The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Back in February HBO aired a six-part documentary series on Robert Durst, the wealthy scion of the Durst family arrested in March on suspicion of murder. It might seem like the timing of the broadcast and Durst’s arrest was coincidental, but his arrest was in fact partly due to the documentary makers uncovering new evidence and turning it over to police.

Durst is the eldest son of the Durst family who own the Durst Organization, a real estate company in New York City whose holdings include One World Trade Center and the Condé Nast Building on Times Square. He first came to police attention when his wife Kathleen disappeared in 1982. The couple had been fighting in the months before her disappearance, with Kathleen complaining to her friends of increased violence from her husband, even telling them that if anything should happen to her they should investigate Robert. When Kathleen disappeared, her friends suspected Durst of murder but without a body there was little law enforcement could do.

Durst was then arrested in 2001 on charges of murder when his neighbour’s dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in Texas. The body parts were in trash bags which also contained evidence linking the body to Durst. Durst claimed self-defence, and given that he had unlimited wealth to hire the best lawyers, he managed to get off. His most recent arrest is on charges of murdering his best friend, Susan Berman, a woman who may have had information about his wife’s disappearance and who was found shot dead, execution style, in her Californian home in 2000.

Durst is an odd man, given to bizarre statements, who seems disingenuous, clinical, obtuse and at times deliberately provocative. He has in the past been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, but it felt more like some form of sociopathy may be present, given the emotionless and unsettling way he speaks during the interviews. Even his own brother finds him dangerous and unpredictable and in the past hired a bodyguard to protect himself.

The Jinx is a brilliant documentary series and well worth watching. In particular it reminded me of The Staircase which I reviewed on the blog a while ago, in that it’s in-depth and also illustrates how money can make the difference between an innocent or guilty verdict. It will be interesting to watch Durst’s current legal case as it unfolds in the coming months. Not only was he denied bail earlier this week but police are now looking at Durst in connection to three more women who have disappeared, two in 1997 and one in 1971.

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