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Robert Durst: Power, Hollywood and a violent life

Robert Durst, subject of The Jinx documentary - in Houston - file photo from August 2014. Image copyright AP
Image caption Robert Durst was arrested after being recorded saying he "killed them all"

Robert Durst's arrest is the latest chapter in a long, intriguing, story.

Mr Durst, 71, was arrested in New Orleans on Saturday over the murder of his former assistant in 2000.

His arrest came a day before the last episode of a television programme about his links to three murders, in which he says he "killed them all".

Mr Durst has long denied a role in the murders - but his arrest has again brought into focus a man whose life often seems stranger than fiction.

It is a life that has seen him live as a mute woman, be portrayed by a Hollywood superstar and stand accused of horrific crimes.

Image copyright AP
Image caption One World Trade Center is among the buildings managed by The Durst Organization

Separated from family

The surname Durst is one synonymous with power and influence in New York City.

Robert Durst's grandfather Joseph arrived in the city from Gorlice, in present-day Poland, in 1904.

Within 11 years, he had bought his first property - and set the family on its way to riches.

The Durst Organization now manages or owns some of the city's best-known landmarks, including One World Trade Center, the Bank of America Tower and the Conde Nast headquarters on Times Square.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Durst family owns many of New York's landmarks, including the Bank of America Tower

Mr Durst was at one point the designated successor to the organisation. But, in 1994, his father Seymour replaced him with his brother, Douglas.

Mr Durst earned $65m (then £36.9m) and the deal was sealed, Douglas said, when his brother urinated in a bin.

Forbes estimates that the family is now worth more than $4.4bn (£3bn).

But Mr Durst and his family have long kept their distance from one another. At one point, 13 court-backed protection orders were in place against him by family members.

All the orders were lifted when he was cleared of breaking one of them in 2014.

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Image caption Andrew Jarecki, the director of The Jinx, said Mr Durst's history was 'operatic'

Missing wife

Mr Durst is being questioned over the death in 2000 of his friend and employee Susan Berman.

Police were due to interview her over the disappearance of Mr Durst's wife, Kathleen, who was eventually declared dead.

After Berman's death, Mr Durst moved to Galveston, Texas, where, for a time, he pretended he was a mute woman.

In 2001, the dismembered remains of his elderly neighbour in Galveston were found in the sea.

Mr Durst was cleared of murder after saying he acted in self-defence.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ryan Gosling portrayed a fictional version of Robert Durst in the 2010 film All Good Things

Andrew Jarecki, the film-maker behind the new documentary, The Jinx, said: "The story is so operatic.

"That's what's so fascinating to me - seeing someone who is born to such privilege and years later is living in a $300-a-month rooming house in Galveston, Texas, disguised as a mute woman."

Hollywood role

Mr Jarecki got to know Mr Durst after the release in 2010 of his film All Good Things, in which the Canadian actor Ryan Gosling played a fictionalised version of him.

The film sold itself as a murder mystery set against a real estate dynasty, and was tagged: "The perfect love story - until it became the perfect crime".

Mr Durst approached Mr Jarecki after seeing the film - and even came up with the idea of the documentary himself.

In an interview earlier this month, Mr Jarecki said Mr Durst was "straightforward" although not "consistently truthful".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Douglas Durst said his brother was "a true psychopath"

Dog killings

Mr Durst appeared in court only three months ago. He was fined $500 (£340) after exposing himself and urinating on a cash till and sweets in Texas last year.

Shortly afterwards, in an interview with the New York Times in January, Mr Durst's brother Douglas said he had not seen his brother since 2001.

He also accused him of killing seven family dogs in late 1981. At the time, Mr Durst declined to comment on the claims.

"Bob is a true psychopath, beyond any emotions," Douglas said.

"That's why he does things, so he can experience the emotions that other people have vicariously. Because he has absolutely none of his own."

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