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The chilling true story behind ITV's Vanishing Act and Melissa Caddick's mysterious death

The financial adviser went missing in November 2020

Kate Atkinson as Melissa in Vanishing Act
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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ITV's latest true crime drama comes in the form of Vanishing Act, a three-part series that tells the story of Australian con artist Melissa Caddick, who mysteriously vanished after allegedly defrauding clients out of millions of dollars.

The financial advisor's disappearance transfixed the nation after her disembodied foot was discovered inside her running shoe on the beach.

As the drama debuts on Monday night, here's all you need to know about the true story behind the series.

WATCH: The trailer for ITV’s Vanishing Act

In November 2020, Melissa disappeared after leaving her house to go for a run. After failing to return home, Melissa's husband Anthony Koletti called the police. 

Just two days before Melissa went missing, her Sydney home was raided by the authorities to uncover her suspected fraud scheme. 

Melissa had allegedly taken between $20m and $30m from investors, who believed the money was being invested in Australian Stock Exchange-listed equities using CommSec portfolios, but was being used to fund her luxurious lifestyle. 

Kate Atkinson as Melissa in Vanishing Act© Tony Mott/ITV
Kate Atkinson as Melissa in Vanishing Act

For about eight years, Melissa had run a Ponzi scheme, posing as a financial adviser and pretending to invest money she had taken from investors, family and friends.  

Three months into Melissa's disappearance, her severed foot was found inside her trainer, which washed up on a beach on the south coast of New South Wales.

In May 2023, a coroner ruled that Melissa was dead but was unable to make any definitive findings about her death. 

Jerome Velinsky as Anthony in Vanishing Act

© Tony Mott/ITV
Jerome Velinsky as Anthony in Vanishing Act

During the inquest, coroner Elizabeth Ryan spoke on Melissa's fraud scheme. "Ms Caddick's clients were shocked and felt a profound sense of betrayal when they discovered the money they invested with her had gone," she said. "The financial and emotional harm they have suffered will continue to reverberate for many years to come."

Elizabeth also criticised Melissa's husband, who she felt had withheld information from the police. She said his evidence brought about "strong suspicion" that he knew more about her movements during the days between the raid of her home and when he reported her missing.

Melissa Caddick with her husband, Anthony Koletti

© Freemantle Media /ITV
Melissa Caddick with her husband, Anthony Koletti

"I have concluded that in the period [immediately before he reported her missing] he had some awareness of Ms Caddick's movements over the previous two days, but he chose not to disclose it," she said.

Where are Melissa Caddick's husband and son now? 

Before her marriage to Anthony, Melissa was married to builder's labourer Tony Caddick, with whom she welcomed a son in 2006. 

In November last year, Anthony, who works as a hairdresser, gave an interview with the Daily Mail and told the publication that Melissa's son, who was 16 at the time, had chosen to live with him. 

Anthony Koletti the husband of Melissa Caddick  

© Freemantle Media/ITV
Anthony Koletti is a hairstylist

"It's an honour to raise her son," said Anthony. 

When asked if the pair had spoken about Melissa's disappearance, he said: "We both had a terrible time, that's for sure, but we understand it because we lived it so there are no questions we have to ask each other."

On caring for Melissa's son, Anthony, who is a senior stylist in Balmain, New South Wales, went on to say: "It takes a lot more care to look after a child whose been through that - a lot more care than is otherwise required. Maybe that's the reason he's chosen to stay with me full time, he knows I can cater to that."