Mystery continues to surround the circumstances that led to an Australian actor going “missing” for four days in Los Angeles, only to turn up in a US jail amid claims she was so drunk she allegedly threw a drink at a toddler and bit a police officer.
The family and friends of Laura McCulloch, 37, led a frantic search after they lost contact with her after a date last Friday night. But she turned up the following Tuesday not missing but charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest.
Originally from Melbourne, the actor had hoped to have her name in lights on Broadway. Instead, her name went global on news sites after what might have been the most disastrous date in history.
McCulloch has yet to explain what happened on that Friday between the time she happily posed for a snap prior to heading out to a restaurant to meet a man and just a few hours later when she allegedly fought against being arrested by U.S. cops.
Even more perplexing is the subsequent 84 hours when she appeared to have gone missing.
That’s the approximate period that elapsed between her arrest on Friday evening and release, bleary-eyed, from a Santa Monica jail on Tuesday morning.
It was a period when her family and friends knew nothing of her whereabouts and feared the worst. How the police handled the situation has since come under scrutiny too. And there was also confusion over the case with neighboring police departments becoming involved.
Yet police have insisted that during the more than 80 hours McCulloch was in custody, she was able and welcome to call her loved ones to tell them she was safe.
A Santa Monica Police spokesman told news.com.au: “I am assuming she never called her family to let them know“.
News.com.au has contacted the McCulloch family but they have chosen not to comment at this time.
Earlier, McCulloch’s housemate Tristan Shuler told the Herald Sun, that it had been an “insane situation.”
How the fateful Friday unfolded
McCulloch, who trained at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, moved to London initially and then headed to the US in 2016 to try to make it big in the entertainment industry.
She appeared in stage productions of “Rent” and a “Tale Of Two Cities” and had a supporting role in the Australian short film “Black Sheep.”
In 2021, she settled in Los Angeles where she nannied while working as an actor, singer and voiceover artist.
However, none of her roles could have prepared her for the drama that was about to unfold on the evening of Friday, August 12.
On that night, McCulloch was excited. She was headed out on a date with a man she had met on either the Bumble or Tinder dating app.
She sent family and friends a snap of her colorful outfit – a bright blue polka-dot top and red skirt. The actor was beaming.
McCulloch then set off for Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese barbecue restaurant located on Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica, close to the LA neighborhood’s famous beach.
It was the last her flatmates, family and friends would hear of her for days.
Over the weekend there were concerns for her safety, particularly as her phone appeared to be off. But those concerns exploded on Monday, U.S. time, when McCulloch had still failed to reappear.
She missed a yoga class she was booked into and none of her bank cards had been used. Then she failed to turn up to work.
“She had a number of commitments all through the day and had not turned up to any of them,” McCulloch’s sister Clare, based in Australia, told the Herald Sun at the time.
“It’s extremely worrying and concerning. We don’t know where she is.”
Friends managed to find out that she had booked either an Uber or Lyft ride that was due to pick her up from the restaurant at 9:06 pm. But she hadn’t taken the ride and was charged a “no show” fee.
Confusion of different police departments
By Monday, when it became clear something was very wrong, the family filed a missing person’s report with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). It’s one of the biggest in the US covering around four million people.
But there were concerns not enough was being done quickly enough.
On Tuesday, the LAPD told news.com.au it had no record of McCulloch. But an officer added, that didn’t mean detectives weren’t potentially working on a case – just that the details of that case had yet to be uploaded into the system.
The family had said the restaurant refused to release CCTV footage without a warrant from the police.
In desperation, a GoFundMe page – since deleted – was hastily set up to raise funds to hire a private investigator.
However, McCulloch’s family and friends appeared to be unaware that they had called the wrong police department. LAPD may indeed have looked into the case but it wasn’t the only police department in the city.
While Santa Monica is part of Greater Los Angeles, it is a separate municipality with its own police force unconnected to the LAPD.
Dramatic arrest and jailing
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) dropped the bombshell that McCulloch’s whereabouts had been known by them all along.
Far from vanishing, she’d been thrown in a cell after what the department claimed was a wild confrontation with diners and police.
In a statement to news.com.au, the SMPD said officers were called to a “battery” incident at the restaurant.
They had been told a woman, later identified as McCulloch, had thrown a drink at a diner and their two-year-old child.
“Upon arrival, officers contacted McCulloch who showed obvious signs of intoxication.
“While conducting the investigation, McCulloch charged at the officers while yelling expletives.
“During efforts to detain her, she became physically combative, kicked at officers and bit one officer on the shoulder.”
She was taken to Santa Monica jail and booked for public intoxication and resisting arrest.
The events of that night, and how it turned from a romantic date to an alleged criminal incident, are murky. It’s unclear whether McCulloch’s date turned up, or who called the police.
The restaurant said the incident took place outside the premises and no one inside called 911, reported the Daily Mail.
On Tuesday, McCulloch appeared at the Los Angeles Airport Courthouse where her bail was set at $US25,000 ($A35,600).
‘Missing’ for at least 84 hours
That same day, an exhausted McCulloch, still wearing the blue top and red skirt, emerged from the courthouse where she was embraced by a friend.
Her sister Clare posted on social media that “she has been found safe and well”.
“The family want to thank everyone for your help and support in what has been a traumatic time,” she wrote.
That trauma was chiefly down to not knowing where McCulloch was for 84 hours and, not unexpectedly, thinking the worst after she went off to meet a man she only knew through social media.
SMPD pushed back against suggestions it should have told the actor’s friends and family where she was.
“We do not notify ‘family’ when an adult is arrested,” a spokesman told news.com.au.
“The arrestee is allowed phone calls. Based on what occurred, I am assuming she never called her family to let them know.”