It’s been a mystery that has intrigued Hollywood for nearly four decades, but the investigation into the death at sea of film star Natalie Wood may have taken a new twist as police have named her husband, Robert Wagner, as “more a person of interest”.

Wood, a former Oscar nominee and the star of West Side Story and Rebel Without A Cause, was found dead when her body was washed up on the coast of California in November 1981. It happened during a yacht trip near Catalina Island that she took with her husband and actor Christopher Walken.

Her death was ruled at the time to have been an accidental drowning, but questions surrounding what happened have lingered ever since, with conflicting versions of events recorded by witnesses. Wood’s family have regularly lobbied authorities to re-visit the original investigation’s findings and, in 2011, police re-opened the case.

Robert WagnerRobert Wagner with current wife Jill St John

“As we've investigated the case over the last six years, I think [Wagner] is more of a person of interest now,” Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office told CBS’ ’48 Hours’ on Thursday (February 1st).

“We know now that he was the last person to be with Natalie before she disappeared,” Corina continued. “I haven't seen him tell the details that match all the other witnesses in this case. I think he's constantly changed his story a little bit. And his version of events just don't add up.”

Wood is known to have been partying the night before the yacht trip and may have slipped trying to board a dinghy. However, rumours have abounded of a love triangle involving the younger Walken, and massive arguments between Wagner and Wood on the night she disappeared. The boat’s captain, Dennis Davern, told NBC in 2011 that he had lied to police during the original investigation and that a fight between the married couple had led to Wood’s death.

TV star Wagner, now aged 87, has not commented on the latest developments, but said in his memoir that he had rowed with Wood on the night she disappeared. He has refused to speak with investigators since the case was re-opened seven years ago.

In 2012, Wood's death certificate was amended to reflect the uncertainty surrounding her death. It states now that she died as a result of “drowning and other undetermined factors”.

More: Robert Wagner - suspect? No, but actor declines police interview [archive]