She alerted Ala, who noted that the contents included a barbiturate and Valium. He returned to London in 1987, where he lived well in Knightsbridge, gaining a reputation as a raconteur, mixing with friends in the moneyed elite and writing theatre reviews for the Catholic Herald. Mr. von Bülow on Dec. 7, 2008, the day after the death of his wife. American commentary during the five-year media spree that accompanied the case compared it to a soap opera, especially as Claus’s beautiful mistress, Alexandra Isles, had acted in a popular 1960s soap series called Dark Shadows. Sunny was not a diabetic. The “von,” usually used only by members of noble families, was added later; Mr. von Bülow told Mr. Dershowitz that his wife was the one who had insisted that he add it. The scandal that would define his life began in December, 1980, when Martha “Sunny” von Bulow (the Philadelphia Main Line heiress to a utilities fortune) was discovered unconscious on the marble floor of a bathroom at their oceanfront estate in Newport, R.I. He also introduced new medical evidence, and contested the judge’s damaging inadmission of Kuh’s notes. In recent years, acquaintances have described him as ill, and mostly keeping to his own apartment. “People instantly loathe him or like him.”. He eventually agreed to divorce Sunny and forfeit any family money, to leave the country and give up all rights to write books or publicise the case, in exchange for Cosima’s inheritance, estimated at $30m. The back-to-back trials divided both public opinion and the former couple’s international society friends. Invite him to lunch and you’ll get a good meal out of it. I met him at a Knightsbridge restaurant party in the mid-1990s, on the night that Reversal of Fortune first aired on British television. Last modified on Fri 31 May 2019 16.35 BST. Mr. von Bülow admitted that divorce had been discussed, but he said the issue had not been another woman; his wife, he said, did not mind his having an affair as long as he was discreet. Convicted and acquitted of murdering his heiress wife, the Danish socialite, dead at 92, relished his reputation as a debonair criminal. Her father, George Crawford, was the founder of the Columbia Gas and Electric Company. It has money, sex, drugs; it has Newport, New York and Europe; it has nobility; it has maids, butlers, a gardener,” Mr. Dershowitz wrote, quoting a prosecutor. A new trial was ordered. Eventually, at the hospital, doctors noticed her high level of insulin. Mrs. von Bülow, the heiress to a $75 million utilities fortune, went into a coma in December 1979, from which she recovered, and a second, irreversible coma in December 1980. Simpson Trial. Mr. von Bülow entered Cambridge University when he was 16 and graduated in 1946 with a law degree. The stepchildren then filed a $56 million civil suit against him. Also brought into testimony was the fact that a divorce would have voided the $14 million that Mr. von Bülow would have inherited under his wife’s will and left him with an annual income of $120,000 from a trust that she had established before their marriage. Tantalising questions nonetheless remain. In a 1981 trial, Sunny’s maid and von Bülow’s mistress, Alexandra Isles, both testified against him. She and Mr. von Bülow settled in a palatial Fifth Avenue apartment. The Auersperg siblings hired a former New York prosecutor, Richard Kuh, to investigate, and his evidence was vital in the 1982 trial. Some of them continued to embrace the handsome, charming European, while others shunned him as a murderer. “He looks positively satanic.”. Von Bülow’s presence also haunts the New York diaries of Andy Warhol. It was settled in 1987 with the stipulation that Mr. von Bulow agree to a divorce and that he not discuss the case publicly. Almost a year later, on Dec. 21, 1980, Mrs. von Bülow was again found unconscious and taken to the hospital in a coma. His 1985 book about the case, Reversal of Fortune, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons and released in 1990. Then Alexander found a syringe, its tip encrusted with insulin, a test showed. Sunny von Bulow’s mother, Mrs. Aitken, died in 1984, and her will denied Ms. von Bülow Pavoncelli any share of her $100 million estate. Her annual income at the time was said to be in the neighborhood of $3.5 million. His mordant humor was legendary. Also settled at the same time was a suit instituted by Cosima von Bülow Pavoncelli, who supported her father through his trials and who claimed that family members had exerted undue influence in turning her grandmother against her. Mr. von Bülow, left, with his lawyer Alan Dershowitz in 1985. He adopted the name of his maternal grandfather, Frits Bülow, a former Danish minister of justice. She never recovered. Among those who continued to support him were late-twentieth-century society fixtures like Mercedes Kellogg (now Bass), Doris Duke and Catherine Guinness. Von Bülow relished his newfound celebrity. He stopped working, and she began looking for oceanfront property in Newport, where her mother, Annie Laurie Crawford Aitken, and stepfather, Russell Aitken, had an estate. Using