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Robert Durst: who was serial killer who has died in prison, what was confession - and how to watch The Jinx

Robert Durst’s life saw him go from being a real estate heir to posing as a mute woman while a fugitive in Texas

<p>Robert Durst is believed to have murdered three people - although he was only convicted for one of the deaths (image: AFP/Getty Images)</p>

Robert Durst is believed to have murdered three people - although he was only convicted for one of the deaths (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In late 2021, the shocking case of millionaire murderer Robert Durst captured headlines across the world.

The US real estate heir was sentenced to life in prison in California in October for the murder of one of his friends, Susan Berman, more than 20 years ago.

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But it was also suspected Durst was a serial killer, having committed two further murders in his lifetime, including that of his wife.

On Monday (10 January), Durst’s lawyer revealed he had died at the age of 78.

So who was Robert Durst, what did he do - and how did he die?

Who was Robert Durst?

Robert Durst was born on 12 April 1943 into one of the richest and most influential families in New York.

The Durst Organisation manages or owns swathes of property across the city, including some of its most well-known landmarks, like the tallest building One World Trade Centre and the Bank of America Tower.

It was founded in 1927 by Robert Durst’s grandfather Joseph, who immigrated to New York from Poland in 1904, and is now believed to be worth $4.4bn.

Durst was the eldest of four children and was the designated heir to the real estate empire that was being run by his father Seymour at the time.

The Durst family’s property empire includes New York’s tallest building the One World Trade Centre (image: AFP/Getty Images)

But, despite having been groomed to run the business for much of his adult life, Robert Durst was replaced by his younger brother Douglas, who took over the company from their father in 1994.

It is believed the move happened after Robert urinated in an office bin.

The brothers already had a strained relationship, with Robert said to have a plumber’s wrench sat on his desk and Douglas a piece of pipe he said was there for protection in case Robert attacked him.

Once he was kicked out of the family business, Robert Durst sued his family and was eventually bought out of the firm in 2006 for $65m (then equivalent to £36.9m).

The fallout led to family members at one stage having 13 court orders in place to protect them from Robert.

In 2015, Douglas Durst revealed in an interview that Robert had twice appeared at his New York home - once with two guns, and another time dressed in a ski mask.

How did Robert Durst become a convicted murderer?

Robert Durst was long-suspected of having murdered his first wife Kathleen McCormack Durst in 1982.

She was last seen by someone other than Robert Durst on 31 January 1982 when she unexpectedly turned up at a friend’s dinner party in a distressed state.

A few weeks before, she had been treated for facial bruises at a New York hospital.

A visibly frail Robert Durst was sentenced to life in prison in October 2021 for the murder of Susan Berman (image: Getty Images)

Durst claimed he had never seen his wife again after he put her on a train to New York at a station on the outskirts of the city on 31 January 1982.

However, he told 2015 HBO true crime documentary The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst that he had said this because "I was hoping that would just make everything go away".

Nothing was proven in his lifetime and her body has never been found.

Robert Durst unwittingly implicated himself in the murder of Susan Berman during filming for 2015 documentary The Jinx (image: Getty Images)

Mrs McCormack Durst was declared legally dead in 2017.

However, Durst was formally charged with his wife’s murder in November 2021 by the Westchester Country District Attorney’s office in New York.

His death means no trial will take place, although the office said more information on the case would be released to the public in the coming days.

Robert Durst’s brother, Douglas, believes his brother wanted to kill him (image: Getty Images)

Mrs McCormack Durst’s death is believed to have been the reason behind why Durst murdered his long-time friend, spokesperson and confidante Susan Berman.

He shot her in the back of the head at her Los Angeles home in 2000 ahead of an interview she was due to have with investigators from New York about the disappearance of his wife.

Ms Berman had facilitated Robert Durst’s public alibi that Mrs McCormack Durst had simply gone missing in 1982.

While Durst initially got away with Ms Berman’s murder, an investigation was opened into it in 2015 after he unwittingly confessed to doing it an interview for The Jinx.

During the documentary, he was recorded saying to himself "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course," in a break in filming that came shortly after he had been questioned about Ms Berman’s death.

Susan Berman was a one-time friend and confidante of Robert Durst (image: AFP/Getty Images)

He was arrested in New Orleans soon after the documentary’s release and placed in custody.

He was convicted of Ms Berman’s murder in September 2021 and sentenced to life in prison in October.

The death of Morris Black

Robert Durst was also suspected of murdering former neighbour Morris Black - although he was acquitted at a trial in 2003.

Mr Black’s death happened just nine months after Durst murdered Susan Berman.

At the time, Durst was living as a fugitive in Texas where he posed as a mute woman and her male friend.

He claimed he accidentally shot Mr Black during a struggle with a gun Mr Black had confronted him with.

He said he then dismembered Mr Black’s body in a state of panic, before dropping his body parts in Galveston Bay.

Durst then went on the run for 45 days, before being arrested for shoplifting a chicken sandwich from a shop in Pennsylvania.

At his trial, he said he had dismembered the body and then gone on the run because he felt no one would believe his story about the shooting.

How did Robert Durst die?

Just two days after being sentenced to life in prison in October, a visibly frail Durst was diagnosed with Covid-19 and was on a ventilator at one stage.

His lawyer, Chip Lewis, said the killer had been suffering from numerous medical issues and ultimately died of natural causes at the San Joaquin General Hospital in California while in prison custody.

He was 78 at the time of his death.

How can you watch The Jinx?

The six-part true crime series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is currently available to watch on Netflix.

It was co-written by Andrew Jarecki, who also directed the 2010 film All Good Things - a fictionalised take on Robert Durst’s life starring Ryan Gosling.

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