It’s the question that remained unanswered at the time of Olivia Newton-John’s death earlier this year.
What on earth really happened to her former partner Patrick McDermott, who has seemingly disappeared without a trace?
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Chloe Lattanzi remembers her mother Olivia
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In a new Spotify crime podcast titled Casefile Presents: Pseudocide, journalists Poppy Damon and Alice Fiennes investigate McDermott’s disappearance in a six-part series of never-before-seen interviews.
They examine the facts – what is known about the handsome cinematographer’s relationship with Olivia Newton-John and his last sighting in 2005 – as well as the wild theories, rumors and speculation that have thrived ever since.
The couple spoke to friends and colleagues, investigated media coverage of McDermott’s disappearance and even spoke to a witness to that fateful boat trip in 2005.
In the first episode, A Star Is Born, McDermott is described as a funny joker – but perhaps also someone capable of large-scale deception.
The Korean-American cinematographer was last seen on June 30, 2005 on a fishing boat off the coast of Los Angeles near San Pedro.
He was only reported missing 10 days later by his ex-wife Yvette Nipar, the mother of his 12-year-old son.
Nipar called Frank Liversedge, the owner of the marina where the fishing boat Freedom had docked.
Liversedge confirmed that McDermott had boarded the boat, but that his fishing tackle and belt pouch were in the lost-and-found office.
The belt pouch contained his wallet, keys and driver’s license, while his car was later found and parked nearby.
Confused, Liversedge called the US Coast Guard and a search began, with investigators eventually concluding that he was most likely “missing at sea.”
But over the past 17 years, there have been numerous “sightings” of McDermott in remote Mexican villages.
And the question remained: can a man really drown unnoticed falling off a small fishing boat that is still near shore?
Thousands of miles away in Australia, Olivia Newton-John was informed that her ex-boyfriend had apparently disappeared.
She was advised not to make a public call for information on TV just yet, so she remained silent on the matter.
On August 9, the US Coast Guard publicly requested any information that might assist them, but Olivia Newton-John’s name was not mentioned.
On August 14, Patrick’s son turned 13 and there has still been no news of his father’s whereabouts.
Then a journalist clicked on McDermott being the Australian singing star’s former boyfriend.
Suddenly, the story made headlines – and the world exploded in speculation.
“The media started examining every aspect of this man’s personal life — his finances, his job prospects, his mental health,” says Poppy Damon on the podcast.
“No one slaps his hand, but it’s widely accepted that he left his life and responsibilities and literally jumped overboard, gave up his problems and started anew in a Mexican beach paradise.”
Dark Side of Glory
Olivia Newton-John’s biographer Tim Ewbank said Newton-John carefully cultivated a ‘good girl’ image – but she was also something of a sex symbol, a division reflected in the character of Sandy from the hit Musical Grease is embodied.
The Xanadu star had met the single father shortly after her split from ex-husband Matt Lattanzi.
It was 1996 and she was filming a commercial for which McDermott was the cameraman and lighting guy.
“We were both divorced and wary of getting involved,” she wrote in her 2018 memoir Don’t Stop B Believe.
“He was a thoughtful and considerate person and funny.”
McDermott’s son bonded with her daughter Chloe; McDermott helped her in the garden; He cooked her romantic meals.
But they dated for nine years, and Newton-John once told a reporter that she wasn’t particularly keen on getting married again.
After he disappeared, it was reported that McDermott was in considerable debt.
Private investigator Phillip Klein, who investigated his disappearance for TV show Dateline, said McDermott’s finances were an important piece of the puzzle.
Klein also suggested that McDermott hated Hollywood and was never comfortable in the public glamor of the red carpet events he had to attend as Newton-John’s partner.
“Hollywood is a place of money, but it’s also a place of very poor people trying to make money,” Klein said.
“And he just never made it.”
A letter to Olivia?
Tired of Newton-John’s limelight, McDermott decided to end the relationship shortly before his disappearance, according to Klein.
McDermott left Olivia a bouquet of roses and a “heartfelt note,” which Klein claimed was later given to him by a member of Newton-John’s security detail during his investigation for Dateline.
“The note told her that he had always loved her, always will love her, but they had a lot of issues,” Klein said.
“Patrick pulled out of the relationship because he didn’t like Hollywood — he didn’t like what he was doing.”
The note could be read as evidence that he knew he was going away and wanted to give Newton-John a proper goodbye.
“No Answers, Only Questions”
In her autobiography, the singer and actress recalled the moment she heard McDermott was gone.
“As time passed and he disappeared, I had such a weird and hollow feeling in my stomach,” she wrote.
“I’d been through cancer and divorce, but the thought of someone suddenly disappearing from my life left me with a void that I hadn’t felt before.
“There were no answers, only questions.”
She and daughter Chloe were in Australia when an assistant called to see if her former partner was in touch.
She had missed a call from him a few days earlier – but when she called back there was no answer.
He was supposed to have turned up for a family reunion the following weekend – but Newton-John never saw him again.
As news of McDermott’s disappearance made headlines, the media began sending out their own search parties.
Everyone began to wonder why a so-called “average Joe” would leave Olivia — or why he’d fake his own death to get away.
In 2006, McDermot was spotted in Mexico; many years later, a blurry photograph purporting to be of him surfaced; and that year his name reappeared after Newton-John’s death.
Legal commentator Nancy Grace said she doesn’t believe McDermott “fell off a ship” just days after saying goodbye to his longtime love.
“The amazing thing about this Patrick McDermott story is the life she continues to have online,” she said.
“And I think that’s because there’s no closure, and I wonder if there ever will be a closure.
“There is no corpse, neither alive nor dead.”
And since no body has ever been found, people are free to speculate and draw their own conclusions.
McDermott attempted to increase his life insurance policy; he bought a gun just before he disappeared; he even googled how to set up a fake identity; He lives the nomadic life of a sailor on boats in Mexico – these are just some of the rumors that still do the rounds.
So where is the truth?
Is this a case of death fraud, or did Patrick really go overboard and drown without anyone noticing?
“The really successful death cheats are the ones nobody can really be sure about,” says Alice Fiennes on the podcast.
“The ones that remain hidden.”
The first two episodes of Casefile Presents: Pseudocide are now available on Spotify.
https://7news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/did-olivia-newton-johns-partner-fake-his-death-heartfelt-note-intrigues-as-new-details-emerge-c-8803938 Did Olivia Newton John’s partner Patrick McDermott fake his own death? “Heartfelt note” fascinates when new details come to light