Here, Greg, 71, tells the story in his own words.
Gazing up at his mum adoringly, my son, Nick, made a pledge. ‘I’m never getting married until I find someone like you,’ he declared.
Just a little kid, his words were wise beyond his years. See, everyone adored my wife, Vanita, who I nicknamed Pie – short for sweetie-pie. But I took our love for granted. Directing TV commercials, my job took me across the globe and away from what should have been my world – Vanita. I worked long and hard, driving a wedge between us, and in 2007, when Nick was 22, we split. Married for 27 years, losing Vanita was the biggest regret of my life. Then a strange thing happened. We became best friends, meeting up for lunch at least once a week and having dinner with Nick every fortnight.
Living apart, we were closer than ever. ‘All my friends think it’s the perfect situation!’ Vanita confided in me. We’d been separated for five years when she went to Egypt on holiday. Travelling to nearby Oman, Vanita, an interior designer, was captivated by the Middle Eastern nation’s beauty and architecture. ‘I’ve fallen in love with it!’ she told me on her return. So charmed, she decided to spend six months there, visiting Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman. Meeting for a farewell drink just before she left, I hopped in a taxi afterwards and was struck with sadness as Vanita waved from the kerb. I just want to hug her one more time! I thought, fighting the urge to run back to her. Somehow,
I knew I wouldn’t see her for a very long time.
After flying out in January 2013, Vanita kept me updated on her travels, emailing every few days. I’m living the dream, she gushed.All alone in a foreign country, Vanita was well aware of the dangers.There are many perils of being one of the few single, green-eyed blondes in the region, she emailed once. I am making new friends, but gradually, as I have now worked out, you have to be careful who you connect with, she said ominously in another. Writing back, I pleaded, Please stay safe – if anything goes wrong, at any point, just ring me!
And from halfway across the world, the spark seemed to be reignited between us. Reminiscing about our wedding day, Vanita told me the day I proposed was the happiest of her life. Maybe we can get back together, I hoped. Enjoying herself so much, Vanita extended her trip. Then one day in July 2013 the phone rang. It was a police officer. ‘I’m so sorry, but your ex-wife’s body has been found on a beach in Oman,’ she said. Vanita had been discovered 10 days earlier. My world crumbled around me and my breath caught in my throat. Checking my inbox, Vanita had last written the day before her body had been stumbled upon. You and Nick are my favourite guys, she’d reminded me. How was I going to tell our son that he’d lost his precious mum?
My first instinct was to jump on a plane and bring her back home. But dealing with the Department of Foreign Affairs, I was advised to stay put. Meeting Nick the next day, I broke the horrible news. On the surface, he stayed strong, but I knew he was completely crushed. Reeling, I had more questions than answers. Then five months after she died, we finally got some. According to the autopsy report, she’d drowned, taking her own life. She’d booked a one-way ticket to the country, so they said she must have had no intention of coming home. That’s not true! I thought. Her credit card statement showed a payment for a return flight to Australia, purchased a fortnight before her death. I found out that after checking out of the Hilton Salalah Resort on June 24, Vanita took a taxi to Al Mughsail beach. Witnesses had seen her sitting on the shore with all 40 kilos of her luggage. They warned her not to swim due to the fierce currents and Vanita promised she wouldn’t. ‘I’m just waiting for a friend,’ she’d assured them.
Battered and broken, she was found washed up on the sand the next day, wearing only her left shoe. Her head injuries were consistent with banging into rocks in the sea. Or foul play, I thought, sick to my stomach. At just 59, Vanita was a strong swimmer, and so full of life. I was certain she didn’t commit suicide. Vanita’s dearest friend, Paula, agreed. ‘She had too much to live for,’ she said. Vanita had confided in Paula about a man named Al who she’d met in Sydney and followed to Oman. Was that who she was waiting for? I wondered. Terrifyingly, all of Vanita’s luggage had disappeared, too.
Five years on, I’m trying to gain access to her Yahoo account to see if her sent emails provide any clues. So far I haven’t had any luck due to privacy reasons. I’ve got so many unanswered questions. Who was she due to meet? Did the love of my life drown, or was she murdered? It’s a mystery I’ll keep trying to solve for the rest of my days.
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or NZ on 0800 543 354.
If you have information relating to Vanita Desmond’s death, call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or go to Crimestoppers.com.au
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