A British nanny could assume legal custody of 13-year-old twins whose multimillionaire father was found bludgeoned to death at his Long Island mansion two years ago.
Kathryn Mayne, 57, who joined the Ammon family as a housekeeper in Surrey five years ago, finds herself at the heart of an ugly custody court battle on Long Island, New York. The future of the children is uncertain because their mother, Generosa Ammon Pelosi, has terminal cancer.
The Ammon saga has generated tabloid headlines in New York since the mysterious murder of Theodore "Ted" Ammon, 52, in the Hamptons area of south-eastern Long Island in October 2001. No suspect has been identified.
The New York Post reported yesterday that Ms Mayne had emerged as the person most likely to become the permanent legal guardian of the two children. Dark-haired and bespectacled, Ms Mayne has been identified by their mother as the standby guardian in the event of her death.
Such an outcome, aside from angering relatives of the children, would surely make Ms Mayne a nanny with a story to tell. From being a humble housekeeper, she will assume responsibility for two children from one of America's richest families. They are the principal heirs to a fortune estimated at as much as $350m (£215m).
But her journey has not been a fairy tale. The shock of her employer's violent death two years ago has been overlaid by the unravelling of the family. Mr Ammon's widow quickly moved to remarry and was then struck down with cancer, which, her doctors say, she cannot beat.
And amid the misfortune and illness comes a bitterly fought custody battle. Last month, a judge in Long Island essentially disqualified Ms Ammon Pelosi's new husband, Daniel Pelosi, from gaining custody of the twins. Mr Pelosi is currently serving a one-year prison sentence for driving while drunk.
Meanwhile, Sandi Williams, a sister of Ms Ammon Pelosi, is pursuing her own court bid to take custody of the twins, on the ground that a blood relative would be better suited to look after them.
"We have loved our niece and nephew since they came into our family and we want to provide a home for them," Ms Williams said after a court appearance last month.
The aunt , moreover, did not react well to the suggestion that the children might eventually end up in the care of the nanny instead of her. "Where do you pick a nanny over an aunt?" asked Steve Gassman, her lawyer in the case. "It's quite evident where the best interest of these kids will be."
There has been considerable media hostility towards Mr Pelosi, a Long Island electrician who married Ms Ammon three months after her husband's death. Police have resisted calls to name any suspects that may have emerged in the murder investigation.
Ms Mayne, who is known to the children as Kay, was employed originally in Surrey, where the businessman used to live with his wife and children. She was taken to the US by Ms Ammon Pelosi when the family returned in July last year.