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Millionaire arrested over murders

Robert Durst
Robert Durst

Robert Durst, a millionaire from one of America's wealthiest families, has been arrested just before the finale of a serial documentary about his links to three sensational murders in which he said he "killed them all".

FBI agents arrested Durst at a New Orleans hotel on Saturday on a warrant from Los Angeles for the murder of a mobster's daughter 15 years ago, authorities said. He was ordered held without bond pending a hearing later today.

Durst gave an extensive interview to filmmaker Andrew Jarecki for the documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.

Durst's estranged and fearful relatives thanked authorities for tracking him down.

"We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done," said his brother, Douglas Durst, in a statement. The Durst family is worth at least 4 billion dollars (£2.7 billion), according to the Forbes list of richest Americans.

Durst, 71, has always maintained his innocence in the 2000 murder of Susan Berman, whose father was an associate of Las Vegas mobsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

Ms Berman, who was Durst's spokeswoman, was killed at her home with a bullet to the back of her head as New York investigators prepared to question her in the unsolved 1982 disappearance of Durst's wife, Kathleen.

The climax of last week's episode revealed a hand-written address on a letter that Durst had sent to Ms Berman. The handwriting seems virtually identical to an anonymous letter alerting Beverly Hills police to a "cadaver" in Ms Berman's home. Even the word "Beverly" is misspelled as "Beverley" on both documents.

Durst observes in the documentary that only Ms Berman's killer could have sent the letter to police.

His lawyer, Chip Lewis, said he has no doubt his client's arrest was orchestrated in co-ordination with HBO's broadcast of the final episode. The Los Angeles Police said the arrest resulted from "investigative leads and additional evidence that has come to light in the last year".

In the finale, Durst was asked about the similarities in handwriting. Later, filmmakers said Durst wore his microphone into the bathroom.

Durst then said, apparently to himself, "There it is. You're caught" and "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course."

The show ended, and it was not clear whether producers confronted Durst about the secretly recorded words, or what Durst meant by them.

After Ms Berman's death, Durst moved to Texas, where he lived as a mute woman in a boarding house until his arrest in 2001 after dismembered parts of the body of his elderly neighbour, Morris Black, were found floating in Galveston Bay.

Durst then became a fugitive until he was caught shoplifting in Pennsylvania, even though he had 500 dollars cash in his pocket and 37,000 dollars in his rental car, along with two guns and marijuana.

Mr Lewis told the jury that Durst shot Mr Black in self-defence and had Asperger's syndrome. Despite admitting that he used a paring knife, two saws and an axe to dismember Mr Black's body before dumping the remains, Durst was acquitted of murder.

Durst "has been incredibly lucky that so many people who've investigated him have dropped the ball, but I think that luck may be running out", said former Galveston County District Court judge Susan Criss, who presided over the Texas murder trial.

The oldest son of the late real estate mogul Seymour Durst, whose Durst Corporation manages 1 World Trade Center, Robert Durst became estranged from his family when his brother Douglas was chosen instead of him to run the family business.

He had known tragedy from an early age - when he was seven, his father called him onto the roof of a building to try to persuade his suicidal mother not to jump. He left before seeing her fall.

In 1982, Durst reported that his wife had disappeared from their cottage in New York state. No-one was ever charged.

In 2013, Durst tried unsuccessfully to claim 82,000 dollars from his missing wife's estate, even though his personal net worth has been estimated at about 100 million dollars.

"The story is so operatic," Jarecki told the AP before his documentary aired.

Jarecki told a fictionalised version of Durst's story in All Good Things, a 2010 film starring Ryan Gosling. Then he got a call from Durst himself, who wanted to see it and eventually agreed to talk on camera.