Publicist buried amid rumours of contract killing

As Hollywood said its farewells to Ronni Chasen, the popular publicist who was gunned down at the wheel of her Mercedes as she drove home a week ago from a glitzy premiere party, sombre speculation continued as to whether she was the victim of a random shooting or a contract killing by professional assassins.

More than a thousand friends, colleagues and relatives, including Michael Douglas and the composer Hans Zimmer, gathered at a chapel in Hillside on Sunday for a memorial service. A second celebration, with a classical music quartet, followed at the nearby studios of Sony Pictures with a roster of guests that included the actor Elliott Gould.

Ms Chasen, 64, had attended a hotel rooftop party last Tuesday after a premiere of the film Burlesque starring Cher when residents on Whittier Drive near Sunset Boulevard heard gunshots and the sound of her car hitting a lamppost. Ms Chasen was rushed to hospital but declared dead on arrival with gunshot wounds to her chest.

While Ms Chasen's professional mission was to thrust her clients into the spotlight, she was apparently meticulous about keeping her private life screened off. For now nobody who knew her or who is involved in the investigation seems able to provide any hint as to who might have wanted her dead. "This is a real Hollywood whodunit," said William Bratton, a former Los Angeles police commissioner.

But clues that point to professional killing may be accumulating. A friend of the late publicist claimed that in March she had spoken about being followed by an unknown person and had admitted to being afraid. And those who heard the shots said the shooting seemed too clean to be a drive-by killing.

"I was up late when I heard the shots, it sound like a hammer. They were immaculately timed," Beverly Hills resident Claude Dauman told Fox News.

The police chief is trying to reassure residents of the normally sheltered part of Los Angeles that the attack was a rare, isolated incident and that the Beverly Hills community remains "one of the safest in the nation".

Friends who saw Ms Chasen in the hours before her death said they saw nothing to indicate trouble in her life. "I saw her Saturday at the Governors Awards. She was taking her friend, director Chris Nolan, to meet one of his heroes, George Lucas... and she was glowing," Mr Zimmer said in his eulogy to Ms Chasen at the memorial service. "And we had a great talk. Had I known what would have happened, I never would have let her go."

Harold Copus, a former FBI special agent, told Fox that if no shell casings have been found and descriptions of the shots being evenly spaced are accurate then he would indeed suspect a premeditated killing.

"It seems to be somebody who knows exactly what to do with no hesitation, somebody familiar with military or weapons who was watching their target closely," Mr Copus said, who wondered if a failed romance might have been involved. "It sounds as though it was more a crime of passion than anything else."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent