Ruth Madoff reveals suicide pact after £40bn fraud

Conman's wife claims couple decided to overdose on sedative on Christmas Eve

Come what may, Mrs Madoff is still managing to keep up appearances.

But behind her designer outfit and reassuringly expensive haircut, she's anxious to remind the world that life as the spouse of a $65bn (£40bn) conman isn't always plain sailing.

In her first interview since her husband Bernie oversaw the collapse of the family investment house almost two years ago, Ruth revealed the couple attempted suicide in the immediate aftermath of his arrest.

It was the night before Christmas 2008. The Madoffs, once the toast of New York society, were confined to their Manhattan penthouse, coming to terms with the fact that his Ponzi scheme had wiped out the life savings of several thousand investors, including many close friends and family members.

"I don't know whose idea it was, but we were both so saddened by everything that had happened that we decided to kill ourselves," she recalled.

"It was so horrendous what was happening. Terrible phone calls, hate mail – just beyond anything. And I said, 'I just can't go on any more'."

They decided to overdose on the sedative Ambien. But they apparently under-estimated the amount needed and found themselves still alive to face the music on Christmas Day.

"We were both in agreement," she told CBS's 60 Minutes – which will air interviews with her and her son Andrew on Sunday. "I don't remember what we said very much. We were figuring out how many pills to take.

"I think we were both sort of relieved to leave this place. It was very, very impulsive, is all I can say. And I was glad to wake up the next morning."

The show will tell how the family learnt of their sudden elevation to global pariah status and explain what they have been doing since.

Mrs Madoff, 68, met her husband, now 73, when she was 14 and married him two years later. At the height of their powers she kept an office at the headquarters of the family investment firm and was listed as a director of several companies he controlled.

She has always maintained she had no idea the firm was overstating profits and defrauding investors. After his arrest she struck a deal with prosecutors that saw her give up all her assets except for $2.5 million.

Many of Madoff's victims angrily insisted she should have been left with nothing. Shortly after the deal was announced, The New York Times dubbed her "the loneliest woman in New York". She later left the city to live in Florida.

Judging by CBS interview footage released yesterday, the months since have been tough on a woman who was once the toast of Manhattan.

She has retained her petite figure, well-groomed blonde hair and elegant dress sense but has aged considerably.

Although she admits being initially supportive of her husband, visiting him in prison, she says she decided to break off contact last December. That was when their second son, Mark, 46, hanged himself on the anniversary of his father's arrest using a dog leash.

It remains to be seen whether the TV interview will repair her tattered reputation. People who believe she helped cover up her husband's fraud now suspect her claim about their joint suicide bid was invented to win sympathy.

Their former bodyguard Nick Casale, who was with them that Christmas Eve, cast doubt on the story yesterday.

Bernie has also granted a first interview, it emerged last night. He spoke to the veteran TV interviewer Barbara Walters at the prison in North Carolina where he is currently serving a 150-year sentence for fraud.

No cameras were allowed but a transcript suggests he expressed remorse for his crimes and understands why people think he "robbed widows and orphans". But he insisted: "I made wealthy people wealthier."

And on life behind bars, he added: "Ruth not communicating is the hardest thing... Ruth doesn't hate me. She has no one. It's not fair to her. She lost her first so. She's a devoted wife and didn't care about the money."

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