Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 20:04 UK

Fake Rockefeller 'wanted custody'

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

A man who posed as a descendant of oil tycoon John D Rockefeller threatened to take sole custody of his daughter long before kidnapping her, a court heard.

Christian Gerhartsreiter - who called himself Clark Rockefeller - is accused of abducting seven-year-old Reigh Boss.

His UK-based ex-wife, Sandra Boss, told a Boston court he made the threats when she said she was considering divorce.

Mr Gerhartsreiter's lawyers claim he suffers from delusions and did not know it was wrong to snatch the child.

They say he is mentally ill and therefore not criminally responsible.

US Prosecutors say the German-born defendant is a conman who has changed his identities repeatedly since moving to the US in 1978.

They say the 48 year old mixed for years in American high society and fooled countless people with made-up stories about his background.

Sandra Boss
When I told him that I was strongly considering getting divorced, [he] started screaming at me
Sandra Boss

Ms Boss said she had a "blind spot" to his lies but that the couple eventually broke up after 12 years of marriage in 2007.

Mr Gerhartsreiter is accused of snatching their daughter, 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.

Under cross-examination, Ms Boss - a senior partner in the London office of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co - portrayed Mr Gerhartsreiter as a controlling husband.

He refused to give her access to their bank accounts and at times did not give her enough food to eat, she claimed.

She added that she attempted to leave him on a number of occasions, only for him to become angry.

"The defendant on one occasion, when I told him that I was strongly considering getting divorced, started screaming at me in front of Reigh and told me that if I did, he would manage to get full custody of her," she said.

When pressed about how an intelligent person could be so willing to believe Gerhartsreiter's lies, Ms Boss said it was possible for someone to be "really brilliant" in one area of life but "really stupid" in another.

She told the court she was aware her then husband told lies to other people to make himself seem more important.

However, she said she did not know the extent of his deception until she hired a private investigator during the couple's divorce.

The trial continues.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific