Natalie Wood: LA police reopen actress' death inquiry

Lt John Corina: "We're always open to receiving additional information about older cases"

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US police have reopened an inquiry into the mysterious death of film star Natalie Wood, who drowned in 1981.

Police in Los Angeles say they have received new information relating to the case, but have not given details.

Wood was found dead during a boat trip off the coast of California with her husband, TV star Robert Wagner, and actor Christopher Walken.

At the time her death was ruled to have been an accident, but questions have lingered.

Speaking on Friday, Lt John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office said "substantial" new information on Wood's death had come to light, but would confirm little else.

This 1955 file photo shows US actress Natalie Wood (1938-1981). Wood was the star of West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause

Her death remains classified as an accidental drowning until information if found to prove otherwise, Lt Corina said.

Hours earlier, the captain of the boat, Dennis Davern, told NBC News in a TV appearance that he lied to police during the initial investigation and that a fight between Wood and Mr Wagner had led to her death.

Mr Davern has made similar allegations before, in a magazine article and in an TV interview in 1992.

Pressed on whether Robert Wagner was a suspect, Lt Corina said he was not.

'Row on deck'

Wood had been partying with Wagner and actor Christopher Walken the night before her death, and the coroner's investigation ruled she had been drinking and may have slipped trying to board the dinghy.

"Recently sheriff's homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning," the department said, announcing the resumption of the investigation.

"Due to the additional information, Sheriff's Homicide Bureau has decided to take another look at the case."

Natalie Wood facts

  • Died in 1981, aged 43
  • Was on yacht with her husband and an actor on the night of her death
  • Best known for playing in West Side Story and Rebel without a Cause
  • Oscar-nominated three times, but never won
  • Born as Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, to Russian immigrants in San Francisco

Wood's body was found floating in a Catalina Island cove. Police reports say she was found wearing a long nightgown, socks, and a jacket.

The post-mortem report said Wood had bruises on her body and arms as well as a facial abrasion on her left cheek.

But questions over the exact circumstances of her death have persisted for 30 years. Family members have previously asked for authorities to re-examine the original findings.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper cited County Sheriff Lee Baca as saying detectives wanted to talk to the captain of the yacht, the Splendour, about comments around the 30th anniversary of Wood's death.

The Times also reported allegations that the captain had remembered new facts about the incident.

Prior to recent developments, Natalie Wood's sister, Lana Wood, told CBS she was unhappy with the initial investigation

Natalie Wood's sister, Lana Wood, told CNN last year that she believed she drowned soon after an argument with Robert Wagner on the deck of the yacht.

"I just want the truth to come out, the real story," she said.

And the former captain, Dennis Davern, has published a book entitled Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, alleging the actress died after a fight with her husband.

In his book Pieces of My Heart, Wagner acknowledged that there had been a fight with Wood before she had disappeared.

In a statement issued by his publicist, Wagner's family said they supported the reopening of the inquiry and trusted the detectives would "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".

Robert Wagner (pic 2001) Robert Wagner's family welcomed the reopening of the investigation

Wood was the child of Russian immigrant parents in San Francisco, originally named Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko.

As a child, she featured in films like Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs Muir.

She was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar her role in Rebel Without a Cause, and for best actress in Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger. She never won the award.

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