Busting the myth – the disappearance of Harold Holt

Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while swimming off Cheviot Beach near his Portsea home in Victoria on 17 December 1967. When an extensive search failed to find him, conspiracy theories regarding his disappearance quickly spread, ranging from foul play to kidnapping.

The letter featured here was written the day after the event. Mr Jay E Darlington, a lawyer from the United States, felt it was important to offer his advice about what could have happened to our Prime Minister. Darlington believed that Holt’s death most likely resulted from expert sabotage, giving examples of delayed-effect drugs and tampered diving equipment.

In January 1968 a joint report by the Commonwealth and Victorian police concluded that Holt’s disappearance was accidental, but the report did not determine the cause of his death. 

It was not until 2005, when a Victorian coronial inquest found Holt accidentally drowned in heavy surf, that the myths surrounding his disappearance were finally dispelled.

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    Letter from Mr Jay E Darlington, 18 December 1967
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    The search for Harold Holt lasted nearly three weeks
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    Letter from Miss W Shonhan to the Prime Minister's Department, 8 January 1968
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    Letter from astrologer D Dharman to the Acting Prime Minister, 28 December 1967
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    The police report, January 1968
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017