US & Canada

Robert Durst: US millionaire held after saying he 'killed them all'

Real estate heir Robert Durst appears in a criminal courtroom for his trial on charges of trespassing on property owned by his estranged family, in New York 10 December 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Robert Durst has been the subject of a documentary series shown on US television

An American millionaire from a prominent New York family has been arrested on suspicion of murder after appearing to admit to several killings.

Robert Durst was recorded saying in private that he had "killed them all", soon after being asked in an interview about the death of a friend in 2000.

The 71-year-old has always maintained his innocence in Susan Berman's murder.

Mr Durst agreed to be transferred from New Orleans to Los Angeles, where he will face a first-degree murder charge.

Prosecutors are also reportedly tying the case to the unsolved disappearance of his first wife, Kathleen, in 1982.

She went missing after spending the weekend at their country home in New York State and was eventually pronounced legally dead.

In 2001, Mr Durst was acquitted of murder. He convinced a Texas jury that he had shot and killed elderly neighbour Morris Black in an act of self-defence.

Mr Durst admitted to dismembering his body and dumping it in Galveston Bay.

Mr Durst's estranged family, who are believed to be worth at least $4bn (£2.7bn), said they were "relieved and also grateful to everyone who assisted" in his arrest.

"We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done," said his brother, Douglas, in a statement quoted by the AP news agency.

Mr Durst was arrested by FBI agents acting on an arrest warrant issued by Los Angeles prosecutors as he walked into a hotel in New Orleans where he had checked in under a false name.

He was remanded in custody pending a hearing on Monday.


Cases of 'The Jinx'

  • Kathleen McCormack: Robert Durst's first wife went missing in 1982. She was declared legally dead.
  • Susan Berman: She was a close friend of the Durst family who was killed in 2000. She found shot in the head in her Los Angeles home.
  • Morris Black: Mr Durst killed his elderly neighbour in 2001 in what he described as self-defence during a struggle over a gun. Mr Durst's lawyers argued he then panicked and disposed of the body - by cutting it up - and he was acquitted.

Mr Durst's lawyer, Chip Lewis, said his client would continue to maintain his innocence.

Los Angeles police said the arrest resulted from "investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the last year".

But Mr Lewis said he had no doubt the arrest was orchestrated in co-ordination with an HBO documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which included a lengthy interview with Mr Durst.

The final episode, broadcast on Sunday night, included what appeared to be a confession to the killings of Ms Berman, Mrs Durst and Mr Black.

According to the filmmakers, Mr Durst was still wearing a wireless microphone when he went into a hotel bathroom after the interview.

"There it is, you're caught," he whispered to himself. "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police in New Orleans provided a photo of Robert Durst taken after his arrest

It is not known if he is speaking sincerely, but it came after he was asked whether he had written a letter only Ms Berman's killer could have sent.

The filmmakers found similarities between handwriting on a letter from Mr Durst to Ms Berman and that on an anonymous note sent to police alerting them to a dead body in the victim's home. The word "Beverly" is also misspelled as "Beverley" on both documents.

Ms Berman, whose father was an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, was a close friend of Mr Durst and also acted as his spokeswoman.

She was shot in the back of the head at her home in Los Angeles as investigators from New York prepared to question her over the disappearance of Kathleen Durst.

Last July, Mr Durst was charged with criminal mischief after allegedly urinating on a display in a pharmacy in Houston.

Five months later, he appeared in court in New York on charges of trespassing on property belonging to his family. The Durst Organization owns 11 skyscrapers in Manhattan, including One World Trade Center.

Mr Durst formally cut ties with his family and the company in 2006 in return for a settlement of about $65m (£45m).

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