The narrated story of Peter Chadwick, wanted on suspicion of killing his wife in Newport Beach in October 2012, has captured the attention of listeners around the world. However, the Police Department’s goal in producing a six-part podcast about the case wasn’t just to tell a riveting true-crime drama — it was to hunt down a millionaire fugitive.
The sixth and final episode of “Countdown to Capture” was released Saturday, culminating the 90-minute telling of the case against Chadwick, 54, who is charged with murdering his wife, Quee Choo Lim Chadwick, at their Newport Coast home before disappearing while free on $1-million bail.
Police turned to the podcast after traditional investigative tactics didn’t move the case further along, said Jennifer Manzella, spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department.
“We had a unique opportunity with a cold case and we’d tried all the tried and true methods for years,” Manzella said, citing everything from digital information campaigns to magazine articles. The Chadwick saga was featured in a story in People magazine this year.
Capitalizing on the popularity of podcasts — or series of audio digital episodes — “Countdown to Capture” has exceeded expectations, with 140,000 plays of the first five episodes as of Tuesday, the Police Department said.
In a Sept. 19 news conference for the launch of Episode 1, authorities announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to Chadwick’s capture. He also has been added to the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list.
“Almost six years later we haven’t had the satisfaction of seeing him stand trial,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said last month. “Our investigators have put together all the reports, the witness statements, the evidence that we need, and we’re confident in our case. The one thing missing is our defendant.”
The podcast helped catapult Chadwick’s mugshot onto TV news broadcasts, Twitter feeds and media websites far beyond the range that Newport Beach police could normally reach.
And getting that mugshot — a striking photo of Chadwick casting a dramatic shadow against a white cinder block wall — in front of as many eyes as possible was exactly what police had in mind. The photo serves as the podcast’s logo.
The series “is not about entertainment,” nor about convincing anyone of the suspect’s guilt, Manzella said. “Our goal was to find Peter Chadwick.”
The day the first episode was released, tips, comments and questions began coming in from listeners in the United States and other nations, Manzella said.
Chadwick, a British-born millionaire real estate investor with dual U.S.-British citizenship, liked to travel. And though he was required to relinquish his passports while awaiting trial, police believe he could have left the country after draining his bank accounts and disappearing in January 2015.
Authorities allege Chadwick strangled Quee Choo Chadwick, 46, while their young sons were at school and dumped her body in a gas station trash bin in Lakeside, about a half-hour from the Mexico border. The couple had a troubled marriage, according to investigators, who believe Chadwick killed his wife in a fit of rage during an argument.
The Chadwicks’ story has been widely picked up in British, Canadian and Asian-language media outlets, police said. Peter enjoyed traveling to Canada, police said, and Quee Choo was Malaysian-born.
The Police Department hopes its media blitz leads to a seventh podcast episode titled “Captured.”
“Peter is living in someone’s community right now,” Manzella said.