Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 08:07 UK

Wife 'believed Rockefeller claim'

Christian Gerhartsreiter in court
Christian Gerhartsreiter's defence says he suffers from mental illness

The British ex-wife of a man who posed as a member of the Rockefeller oil dynasty has told a Boston court she had no reason to doubt his life story.

Sandra Boss said her husband called himself Clark Rockefeller and claimed to have attended Yale aged 14.

In fact he was German-born Christian Gerhartsreiter, who is now accused of abducting his seven-year-old daughter after the couple's marriage broke up.

His lawyers have told the court he lived in an "magical, insane world".

Federal investigators say Mr Gerhartsreiter, 48, mixed for years in American high society and fooled countless people with made-up stories about his background.

He is accused of snatching Reigh Boss, who now lives in London, during a supervised visit to Boston last year.

The pair were found in Baltimore a week later after a police manhunt.

Met at fancy dress party

Mr Gerhartsreiter's lawyers say he suffers from delusions and did not know it was wrong when he snatched the child, known to her family as Snooks.

Sandra Boss
He was very enthusiastic about getting to know me and getting romantically involved
Sandra Boss

Ms Boss, 42, a senior partner in the London office of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, told the court she met Mr Gerhartsreiter at a Cluedo-themed fancy dress party in New York in 1993.

She came dressed as Miss Scarlet, he as Professor Plum, she said.

Ms Boss said she believed his claims he was a Rockefeller, raised in luxury in New York, and that his work involved renegotiating the debts of small countries.

His family fortune, he told her vaguely, was tied up because of a family dispute.

Ms Boss described Mr Gerhartsreiter as "very intelligent, very polite... really very charming" and admitted never questioning his stories, even after they had become engaged.

She said: "He was very enthusiastic about getting to know me and getting romantically involved."

But she told the court his attitude towards her changed after they married in 1995, as he grew more controlling and the relationship became "stressful".

Ms Boss said she was "traumatised" and "hysterical" when she realised he had taken her daughter.

Social worker

Earlier on Monday the court heard evidence from cab driver Darryl Hopkins who said he was an unwitting accomplice to the abduction.

He said Mr Gerhartsreiter offered him $3,000 dollars (£1,800) to "get rid of" a friend - that friend was the social worker overseeing the visit by Reigh to her father.

Mr Hopkins admitted he followed Mr Gerthartsreiter's instructions to drive away with the child, even though the social worker was hanging onto the car door.

The social worker fell and suffered bruises and a mild concussion.

The trial continues.

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