Claus von Bulow – 1980

By | February 14, 2017

“We know, and he knows, that he tried to murder our mother”


Did he or didn’t he?


Socialite Claus von Bulow lived a charmed life until he was 50 years old. He went to Trinity, Cambridge, was personal assistant to J. Paul Getty and on 6 June 1966 he married Martha Crawford, known to all as Sunny. A daughter, Cosima, was born in April 1967. They became well-known jet setters, supposedly happily married, living in style at Clarendon Court, a 20-room mansion that was used as a set in the film High Society (1956).

However, behind closed doors Sunny was depressive and diabetic and, according to some, suicidal. In 1980 she suddenly lapsed into a coma in the bathroom at home on Rhode Island. The police became suspicious and investigated. A black bag was found in a bathroom containing an insulin-encrusted syringe. On 6 July 1981 von Bulow was indicted by a Rhode Island grand jury for the attempted murder of his wife. He was arraigned on 13 July. The police claimed that he wanted to get rid of Sunny so that the way would be clear for him to marry his long-term girlfriend Alexandra Isles, the former television soap actor.


Clarendon Court, Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, USA


Sunday 21 December 1980


On 16 March 1982 von Bulow was found guilty after the jury had deliberated for six days and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

He appealed the sentence and in 1984 hired Alan Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard, as his lawyer. The verdict was overturned because the syringe had been found during an illegal search and a second trial ordered. On 10 June 1985 von Bullow was cleared of all charges.

The Crawford family still believed that von Bullow was guilty and Cosima von Bullow was disinherited by her grandmother for supporting her father. Two children, Ala and Alexander from Sunny’s first marriage, sued von Bulow for $56 million. Von Bulow agreed to give up his claim to Sunny’s $75 million estate if Cosima was reinherited.

The case was filmed as Reversal Of Fortune (1990) starring Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close. Von Bulow lives in London. Alexander said, “We know, and he knows, that he tried to murder our mother.” Sunny remained in an irreversible coma for almost 28 years, cared for at the private Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home in New York City. She died on 6 December 2008.

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