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Vanishing Act review: The most beautiful people on TV Down Under? Fraud investigators, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS


Vanishing Act 

Rating:

Celebrity Escape To The Country

Rating:

Everyone is drop-dead gorgeous in Australia. The surfers and beach babes, the mechanics, the doctors, the guy who cleans the pool, even the gangsters, all of them wildly beautiful.

But in Oz, only the most stunning of the lot become financial regulators. Australian A-listers like Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman must wake up every morning thinking, ‘Hollywood’s OK, but I wish I was good-looking enough to be a forensic accountant.’

In Vanishing Act (ITV1), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission [ASIC] investigators strut the corridors like catwalk models. 

They exist in a miasma of pheromones and Chanel No. 5, their perfectly coiffured hair shimmering as they exchange honed quips about fraudsters.

This must be accurate, because Vanishing Act is a dramatisation of Australia’s most notorious real-life multi-million-dollar deception. They wouldn’t call it ‘true crime‘ if it wasn’t true, right?

Vanishing Act, which continues tonight, tries to stoke the conspiracy theory that Melissa Caddick staged her own death

Vanishing Act, which continues tonight, tries to stoke the conspiracy theory that Melissa Caddick staged her own death

Kate Atkinson as Melissa Caddick and Maya Stange as Angie in ITV's Vanishing Act

Kate Atkinson as Melissa Caddick and Maya Stange as Angie in ITV’s Vanishing Act

Kate Atkinson plays Melissa Caddick, the divorced mother who systematically robbed all her relatives and friends, and all their relatives, by convincing them to invest in her pyramid scheme. She took their savings, showed them fake reports of sky-high profits, and blew the wealth on luxury holidays and a designer wardrobe.

She was especially generous to her toyboy, former hairdresser and amateur ‘music producer’ Anthony Koletti — a man so dim, he couldn’t follow the plots in Neighbours. Perhaps it is for Anthony’s benefit that the drama keeps pausing, with captions flashed up on screen, to identify the various characters.

‘George, rich guy,’ said one. ‘Nash, pool guy,’ said another. Anthony’s caption should have read, ‘Lake Duck guy’, which was Melissa’s nickname for him (after a bird endowed with the world’s longest… er, let’s say plumage).

The Caddick story became a national sensation Down Under after her disappearance in 2020. And she achieved worldwide infamy thanks to a hit podcast, Liar Liar, from the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is the second Australian true-crime tale to air on British TV in the past month, following The Murder Of Lyn Dawson on Sky — also the subject of an acclaimed podcast. In both complex cases, the extended format of the audio probes gave armchair sleuths far more detail.

Vanishing Act, which continues tonight, tries to stoke the conspiracy theory that Caddick staged her own death. 

It opened with the discovery of her severed foot, still in a trainer, washed up on a beach 300 miles from her home overlooking Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.

Her voice narrates the dramatisation, warning us that if we believe she killed herself, we must be as gullible as her most naive victims. 

The whole case is improbable, however you interpret it, but I can’t give much credit to the notion that she chopped off a foot, left it for sunbathers to discover, and is now enjoying a life of one-legged anonymity on the residue of her $40 million scam.

If she’s down to her last half million, she could do worse than hide in the Peak District, where quaint cottages within 40 minutes of Manchester city centre are cheaper than many one-bedroom apartments in London.

The celebrity version of Escape to the Country feels slightly fraudulent - will a star ever buy a property based on its recommendations?

The celebrity version of Escape to the Country feels slightly fraudulent – will a star ever buy a property based on its recommendations?

Pictured: Ranj Singh, the doctor formerly on This Morning, house-hunting with Denise Nurse on the BBC1 show

Pictured: Ranj Singh, the doctor formerly on This Morning, house-hunting with Denise Nurse on the BBC1 show

Ranj Singh, the doctor formerly on This Morning, was house-hunting with Denise Nurse in the new spin-off Celebrity Escape To The Country (BBC1). 

This version of the show, with semi-famous clients in search of new homes, feels slightly fraudulent — will any star ever buy a property based on its recommendations?

All the houses were quirky, including a converted mill and a faux castle, complete with turret.

Dr Ranj was alarmed by any garden bigger than a window box. ‘Being remote makes me feel slightly nervous,’ he worried.

You’re a city boy, Doc. Stay put.



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