It’s not every day that a prime minister vanishes into the sea. However, just that happened on Dec. 17, 1967, when the 17th prime minister of Australia, Harold Edward Holt, decided to go for a swim at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria.
Following two days of exhaustive search efforts, the authorities declared that 59-year-old Holt, a skilled swimmer and longtime member of Parliament who had served as prime minister for less than two years, was presumed dead. His body was never recovered and it wasn’t until 2005 that a coroner ruled the cause of death to be accidental drowning — he was either swept out to sea or eaten by shark — in a risky location known for strong rip currents. At the time of his disappearance, Holt was taking pain meds for a shoulder injury.
Not long after Holt went missing, the rumor mill started working overtime and speculation as to what exactly happened that fateful morning at Cheviot Beach continues to this day.
Among the more wild myths, many fueled by the fact that Holt’s disappearance was not followed by a formal inquiry and that has body was not found: he was abducted by a UFO; he faked his own death so that he could decamp with his mistress, Marjorie Gillespie; and, most famously, he deliberately swam out to sea where he was plucked from the water by a waiting Chinese submarine and whisked off to China.
This ridiculous theory, in which Holt was revealed to be a communist and longtime secret agent for the People’s Republic of China, surfaced in British journalist Anthony Grey’s controversial 1983 book, “The Prime Minister Was a Spy.” To this, Holt’s wife Zara responded: “Harry? Chinese submarine? He didn’t even like Chinese cooking.”
Suicide is another theory tied to Holt’s disappearance and was suggested in the 2007 documentary “Who Killed Harold Holt?” Several sources close to the late prime minister have adamantly denied that he suffered from bouts of depression or a mental illness.
Whatever the case, Holt will forever be remembered by a wickedly ironic recreation complex in the suburbs of Melbourne, the Harold Holt Swim Centre, and by the rhyming slang expression “do a Harry Holt.” Translation: to bolt — to disappear abruptly.
Source Credits: MNN