LOS ANGELES: US police have named actor Robert Wagner a “person of interest” in the 1981 drowning of his wife, legendary film star Natalie Wood, whose death has been an enduring Hollywood mystery.
New witness testimony has emerged on the circumstances surrounding the death of Wood, who drowned in November 1981 during a sailing trip with then husband Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and the yacht’s captain, California police said Thursday.
Wagner, 87, has been named a person of interest — short of being a formal suspect — and a “new sequence of events” has been presented, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said in a statement.
Wood was one of the top actresses of her day, starring alongside James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and in “West Side Story.” She was nominated for an Oscar three times.
Her death shocked the nation and drew blanket coverage.
Investigators initially ruled it an accident when her body was found in waters off southern California after a night of heavy drinking aboard the yacht.
The probe was reopened in 2011 after the captain said he had heard the couple arguing that night. Wood’s death certificate was amended in 2012 to cite “drowning and other undetermined factors” as causes of death.
Now, “for the first time, we have witness statements that portray a new sequence of events on the boat that night,” said Nishida.
One witness reported hearing yelling and crashing sounds coming from the couple’s stateroom.
A bit later separate witnesses identified a man and a woman arguing on the back of the boat and say they believe the voices were those of Wood and Wagner, she added.
“The statements from these new witnesses differ from the original version of events as related by previous witnesses, including the individuals on the boat,” Nishida said.
Wagner has long been suspected of not telling the truth about what happened that night.
“Do we have enough to make an arrest at this moment? No. This remains a suspicious death investigation. However, as LASD Homicide Detectives, we know that even the most difficult cases can be solved when witnesses come forward,” Nishida said. —AFP