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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Nurse tried over billionaire's death
The gutted apartment block in which Mr Safra died
The nurse initially claimed intruders started the fire

The trial has begun in Monaco of an American male nurse who is accused of starting the fire which killed the billionaire banker Edmond Safra.

Edmond Safra
Mr Safra died in his bathroom with another nurse
Ted Maher, 44, is accused of setting his employer's luxury Riviera villa on fire almost three years ago in order to win praise by then rescuing him.

The 67-year-old Lebanese-born billionaire, who barricaded himself into a bathroom with another nurse, died from smoke inhalation.

Mr Safra was still alive when firefighters arrived at his burning apartment but he ignored their pleas to unlock the bathroom door, fearing that assailants were outside.

Speculative links

Mr Maher, who began working for Mr Safra after leaving the US army, was later found with serious stab wounds.

He initially said he had been attacked by masked intruders who had carried out an arson attack, but according to the prosecutors, later admitted the wounds were self-inflicted and that he'd started the fire himself in order to heroically rescue his boss.

But Mr Safra's wealth and connections have led to speculation that this was more than a bizarre bid for glory gone wrong, with rumours that either the Russian mafia or the Israeli secret service were behind the killing.

Adding extra spice - as if any were needed - is the presence in court of Edmond Safra's high society widow Lily.

Nicknamed the Gilded Lily, she is one of the richest women in Britain and a personal friend of Prince Charles.

See also:

04 Dec 99 | Europe
03 Dec 99 | Europe
03 Dec 99 | Business
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