Natalie Wood case: rescuer recalls the moment he told Robert Wagner of actress death
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.
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.
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