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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 16:17 GMT
Jailed nurse gets brief taste of freedom
Ted Maher during trial
Maher vanished from his cell overnight
A former nurse jailed in Monaco for starting a fire which killed his billionaire boss has been recaptured only hours after escaping.

Ted Maher was given a 10-year prison sentence for starting the blaze that killed Lebanese-born banker Edmond Safra.

He escaped in the classic fashion - by sawing through the bars

Monaco justice department official
Police said on Wednesday morning that Maher had made a dramatic escape from his cell overnight, along with a second prisoner, by sawing through prison bars.

He was later discovered holed up alone in a hotel in the French Riviera town of Nice.

Phone call trail

Officials discovered the two prisoners were missing when their cell was checked on Wednesday morning.

"He escaped in the classic fashion - by sawing through the bars," one justice official in Monaco said.

Edmond Safra
Safra suffocated in his bathroom

It was not immediately clear where they got the cutting implement.

It was just hours later when police confirmed that Maher, a former United States soldier, had been recaptured in a Nice hotel.

Police sources said that Maher had been located after he made a number of phone calls to people trying to explain himself in connection with Safra's death.

It was not revealed whom Maher had called.

Bid for glory

The 1999 fire killed Safra, listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 200 richest men, along with another of his nurses, Vivian Torrente.

Smoke billows from Mr Safra's penthouse
The fire took hold in Mr Safra's penthouse

The two died when the bathroom where they had sought refuge was engulfed by smoke as Safra's heavily-fortified 20-room penthouse flat burnt.

Safra, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, had 24-hour nursing care.

Maher's lawyers claimed in court he did not mean to kill Safra, but started the fire in the hopes of earning greater respect by saving his boss from the flames.

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.

See also:

03 Dec 99 | Europe
03 Dec 99 | Business
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