Quiet girl who became a fraudster: The real Melissa Caddick
In the seventies and eighties kids growing up in the southern Sydney suburb of Lugarno played on the streets and in the gum tree-dotted bushland that hugged the northern banks of the Georges River until dark.
It was a safe, quiet, middle class suburb that could have been a million miles away from the glitter and glam of Sydney in the "greed is good" eighties when money was the religion of the day.
Most of the kids growing up in Lugarno - a one-way-in, one-way-out enclave - went to Lugarno Public School and then on to Peakhurst High in the neighbouring suburb.
Melissa Linabury went to both primary and high school with a curly haired girl called Melissa Grimley - the girl that all of Sydney would come to know as Melissa Caddick - the sleek-haired, immaculately groomed financial planner who disappeared on November 12, 2020, the day after Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) raided her Dover Heights mansion with questions about the misappropriation of more than $20 million.
In primary school the two Melissas were very close.
"She wasn't very tall and she had very, very curly hair," Ms Linabury, 49, said.
"We were friends from Grade 3, as she was in most of my classes and she came to all my birthday parties. I went to her place sometimes and had sleepovers.
"She had a lovely house. They were a lovely family and her parents were lovely and friendly with my parents."
Melissa Grimley lived toward the bottom of Grandview Cres with her older brother Adam and her parents Barbara and Edward, better known as Ted.
"Her house had a lovely view and it was a bit more on the expensive side for the area. It had water views looking over the Georges River," Ms Linabury said.
"She was a lovely friend, always very friendly."
In 1988 Australia celebrated the Bicentenary and a young Princess Diana wowed the country with her visit in January.
At the same time, 17-year-old Melissa Grimley entered her final year at Peakhurst High, the school identifiable by its giant, 1970s-built concrete dome.
In the 1988 Peakhurst High Year 12 photo, Melissa Grimley sits in the front row, third from the right, legs folded, with a big smile and equally big hair. She is unrecognisable from the smooth-haired, Dior-clad alleged fraudster.
Three decades after they graduated, Linabury, now a pharmacist, caught up with Melissa Caddick at the Class of '88 school reunion held at the Oatley Pub on October 13, 2018.
"I did meet up with her at our school reunion in 2018 and that was the first time I saw her since we left school," she said.
"It was our 30-year reunion. She no longer had curly hair, it was straightened. I spoke to her for quite a while.
"She was dressed lovely and I remember saying to my husband when I came home that I presumed she had married very well, married someone quiet well off, because she had been on a lot of overseas holidays and drove a nice car. I just presumed she'd married someone quite wealthy.
"She didn't gloat, it was just little things she had said that I picked up on. She wasn't stuck up, she was still very nice and very friendly, and I got such a shock when I read she had gone missing, I was horrified.
"Then all this other stuff came out and I would never have thought that ever of her.
"In high school she was very, very quiet, she had a small group of lovely friends but she was not one who stood out in a crowd."
Susanna Dale also remembered her former classmate made an impression at the reunion.
"She was talking about how much she loved her husband (Anthony Koletti) and how she adored him, we kind of bonded because we both have younger husbands. She just let spill on how amazing it was to have a young husband and how she just loved him."
Ms Dale remembers Melissa wore a designer green jacket and jeans, a casual look, but one that spoke of undeniable wealth. A look that stood out at the casual Oatley pub.
"She presented as extremely wealthy. We were just looking at her jewellery and going 'wow, she is doing well for herself' with all the designer clothes and the jewels," she said.
For those who grew up with her, the suburban girl meets mysterious grisly end is hard to comprehend.
"We are all bewildered, and it's a tragedy for her child," Ms Linabury said.
Shane Parry also attended the reunion.
"We were all very close at school, it was a good catch-up. We all went to primary and high school together and we remember her as Melissa Grimley," he said.
Mr Parry admits to having a hard time connecting the girl he grew up with the slickly dressed fraudster.
"It has shocked us all. She was always nice, never in strife and she didn't have any enemies at all. She was quiet, not snobby, just a nice girl and that is what is so shocking about what has happened. We all feel for her son," he said.
In a Grade 5 photo from Lugarno Public, Deryck Horsnell is standing next to Melissa with her wild, curly hair. A feature that had been tamed by the time she posed as a slick, Dior-clad financial adviser.
"We were in the same class, I was standing next to her in the school photo. I went through high school at Peakhurst High with her but she was in one of the top classes, she was smart."
According to a former colleague, Melissa Grimley worked in the share trading industry before entering financial planning.
In 2003, Grimley bought a small stake in a legitimate financial planning firm in Sydney called Wise Financial Services, a firm that no longer exists in NSW.
She featured on the front cover of the September/October 2003 issue of Independent Financial Adviser magazine under the headline "A Wise Choice". The company had won best financial practice of the year in 2003.
A former partner of Wise, who asked not to be named, said Melissa Grimley then held a legitimate licence she obtained through Tandem Financial Services that was a wholly owned subsidiary of ING.
"She was an authorised representative of their licence and the significance of that was it was a wholly compliant financial services company," the partner said.
"She was delightful, she was very efficient, very meticulous, and very compliant and we worked in such a compliant world that you could not send an email or text or do anything without it being authorised by the compliance department.
"She had a background in share trading before she worked for us. She joined Wise and I worked with her for three years. She was excellent at what she did," he said.
In more recent years, Caddick had let her licence slip. No longer registered, her company Maliver Pty Ltd was using someone else's financial services licence without authorisation, a fact discovered by chance by a woman from Woollahra who had invested with Caddick after meeting her through a friend on a ski trip in Aspen.
The woman invested $2.5 million with Caddick in April 2020 but in a chance meeting with another patient in a dental surgery waiting room she discovered Caddick had been using someone else's licence.
The woman called Caddick immediately and told her she would need all her money back.
Caddick gave her back the $2.5 million she had invested as well as $300,000 in returns.
It was the first brick pulled out from under a multimillion-dollar pyramid scheme that was always, at some point, going to collapse.
So far, the ASIC has uncovered an alleged scheme in which those qualities she was known for - meticulousness and efficiency - managed to hoodwink friends and family into investing their life savings in return for spectacular returns carefully crafted on bogus statements.
"I'm horrified and disgusted," the former partner said of his once star performer.
All who knew Caddick are left with more questions than answers.
Only one this is for sure however - greed is never good.
Originally published as Quiet girl who became a fraudster: The real Melissa Caddick