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.
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 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.