After 28 years in coma, von Bulow wife takes secrets to the grave

Posted on 1:06 PM by Sameer Shah

Martha ‘Sunny’ von Bulow, the heiress who spent the last 28 years of her life in a coma after two alleged murder attempts by her husband, died yesterday in a nursing home in New York. She was 76.

Mrs Bulow, whose beauty once invoked comparisons with Grace Kelly, was at the centre of one of the most sensational court cases in American history.

Her husband, Danish aristocrat Claus von Bulow, who lives in London, was convicted and then cleared of trying to murder her by injecting her with an overdose of insulin.

The tragic story was made into the 1990 film Reversal Of Fortune, in which the couple were played by Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close.

Sunny had made her husband the main beneficiary of her £60million will. The Cambridge-educated barrister was first tried for attempting to kill her in 1982.

Prosecutors said he wanted to get rid of his wife to inherit her wealth and to be free to marry his mistress.

He was found guilty and faced 30 years in prison but was acquitted at a retrial three years later at which medical experts argued that his wife’s coma was caused by drugs, excessive drinking and existing health problems. Mrs von Bulow spent the last 28 years being cared for by a team of nurses.

The von Bulows had a daughter, Cosima, who married an Italian count and lives in London. They have three children.

After the courtroom dramas in Rhode Island, Mr von Bulow agreed to give
up any claims to his wife’s estimated £27million fortune and to the £81,000-a-year income from a trust that she had set up for him.

He also agreed to divorce her, leave the US and never profit from their story. Now 82, he has a home in Kensington and writes arts reviews.

Reversal Of Fortune was based on a book by Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who defended Mr von Bulow and also acted for OJ Simpson.

Prof Dershowitz said last night: ‘It’s a sad ending to a sad tragedy that some people tried to turn into a crime.

‘There are no winners in a case like this. I’m happy to have played a role in getting the criminal conviction reversed because it was an unjust conviction but there were no victory parties or celebrations afterwards because there was a woman in a coma.’

Sunny, nicknamed because of her disposition, was born Martha Sharp Crawford, the daughter of a wealthy utilities magnate. She married her first husband, an Austrian golf instructor, in 1957 but divorced him in 1965.

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