 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.”
At a press conference in California yesterday, police said in their eyes it is still an accidental drowning and will remain so until they follow up on the new information.
Meanwhile Natalie Wood’s sister Lana said she never believed the account Robert Wagner gave police about her sister’s death.
Lana Wood also says she’s not buying the story that her sister was trying to secure a dinghy and fell overboard because she was deathly afraid of water, according to TMZ.
She claims Natalie Wood’s fear stems from her mother warning her as a child that she would meet her death by drowning in “dark water”.
Lana Wood said: “It gave Natalie a great fear. She hated the water, she wouldn’t even go into her own pool at home.”
Natalie Wood’ sister said she was not interested in seeing anyone punished but just wanted the “truth”.
“Natalie was a wonderful person. She deserves the truth and she deserves to rest,” Lana Wood told TMZ.
Detectives are said to be interviewing Lana Wood to find out if her sister’s relationship with her husband was volatile.
Dennis Davern spoke extensively to Marti Rulli, author of the book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, published in 2009 while she was writing it.
He denies trying to do anything other than see justice done by coming forward after 30 years.
Dennis Davern told NBC: “I’m not really the investigator here, and I’m far away from even thinking about profiting over a 30-year anniversary. I’ve known this information for many, many years and my book has been out for two years. I’m not in it for any kind of profit, I’m in it for the justice of the whole situation.”
Speaking to CNN, Dennis Davern told them that though he never saw Robert Wagner push Natalie Wood or be in any way violent towards her, he still holds him responsible for her death.
Witnesses said they heard a woman scream around the time Natalie Wood disappeared but he said he did not hear any scream but only “a lot of yelling, a lot of moving about”.
Dennis Davern spoke extensively to Marti Rulli, author of the book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, published in 2009 while she was writing it
Dennis Davern did say that he was on the bridge of the boat and had music on loud so he could drown out the noise of their arguments.
Co-author of the book Marti Rulli said she believes Natalie Wood’s death was inadequately investigated at the time, saying: “The case was never really investigated in 1981, and yes, I am relieved they are going to give the case the attention it has always deserved.
“I am confident it is in good hands at this time. This has been a long process, and I have worked my way through the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and with a new generation of detectives in the department they are taking it seriously.”
Speaking on CNN, Marti Rulli said: “There are many, many things that should be examined, but mainly the four-hour wait to call for the Coast Guard.“
Marti Rulli said Natalie Wood was missing from 11:05 p.m., but a ship-to-shore call wasn’t placed until 1:30 a.m. and the Coast Guard wasn’t called until 3:30 a.m.
“This unacceptable delay in reporting a person missing from a yacht was never officially examined,” she wrote in the dossier.
Natalie Wood was wearing a red down jacket when authorities discovered her body 30 years ago … and her wardrobe could prove she floated alive in dark water for hours while Robert Wagner allegedly stalled rescue efforts.
While writing the book, Marti Rulli performed a forensic test on down coats similar to the one Natalie Wood was wearing when she drowned which prove they act like a life jacket in the water.
Marti Rulli said: “It will not sink but instead remains floating.”
This finding completely contradicts the opinion of the coroner at the time – who insisted the jacket would have been too much for her to cope with and weighed her down in the ocean.
This additional information has prompted homicide detectives to re-open their investigation into her death.
According to police reports at the time, the body of Natalie Wood – one of the most glamorous actresses of her generation – was found wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a down jacket and was pulled from the water in a cove on Catalina Island about a mile away from the yacht.
An autopsy report revealed two dozen bruises on Natalie Wood’s body, including a facial abrasion on her left cheek, and bruises on her arms.