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US tycoon Robert Durst guilty of murder of best friend

Los Angeles – US real estate scion Robert Durst was Friday convicted of killing his best friend to prevent her talking to police about his wife’s disappearance.

Durst, a multi-millionaire who was the subject of explosive HBO documentary The Jinx, had always denied that he shot Susan Berman in the back of the head in 2000 at her Beverly Hills home.

But a jury in Los Angeles took just a short time to deliberate before finding him guilty of the slaying.

Durst is an estranged member of one of New York’s wealthiest and most powerful real estate dynasties.

Prosecutors said he murdered crime writer Berman in December 2000 to prevent her from being questioned by New York police over the disappearance of his wife Kathleen two decades earlier.

Berman, the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, had acted as a spokeswoman for Durst after he became a suspect in Kathleen’s disappearance.

Durst was never charged in his wife’s case, but was arrested in March 2015 in a New Orleans hotel room in connection with Berman’s murder, hours before the final episode of the HBO documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst aired.

In the documentary’s stunning finale, Durst is heard muttering to himself, “There it is, you’re caught” and “Killed them all, of course” — apparently unaware that a microphone remained switched on while he used the restroom.

The series also delved into the 2001 death of Durst’s neighbour in Texas, who was found dismembered. Durst admitted dismembering the neighbour but claimed the killing was self-defence. He was acquitted.

The HBO filmmakers confronted Durst with a letter he once sent to Berman in handwriting similar to a cryptic note received by police locating Berman’s body.

When the trial opened last year, Durst’s defence team said their client had written the note to police after finding Berman’s body and panicking, but argued this did not mean he killed her. — AFP

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