Kuh’s notes, the defence showed that Schralhammer originally said nothing about insulin and lied to protect her mistress. It began in April 1985, with Claus represented by the best defence money could buy: unlimited funds were provided by Sir Paul Getty, his old boss’s son. During this time, Mr. von Bülow, a charming and handsome man with a military bearing, became a highly visible social figure in London while living with his mother in a fashionable apartment in Belgrave Square. The couple married in 1966 and in 1970 settled in the 20-room Clarendon Court with the two Auersperg children and their own daughter, Cosima, aged three. Evidence presented at Mr. von Bülow’s 1985 trial. Mr. von Bülow was not unaware of his notoriety. Peter Soros, the financier, once said of him: “Generally, he’s an all-round amusing fellow who’s capable of being outrageous. The aristocratic prefix “von” was a later addition; he sometimes claimed was made at Sunny’s behest. Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close in the film Reversal of Fortune, 1990. When Claus met Sunny, she had recently been divorced from Prince Alfred von Auersperg, with whom she had a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Annie Laurie, known as Ala. Little more than a year earlier, she had divorced Prince Alfred von Auersperg of Austria, her first husband. This was the first such court case to be televised in the US, and more than 70 hours of it was broadcast by CNN. Mr. von Bülow said he had thought his wife was sleeping. In the settlement, Mr. von Bülow renounced all claims to his wife’s fortune in return for his daughter’s receiving an equal share of Mrs. Aitken’s estate with her half sister and half brother. Why, during Sunny’s first collapse, was he reluctant to summon a doctor? It was determined that the paste was a form of Valium and the powder was Seconal. The two von Auersperg children consulted Richard Kuh, a former Manhattan district attorney, and hired him to investigate the circumstances of both episodes. Sunny’s children, Schralhammer and Isles all testified against Claus. In 1978, Mr. von Bülow began an affair with Alexandra Isles, a socialite and actress. Mr. von Bülow maintained that even before he met his wife she had entered a world of pills and alcohol. Or was she an alcoholic drug addict who, perhaps accidentally, inflicted her own destruction? “Only Helmut [Newton, the photographer] could persuade a man on trial for murder to look in his closet and choose an S & M-flavored black zip-up leather jacket,” she wrote. Mr. von Bülow was charged with the attempted murder of his wife, Martha von Bülow, known as Sunny, by injecting her with insulin to aggravate her hypoglycemia, a low-blood-sugar condition. Claus von Bülow, a Danish-born socialite who was convicted and then acquitted of attempting to murder his wealthy American wife, died in London on … Or rather, he’d get a good meal and I’d get a good story.”, • Claus Cecil Borberg von Bülow, socialite, born 11 August 1926; died 25 May 2019, Moneyed socialite who was convicted and then acquitted of trying to kill his wife. Irons won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Claus von Bülow. An appeal, masterminded by the Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz, was successful and paved the way for a new trial. “People used to point at him—he was a tourist attraction!”. Did he twice inject his wife with insulin, the central accusation? A taste for the social whirl never left von Bülow, who spent his later years in a flat not far from Harrods in London. He once quipped that when visiting New York, “I always stay with my old friend Frank Campbell”—a reference to the Upper East Side undertaker known for society funerals. She testified that shortly before Christmas 1979 she had heard Mrs. von Bülow moaning behind a locked door, and that Mr. von Bülow refused to call a doctor as his wife sank into a coma. He reveled not only in the attention, but also the tabloid gossip column sightings that appeared the following day. He began the book with a quote from a prosecutor involved: “This case has everything. Martha “Sunny” von Bülow, who died in 2008 after lying in a coma for 28 years, had collapsed in December 1980 at the couple’s Palladian mansion, Clarendon Court, on the Rhode Island coast at Newport. And did his mistress’s marriage ultimatum, combined with expectation of a large legacy from his wife’s death, propel him towards murder? Where Are They Now: The O.J. Sunny, who remained in a coma for the rest of her life, died in 2008. He is noted attending parties from 1978 to just a month before the artist’s death, when Warhol introduces him to Bob Dylan at Nell’s nightclub in January, 1987. He continued to maintain his innocence and was freed on $1 million bail. Subsequently Claus adopted his mother’s maiden name: Bülow. A book by Claus’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, about the case, Reversal of Fortune (1985), was made into a 1990 film of the same name, starring Jeremy Irons – who won the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Claus – and Glenn Close as Sunny.