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killing at this stage but this is not the line of inquiry that we are con- centrating on.”

As for Beatrice, she and her children, Henri, Louis and Mathilde, now live in NewYork where she works at Sotheby’s. But no miles can distance them from the embarrassingly tawdry details surrounding Edouard’s death.

Taki says that Beatrice is a very nice woman:“She’s very shy, very sort of nondescript. If she walks into a room she’s rather self-effacing. Quite intelligent and very polite.”

“Beatrice was still in love with Stern,” notes author and anity Fair diarist Dominick Dunne, who feels enormous sympathy for the fam- ily:“It can be awfully hard.They’ve still got a trial coming – and that’s going to be a racy trial.”

Russian guy or Italian guy has been deported.”

Safra and Torrente died of asphyxiation, trapped in the steel-doored safe room where they barricaded themselves at the urging of male nurse Ted Maher who told them that two hooded intruders had broken in. Maher, now 47, was a pediatric nurse and former Green Beret com- mando from Stormville, New York.

The only living witness, he staggered down into the building’s lobby, his thigh bleeding and a knife sticking out of his stomach, and collapsed, nearly passing out. He told the concierge that during a scuffle with two knife-wielding intruders, one had slashed and stabbed him. He’d given Safra his cell phone, and after Safra told him to sound the alarm, he lit toilet tissue in a wastebasket to trigger the smoke alarm.

Meanwhile, mystery and unanswered questions still surround the six- year old murder of Edmond Safra and Vivian Torrente, 52, the popular nurse who died with him on December 3, 1999.

Stupendously wealthy Safra and his wife Lily had palatial homes in NewYork, London and Geneva, plus La Leopolda, their fabulous villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer, visited by luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Christina Onassis and more recently, Mrs Safra’s friend Elton John.

Desperate SOS phone calls went out from the misnamed saferoom.Safra rang his wife in her wing of the vast apartment, instructing her to seal her bedroom doors to keep out the smoke.Other calls were made at 5:20,5:30 and 6:15 am.The final call from the death room ended at 6:30 am.

Fearing armed intruders inside, police moved very cautiously. Many headed back to the police station for riot gear and automated weapons. It seemed chaotic.

Edmond died in the couple’s 20 room, $5.9 million split-level pent- house atop Monaco’s glamorous Belle Epoque building overlooking the private yacht-filled harbour.

The principality is a tax haven and somewhat tatty jetsetters’ paradise with more police per capita than anywhere in the world and omnipres- ent security cameras. Smaller than Manhattan’s Central Park and with just 6,000 citizens, it supposedly has $75 billion in its banks and 400,000 bank accounts.

“Now where does all this money come from, and what sort of money is it?” journalist Patrick Middleton of France’s Riviera-Reporter asks. “Every so often a scandal sort of boils over and you hear that some

It’s hard to fathom, but while the fire raged, neither police nor fire- men got inside for over two hours; too late for Safra andTorrente. Police and firemen had begged Safra to come out but he refused, sure he would be killed and too terrified to move. Lily Safra, long nicknamed the Gilded Lily for her extravagance, escaped unharmed.

Despite Safra’s safety obsession, not one of his 11 armed body- guards was present. It’s not clear if their absence had Mr Safra’s blessing. Reportedly, Lily Safra sent them to La Leopolda weeks earlier believing security wasn’t needed at the apartment, given Monaco’s safety record. The apartment’s alarm system didn’t work that night and relevant foot- age from closed circuit security cameras was somehow missing.

Both were highly secretive men. Both feared for their lives for reasons not entirely clear. Both had enemies aplenty

Chief bodyguard, Samuel “Schmulik” Cohen, a $1,000-a-day former Mossad agent, rushed to the building once he got word of the fire. He had the key to the saferoom – given to him by Lily Safra – but was mistakenly identified as an attacker by Monaco’s police commissioner, barred from going in and handcuffed. More time wasted.

The commissioner, reports Roger-Louis Bianchini in his book, 13 Mysteres de la Cote (13 Mysteries of the Riviera), was later transferred out of the Monaco police force due to alleged ties to the Russian Mafia.

“Schmulik was a wonderful man,” says Dominick Dunne.“He cried on the stand for love of Safra, that he couldn’t have saved this man.”

The absence of any burglary in Safra’s apartment lent weight to spec- ulation that it might have been a contract killing. Patrick Middleton says the Russian Mafia’s presence in Monaco is no great secret.“There’s no doubt about it, they are very active here – and very discreet.” He likens Monaco to a police state given that phone calls are routinely and openly bugged, yet feels nothing sinister was at play that night.

“It’s easy to see it as a conspiracy,” he says,“but if you know Monaco as a place with an extraordinary amount of incompetence and infight- ing, no one really wanted to take the initiative here. I think they were also terrified.”

“They [police] acted like a bunch of Keystone Cops,” says Michael Griffith, the international lawyer in charge of nurse Maher’s case. Griffith is famous for representing Americans overseas. Most notably,

Above: Chief prosecutor in the Safra case Daniel Serdet dismisses all the conspiracy theories Below right: Cecile Brossard, centre, Stern’s mistress of four years, enjoys a night out in Paris two weeks before his murder. She was the last person to visit Stern’s apartment the night he died Opposite page: US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and international social diarist Taki Theodoracopulos

Billy Hayes, who was thrown in a Turkish prison for drug smug- gling and became the subject of the film Midnight Express.

Heidi andTed Maher met while nursing students, married in 1993 and had three children.Ted’s $600-a-day dream job with Safra sepa- rated them, but it was temporary and meant to benefit the family. Immediately after they heard of the fire and learnedTed was wounded, Heidi and her brother flew out to be at his side. By the time they arrived, three days after Safra died,Ted was in custody.

Heidi’s account of that day is that a Safra chauffeur took them to the police station, where she was interrogated like a criminal.Then, when they were finally allowed outside for a breath of air, a small black car sped up and three armed men in black leapt out and grabbed her and her brother.They took them to the hotel where Maher lived and while the men ransacked his room, made them surrender their passports. Sure that Maher was being framed, Heidi feared for her life. Only later did she learn that the men were police officers.

Maher claimed that he was shown Heidi’s passport and told she wouldn’t be allowed to return to their children unless he changed his story. Fearful for her safety, he complied.That’s the reason he gives for confessing to police that he lied when he told his boss of five months they were under attack, that he stabbed himself for effect and that he started what was intended to be a tiny fire.This cockeyed plot was sup- posedly meant to get Safra to see him as a hero.

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