Was the richest woman in the world a murderer? | The weekly country

The life of Doris Duke, universal heir to the American tobacco empire, was full of controversy and chiaroscuro. He has been the subject of public interest and scrutiny since the death of his father, James Buchanan Duke, a pioneer in developing America’s tobacco industry. Being the only daughter of the magnate, she inherited his entire fortune, becoming in 1925, when she was only 13 years old, the richest woman in the world at that time.

It was overwhelming, in a real and figurative sense. In 1966 she escaped being convicted of running over her interior designer, Eduardo Tirella, with whom she spent most of her time and who was known to be her trusted person. The case was closed a few hours later, considering that his death had been an “unfortunate accident”. Doris is said to have bought her impunity after making large donations to all Newport institutions. Last summer, 55 years later, the investigation was reopened with the statements of the one who was the only witness to the alleged intentional outrage and who until then had remained silent. But after just a few months after the case was reopened, it was closed again in November.

According to the newspaper The Newport Daily News, the detective leading the investigation stated: “There is no evidence that changes the conclusion previously reached or warrants further review.” But there are many who have shown their indignation considering that the evidence is undeniable and hoping that justice is done to Tirella’s family. If they were in the car together and Tirella got out to open the gate of the mansion, then died of a run over, how is it possible that the philanthropist did not see him? According to recent statements by Bob Walker, who witnessed the crime scene as a child and delivered newspapers, he heard two people arguing, then the sound of a gate opening and later a car rush followed by a desperate cry: “ Noooo!”. As he approached the scene he saw Doris Duke looking at the bottom of her car and asked if he could help her with something. She yelled threateningly at him to get out of there immediately.

This version coincides with the hypothesis that cast doubt on the official version of events and uncovered in 2020 by Peter Lance, a Newport journalist who published his investigation in Vanity Fair and later in a book, Homicidio en Rough Point, posted a year ago. That fateful day, Tirella had shown up at Rough Point, Duke’s mansion in Rhode Island, to inform her that he had decided to quit working for her and go to try his luck in Hollywood. Doris Duke was a violent, jealous and possessive person. In 1964, her second ex-husband, jazz musician Joe Castro, reported her for stabbing him with a butcher knife. Still, Tirella believed that Doris would understand her decision and thought the right thing to do was to break the news to her in person. The rest is history.

It was one more element of complexity to add to an eclectic life of overwhelming pace that scandalized his family and that was full of trips around the world, two husbands, multiple lovers and hobbies as diverse as gospel, gardening or surfing. He died in 1993, a few years after belatedly adopting a ballerina to whom he left nothing in his will and who he believed was the reincarnation of a daughter he lost 24 hours after she was born. His butler inherited his entire fortune


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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