SAFRA KILLED' NURSE: LAWSUIT
By DAREH GREGORIAN
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- December 4, 2002 -- His caretaker was found guilty of the killing, but the children of Vivian Torrente say in a $100 million lawsuit that slain billionaire Edmond Safra was the one responsible for their mother's death. Ted Maher, 44, was convicted Monday of arson leading to both Safra's and Torrente's deaths on Dec. 3, 1999, when he set a blaze in the financier's Monaco apartment in a failed bid to make himself look like a hero by "rescuing" Safra.
The action by Jason and Genevieve Torrente, however, charges that it was actually a desperate and crazed Safra who doomed their mom.
"There is very graphic evidence pointing to Mr. Safra's culpability in Vivian Torrente's death," said the kids' lawyer, Kenneth McCallion.
Maher and Torrente, 52, were both assigned to provide nursing care to the 67-year-old Safra, who suffered from Parkinson's disease.
The Manhattan State Supreme Court suit says Safra apparently locked himself inside of his bathroom with Torrente after the fire broke out and viciously blocked her attempts to leave. During the criminal trial, Maher's lawyer had contended that Safra was paranoid armed intruders were outside the bathroom door.
The suit says Torrente's autopsy showed "there were combat-like' marks on [her] neck . . . and blood in her thyroid, indicating that Vivian Torrente struggled to escape the bathroom where she and Mr. Safra were located, and that Mr. Safra restrained her and prevented her escape."
The mom "also had bruises on her knees and Mr. Safra's DNA under her fingernails," the suit says. Both died of asphyxiation. McCallion said the autopsy report was "inconclusive" as to whether she was asphyxiated by the smoke or by Safra putting her in a choke hold.
The suit adds that Jason, 30, and Genevieve, 23, didn't know about the autopsy report until Maher's trial - and accuses Safra's widow, Lily, of conspiring with various insurance companies to keep the details of their mother's death a secret.
It also says Torrente's husband, Irineo Torrente, convinced the kids to sign off on a settlement agreement before they found out about the circumstances of her death.
Published reports say that deal was for $2 million, half of which the kids were supposed to split, but McCallion said the children have received only "minuscule sums. What the father got, we don't know at this point."
Lily Safra could not be reached for comment yesterday, but earlier this week said Maher's conviction had cleared her husband of any wrongdoing in Torrente's death.
Prayers for Ted Maher's safety and for the truth to be told/come out.