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SAFRA NURSE GUILTY (NY POST) By PHILIPPE DUPUY and BRAD HUNTER 12/03/02)Source: http://www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/63479.htm NEW YORK POST NEW YORK POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
December 3, 2002 -- The American nurse who killed billionaire Edmond Safra in a bizarre bathroom blaze was convicted in a Monaco court yesterday and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ted Maher, 44, was found guilty of arson leading to death, for setting the Dec. 3, 1999, wastepaper-basket fire that killed the 67- year-old financier and his other American nurse, Vivian Torrente, 52.

The jury of three judges and three citizens deliberated for two hours before reaching a verdict.

Safra´s widow, Lily, who was in court every day of the trial, was pleased with the outcome.

"Let us thank God for this moment when justice has been done. The guilty man has been punished and the full facts of that dreadful night . . . have been laid bare for all to see," she said in a statement.

She bitterly slammed press portrayals of her husband as a paranoid wreck obsessed with his security.

"Edmond did not suffer with paranoia nor was he obsessed with his personal security," Lily said.

"He lived in fear of no one and sought only to care for those he loved or who were less fortunate than he was."

At one point in the trial, the defense team hinted that the mogul may have caused Torrente´s death by preventing her escape from the smoky bathroom.

"The suggestion that Edmond could have killed Vivian, which was disproved during the trial and which Ted Maher repudiated, is abhorrent," the widow said. "I am glad that the truth is now known."

Lily Safra also said she was deeply touched when Maher´s wife, Heidi, addressed the court.

"I feel great sadness that she and her children have suffered so much as a result of her husband´s actions in Monaco," Lily said, adding that Maher should have gone to the kindly billionaire about his money woes.

Maher begins serving his sentence exactly three years to the day of the tragic fire.

The high-profile case in the Mediterranean playground of the rich captivated members of the jet set anxious to hear details of Safra´s tragic final days. Rumors directly after the fire suggested that terrorists or Russian mobsters had murdered Safra - but those rumors were disproved in court.

"He [Maher] directly caused the deaths of Mrs. Torrente and Mr. Safra," said lead prosecutor Daniel Serdet in his closing arguments. "He trapped the victims."

Maher, of Stormville, N.Y., admitted setting the fire but testified he had no intention of harming Safra or Torrente.

His plan had been to set the fire, "rescue" the billionaire and win his favor, but the plot went terribly awry.

The former Green Beret even cut himself with a knife and claimed intruders had invaded Safra´s Monaco mansion and caused the blaze.

"Stupidity is reprehensible, but it is not a crime," Sandrine Setton, one of Maher´s lawyers, said in closing arguments.

Throughout the day, Maher sat expressionless - looking gaunt and tired - and his face was frozen when the verdict was read. He pleaded for mercy earlier in the day.

Calling Safra "the best employer I ever had," Maher reiterated his claim he had no intention of harming anyone.

"What happened is and always will be a terrible accident," Maher said.

Safra was the founder and principal shareholder of the Republic National Bank in New York. In his final years he suffered from Parkinson´s disease and required round-the-clock care.

Safra´s brothers and sisters said their tycoon brother will not be forgotten.

"The memory we cherish of our dear brother is not that of a victim," they said in a statement.

"But rather that of a family leader, a caring individual of honor, dignity and respect." (Copyright 2002 NYP Holdings, Inc. 12/03/02)

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