Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Charlotte's final weeks: Blissful trip before spiral

In the final of a three-part series, Dawson's close pals say they sensed stress building.

Charlotte Dawson while holidaying in Bali.
Charlotte Dawson while holidaying in Bali.

Charlotte Dawson said in the New Year, "2014 is going to be productive and I'm determined to lay the foundations for my future."

But less than two months later those foundations collapsed and the 47-year-old was dead.

An investigation into the final 53 days of Dawson's life revealed two things - she was on a tragic downward spiral, and she was very good at hiding it.

At the end of 2013 things were not great for Dawson. Her 16-year working relationship with television network Foxtel ended meaning she had no money and little work. She was desperately trying to make ends meet but was in financial crisis.

Dawson sought refuge in Bali, the home of one of her best friends Billy Allen, and spent several weeks in a plush villa near Seminyak.

Read more:
The real Charlotte
Indebted to Dawson, mother of five reveals

Describing it as a "healing holiday" Dawson said Bali was "bliss". But her happiness was temporary.

Her housesitter, who she met via Twitter, had thrown a New Year's Eve party that left Dawson's $2 million apartment in ruins.

"There are holes in my wall, footprints up them, my plants are ruined," Dawson told Woman's Day.

It took the uninsured Dawson weeks and $3000 to replace her sofas, rugs, linen and glassware, replace flooring, and get steam cleaners and fumigators in.

Then, the next bombshell - the owner was selling, she was about to lose her home.

Over the next few weeks Dawson began to become "difficult". Friends were struggling to maintain relationships with her, she was drinking a lot and becoming desperate to make money and find work.

But, if anyone voiced concern or asked Dawson how she was - she shut them out with her standard answer of "I'm fine".

She became fixated on her former husband, former Olympic swimmer Scott Miller who was convicted on serious drug charges, and approached her mate, Woman's Day reporter Jonathan Marshall, to arrange a paid story.

"Scott had just come out of rehab. 'I'm going to help him through, I'm going to be there for him' - that's what she was saying, that's what the story would be about," Marshall said.

"I was working with her to put together a deal that would see her get some money in her back pocket. She was keen, but she didn't think Scott would be. The next thing you know, 60 Minutes was doing it."

That interview aired the Sunday before Dawson died and she was terrified of what Miller would say about her. The next day she told friends "it wasn't as bad as I thought" and even called Miller's sister Nikki Perko.

"She was not upset. She rang me wanting to organise a family barbecue and asked if Scott could ring her," Mrs Perko said.

Dawson met her business partner, who did not wished to be named, on the Tuesday to discuss the project.

Gallery: Charlotte Dawson - life in pictures

"I said to Charlotte when she came into my office, that I could see that she was in a bit of a state. She didn't seem herself," he said.

"I didn't think anything of it. I knew at the time Billy was staying with her after [eye] surgery and he was not well. That's exactly what I put it down to. She was over the moon [about the business plans]. She said that she was overwhelmed by it, overwhelmed by the change but she was really really positive about it."

On the Wednesday Dawson spent time organising a cocktail party for an anti-bullying campaign she was involved with. She then went to one of her favourite haunts, Cosmopolitan Shoes in nearby Double Bay. She was well known at the store as a "shoe fiend" and was a popular customer.

Owner Rose Ghosn told the Daily Telegraph that Dawson "was not looking herself".

She drank a glass of champagne, ate some cheese and then had a white wine with ice.

"She gave me back her glass and said 'I'll be back to drink it later'," said Ms Ghosn.

"She ran out of here. She was not a happy girl."

Later that day Dawson posted a telling tweet: "Going to sleep. If I don't wake up @jothornely gets all my shoes & clothes. You are all witness to this."

She also spoke again to Mrs Perko, who said she seemed normal, "fine".

Friday February 21 was Dawson's final day of life. It was also Miller's 39th birthday.

She drove Mr Allen to the airport, begging him to stay longer.

She turned up for an appearance on an Australian morning television show, and afterwards ran into one of her best mates, paparazzi photographer Jamie Fawcett, at the wharf. The pair brunched across the road at Sienna Marina.

Charlotte Dawson posted these images on her Instagram account while holidaying in Bali, a month before she took her own life.
Charlotte Dawson posted these images on her Instagram account while holidaying in Bali, a month before she took her own life.

"She was in good spirits. She was looking fabulous. She wasn't drinking ... She was excited about the homewares range and getting that on the go. We talked for half an hour, 45 minutes and then I just said 'chat later'," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Dawson was seen for the last time at 6.30pm when she walked past Manta, her favourite restaurant on the wharf.

A source said she made one phone call to a neighbour, asking him to come over. He was busy, but promised her he would have breakfast with her in the morning.

"Don't come over in the morning," she told him. "I'll be sleeping".

On Saturday at 11am, about half an hour before her apartment was due to be auctioned, real estate agent Noel Jenkins found Dawson dead in her living room.

He tried the front door - usually left unlocked for him, but could not get in. He went to the deck entrance, let himself in, and saw Dawson. The Herald has learned she was wearing her favourite dress when she died.

"My first reaction was to see if I could help her. I rushed to see if I could help - and then I could see that it was obviously too late," Mr Jenkins said.

Ashes scattered with 'smiles and love'

The third urn of Charlotte Dawson's ashes will be scattered in Sydney.

The 47-year-old was cremated there last month and her remains split into three urns to be scattered across her three favourite places.

One urn is being held at Dawson's favourite Sydney shop, Cosmopolitan Shoes.

A source said a time and place will be organised in Sydney to scatter those ashes. Her close friends will attend.

A second urn was returned to New Zealand by Dawson's sisters Robin Barclay and Vicky Dawson and the ashes scattered at a private memorial at Matakana yesterday.

Dawson was cremated at an east Sydney crematorium after a private service attended by just nine family members and friends.

Her sisters said she was cremated in a tangerine dress by Australian designer and friend Alex Perry, and a pair of Rene Caovilla shoes.

"She looked beautiful," Vicky Dawson said.

The ashes from the third urn were scattered in Bali, where Dawson had close friends.

"A Balinese ceremony was held on Saturday, March 8 to honour and say goodbye to Charlotte.

"It was a time to reflect and celebrate Charlotte's life. Very simple, very elegant," a friend wrote on Dawson's Facebook fan page.

"Flowers and lanterns were released at sunset on a beach at Seminyak with Charlotte's ashes scattered out to sea with smiles and love amongst dear friends in complete privacy to send her on her way.

"She loved it there."

To read the first two parts in this series click here.

- NZ Herald

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