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CHOCO
Dec 2nd, 2002, 11:51 PM
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Maher wanted "to win greater respect"



Monday, 2 December, 2002, 18:34 GMT
Nurse jailed for billionaire's death

An American male nurse has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Monaco for starting a fire which killed the billionaire banker, Edmond Safra.
Ted Maher was working for Safra in 1999, when fire engulfed the banker's luxury apartment in Monte Carlo.


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Safra suffocated in his bathroom

Maher had confessed to starting the fire, but his lawyers argued that he had never meant to kill his employer, who suffocated to death along with nurse Vivian Torrente after taking refuge in a bathroom.

Maher said in his confession that he had started the blaze at Safra's heavily fortified penthouse in a failed attempt to prove himself a hero and win greater respect from the billionaire.

Prosecutors said he had raised the alarm and stabbed himself with a knife to make it look as if a gang had attacked the building.

'Rescue delayed'

Describing the deaths as a "terrible accident", Maher testified that he had started the fire in a wastepaper basket, then called emergency services.


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The building was heavily secured against intruders


"Stupidity is reprehensible, but it is not a crime," Sandrine Setton, one of his defence lawyers, said in her closing arguments.

But the prosecution said that Maher, a former Green Beret, had delayed rescue efforts by inventing a story about intruders.

"He directly caused the deaths of Mrs Torrente and Mr Safra," said head prosecutor Daniel Serdet. "He trapped the victims."

The Lebanese-born Edmond Safra was founder and principal stock owner of the Republic National Bank of New York. He was one of the world's richest men at the time of his death.

Safra had Parkinson's disease and required constant care.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy reports that Safra's widow, Lily, is one of the richest women in Britain and a personal friend of Prince Charles.