Robert Durst

Murders, missing persons and dismembered bodies: The secrets Robert Durst has taken to the grave

As real estate heir and convicted killer Robert Durst dies just three months after he was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars, the truth about the three murders he has long been suspected of may never come to light, writes Rachel Sharp

Monday 10 January 2022 23:57
<p>Robert Durst is pictured in a still from the HBO documentary “The Jinx” in which he confessed that he “killed them all"</p>

Robert Durst is pictured in a still from the HBO documentary “The Jinx” in which he confessed that he “killed them all"

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Nearly 40 years to the day that Kathie Durst vanished without a trace never to be seen or heard from again, the prime – and only – suspect in her murder has taken the truth about what happened to the grave.

Robert Durst, heir to one of the most powerful real estate companies in New York City, died on Monday after going into cardiac arrest at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton, California, according to his attorney.

The 78-year-old had a “litany of medical issues” which worsened after he contracted Covid-19 and was placed on a ventilator back in October, the attorney said.

Durst’s death marks an abrupt end for the man who has long been suspected of committing three brutal murders but managed to evade justice for decades.

Durst first hit headlines in 1982 when his wife Kathie mysteriously disappeared one night in New York.

Her family have long insisted that her abusive husband murdered her. Kathie’s body has never been found.

Then, in 2000, Durst murdered his best friend Susan Berman in an execution-style killing in her Los Angeles home to stop her revealing what she knew about Kathie’s disappearance.

The following year, as authorities were probing what happened to both women and Durst was hiding out in Texas wearing wigs and women’s clothes as a disguise, he shot dead and dismembered his neighbour Morris Black.

Authorities said Mr Black had uncovered Durst’s true identity, and Durst was arrested for murder – only to be acquitted of all charges after claiming he acted in self-defence.

Justice finally caught up with him last year when Durst was convicted of Ms Berman’s murder in September and was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Robert Durst stares at the people in the courtroom during his trial for Susan Berman’s murder in September

His downfall finally came about after the eccentric millionaire agreed to a documentary with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki. In the final episode of HBO’s “The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst”, a hot mic picked up Durst confessing: “I killed them all, of course.”

One month after his conviction, he was also charged with Kathie’s murder.

But, in a final act of avoiding justice, Durst died less than three months later.

Now, the only person who knows the truth about what happened to the three victims has taken his secrets to the grave.

The missing wife: Kathie Durst

Kathie Durst was 29 when she vanished in New York back on 31 January 1982.

Durst reported his wife missing, claiming he put her on a train to Manhattan that night from their home in South Salem, just north of New York City.

He claimed he later spoke to her on the phone when she arrived at their Manhattan penthouse.

Kathie was attending medical school at the time and staff at the school reported receiving a phone call the following morning from a woman identifying herself as Kathie and saying she was missing class because she was sick.

The Dursts’ home in Salem was never searched.

Kathie was legally declared dead in 2017.

Robert and Kathie Durst pictured on their wedding day in 1973

Her family has long suspected Durst murdered Kathie, as the couple were having marital problems and he was known to be violent with her.

Over the years, Durst’s version of events unraveled and he repeatedly changed his story regarding when he last spoke to his wife.

There is no evidence that Kathie ever left their home in Salem, boarded a train or traveled to Manhattan that winter evening.

Durst’s alibi – that he had cocktails with a neighbour after Kathie left for Manhattan – was also proven to be false and Durst admitted he had lied about speaking to her on the phone.

The call made to the medical school is now believed to have been made by Ms Berman in an attempt to help her close friend cover his tracks after murdering his wife.

And in a bizarre twist, US first lady Jill Biden’s ex-husband Bill Stevenson has since claimed he had an affair with Kathie and that Durst found out about it less than two weeks before she disappeared.

At the time of Kathie’s disappearance, police only classified the matter as a missing persons case and no charges were ever filed.

The case was then reopened in 2000 but, once again, Durst faced no charges.

