Tragedy returns to haunt the hedonistic court of Count Bismarck

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The Independent Online

The man who died after falling 60 feet from the London home of the socialite and businessman Count Gottfried von Bismarck was formally identified by police last night.

The Metropolitan Police named the dead man as Anthony Casey, 38, from Chelsea, south-west London. He died from multiple injuries, a spokesman said.

Mr Casey is believed to have fallen out of the window of the count's £5m terraced home, near Sloane Square, west London, during a small late-night party. The 43-year-old count, a direct descendant of Germany's 19th century "Iron Chancellor", was not detained by police. But another reveller, a 41-year-old man, was released on police bail yesterday after being held overnight in connection with the fall.

Although a Scotland Yard spokesman maintained last night that detectives remained "open-minded" about whether anyone was to blame for the fall, it is understood police are placing less weight on the theory that there were any suspicious circumstances.

Five people were in the flat at the time of the fall, at just after 5am on Thursday. One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "I heard, early ­ around five o'clock in the morning ­ a crash, waited for a while then I heard some voices, first of a man saying 'hello, hello' then a woman saying 'hello, hello'. I heard a crash like a car crash ­ and then I realised it was a person."

It was a party that first propelled Count von Bismarck into the public eye. Twenty years ago, while still a glamorous and flamboyant undergraduate, the count invited his friends back to his rooms at Christ Church, Oxford University.

Among them was his close acquaintance Olivia Channon, the daughter of a Conservative cabinet minister and a central part of the louche set that reigned over the university's social scene.

The morning after the party, Ms Channon was found dead in the German aristocrat's bed, surrounded by the paraphernalia of a night of heroin abuse.

A post-mortem found that she had died of a herion overdose. Her death rocked the Conservative Party and the world of Von Bismarck. He left Oxford to complete his studies in his native Germany.

Count von Bismarck's great-great-grandfather, Count Otto Leopold von Bismarck, was one of the grandest aristocrats of the 19th century. The present-day count had much in common with his forebear: both were entertainers known for their quick wit and wordplay. His descendants have held prominent roles within German politics and business.

One of the present Count's brother, Eduard, is German politician, another brother, Gregor, is a film producer, while his sister, Vanessa, is a partner in a PR firm, Bismarck Phillips Communications.

Toby Young, a contemporary of the count during his Oxford days and the author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, said he remembered the aristocrat as "glamorous" and "rich". "I remember people talking about the parties as a lot of fun," he said.

The funeral of Ms Channon was held at a church in Kelvedon Hatch, Essex. Friends said the count "wept like a baby".

After leaving the UK, the count was treated for alcoholism in a private clinic. Three months later, he returned to the UK for a court hearing, where he was fined £80 for possession of amphetamine sulphate.

He said after the hearing: "I feel incredibly sad and sorry for Olivia's family. I must say it has changed my life. I have learned a lot about addiction and I understand the need to change."

The count has spent the past 20 years in relative obscurity. After returning to Germany, he went into business. In 2000, he was appointed to the board of the Telemonde telecoms company, which collapsed owing £105m in 2002.

He is now the chairman of AIM Partners.

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