Robert Durst is pictured in 2015 smiling in prison garb after being arrested for Susan Berman’s murder

At his 2021 trial for Ms Berman’s murder, prosecutors said Durst had murdered Kathie.

In October, the Westchester District Attorney’s office announced that it had charged Durst with second-degree murder over Kathie’s 1982 murder.

The charges, coming four decades after she went missing, were welcomed by Kathie’s family who said they were “very happy” with the development after spending years urging prosecutors to bring charges against Durst for her murder.

The executed best friend: Susan Berman

Susan Berman was the one person besides Durst who could help put to rest the mystery surrounding Kathie’s disappearance.

It was this knowledge that cost her her life, prosecutors said.

Ms Berman was found shot in the back of her head at close range in an execution style murder on Christmas Eve 2000 in her home in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles.

Durst walked free for 15 years for her murder before being arrested in 2015.

Police had been alerted to her body by a letter addressed to Beverly Hills police.

The handwritten note simply contained Ms Berman’s address and the word “cadaver”.

At his 2021 trial, the court heard that Durst murdered Ms Berman in order to silence her over Kathie’s disappearance.

Prosecutors said Susan Berman (pictured) was killed because Robert Durst feared she would reveal what she knew about Kathie Durst’s disappearance

Prosecutors said that the Westchester district attorney had just reopened the case into her disappearance and investigators were planning to speak to Ms Berman about what she knew.

It had been Ms Berman who had called the medical school back in January 1982, posing as Durst’s wife in order to give him an alibi and throw investigators off the scent, prosecutors said.

On the envelope for the letter sent to police about Ms Berman’s body, Beverly Hills was spelled incorrectly as “Beverley Hills”.

Prosecutors showed the court the envelope from a letter previously sent by Durst to Ms Berman where he had also spelled Beverly Hills incorrectly. This discovery was first identified by “The Jinx” documentary-makers.

Durst took the stand at his trial, testifying over 15 days where he denied killing his best friend.

He finally confessed that he sent the letter to police but claimed he had gone to Ms Berman’s home to visit her and discovered her already dead.

He said he then sent the letter and fled because he feared he would be blamed for her murder.

While he continued to maintain his innocence of both Ms Berman and Kathie’s murders, Durst also admitted to the court that he would lie even if he had killed them.

​​Durst was convicted of Ms Berman’s murder in September and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in October.

The dismembered neighbour: Morris Black

It was Durst’s ongoing quest to evade justice for Kathie’s disappearance and death that also led to the gruesome death and dismemberment of Morris Black.

In 2001, Durst was lying low in Texas from authorities in both New York and LA after the case was reopened into Kathie’s death and Ms Berman was found executed, according to prosecutors at his 2021 trial.

He fled his privileged lifestyle in New York and moved to a quiet community in Galveston, Texas, where he hoped no one who would recognise him, they said.

There, he allegedly posed as a mute woman, dressing in female clothing and a wig to go out and about.

Prosecutors said his elderly neighbour Mr Black had discovered his real identity, leading Durst to murder him to keep him quiet.

The dismembered body parts of Mr Black were found floating in plastic bags in the sea.

Robert Durst shot dead and dismembered Morris Black (pictured) in 2001

When authorities found the remains and the evidence once again led them to Durst, he recounted a tale of self-defence.

Durst claimed Mr Black had taken his gun and they were both struggling over the weapon when it went off, accidentally shooting Mr Black in the head and killing him.

Durst admitted he then chopped up his neighbour’s body using an ax and a bow saw and dumped the parts in plastic bags in Galveston Bay.

All of Mr Black’s dismembered body parts were found - except for his head.

Without the head, it was difficult for investigators to disprove Durst’s version of events of the killing.

A lead investigator on the case said he believed Durst had likely shot Mr Black at close range in the back of the head - the same way Ms Berman was killed.

In a sensational 2005 trial, Durst was acquitted. Mr Black’s head was never found.

With Durst now dead, Mr Black’s head and Kathie’s body may never be found.

And no one will ever know the true events that led to the deaths of Kathie Durst, Susan Berman and Morris Black.

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