Geraldine McInerney tells TheJournal.ie about her friend Kathie McCormack, the arrest of Robert Durst, and ‘The Jinx.’
IRISH BROADCASTING LEGEND Geraldine McInerney has spoken publicly about the dramatic recent arrest of New York property baron Robert Durst, and the high-profile disappearance of her friend Kathie McCormack.
Speaking exclusively to TheJournal.ie from her home near New York, the retired celebrity publicist and former RTÉ newsreader says her only hope is that Durst will reveal “what happened to Kathie,” and that her body will be located.
McInerney appeared in the recent HBO documentary series The Jinx, which made news around the world last month after Robert Durst was caught on tape possibly confessing to killing three people, including his wife Kathie and close friend Susan Berman.
She made history in 1975 as RTÉ’s first female TV newsreader, before moving to New York in the late 1970s, where she worked in advertising and publicity.
She became Vice President of major PR firm Mahoney-Wasserman, representing clients like the Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond and James Taylor.
That’s when she first crossed paths with Kathie Durst, and stepped into one of the darkest, strangest sagas in the history of American crime.
‘Kathie was luminous, she would light up a room’
I knew Kathie because her sister Mary is and was one of my best friends.
Around 1979, I was living in a brownstone on East 51st Street [in Manhattan], which was owned by the Durst company, and Mary lived downstairs.
McInerney ended up hiring Mary as an assistant, and the two became colleagues and close friends, which connected her to Kathie.
We would go out for drinks and chat together. Kathie was luminous, she would light up a room. She had a presence, she really was beautiful, but it wasn’t a beauty she was ever conscious of.
By the beginning of 1982, Kathie and Bob’s relationship had become strained. He was in the process of handing off an apartment on East 86th Street in Manhattan, which Kathie loved and used “to get away from Bob”, in Geraldine’s words.
He had also become increasingly controlling and abusive towards her, insisting that she call him every day to inform him of her whereabouts and plans.
“The guy was violent,” McInerney says simply.
‘The minute I heard she was missing I knew he had killed her’
She distinctly recalls the fateful evening of Friday January 29, 1982 – the only time she ever met Robert Durst.
I met Kathie at the apartment on 86th Street, and we went back to their house on Riverside Drive. We walk in, and Bob is lying on the floor smoking a joint.
Kathie was excited that night because Geraldine had arranged tickets for them to see the Rolling Stones in New York some weeks later, “and she had a big crush on Keith Richards.”
Durst was unenthused, though, and “grunted” at his wife’s good news.
“He was very taciturn – certainly not a social guy,” she notes.
After a short while, he retired to bed, reminding Kathie they had to wake up early to take their dog Igor to the vet near their country house in South Salem, Westchester County.
Kathie said ‘I really don’t want to go’, and I said ‘So tell him you can’t go.’
She looked at me and said ‘What? He’d kill me.’
The couple left the city that Saturday morning, and 29-year-old medical student Kathie Durst was never seen again after Sunday, 31 January 1982.
The minute I heard she was missing I knew he had killed her. Her sister Mary knew he’d killed her, and everybody knew she had been murdered.
It’s a burden that Geraldine, her circle of friends, and Kathie’s family, have been bearing for 33 years.
‘If they had done an investigation, two people would not be dead’
Frustrated by what they saw as an ineffective police operation, Geraldine and a small group of Kathie’s closest friends took it upon themselves to investigate.
One night, as shown in The Jinx, the women drove to Durst’s house in South Salem, and stole bags of rubbish from his kerbside. What they found was horrifying.
Just weeks after his wife’s supposed disappearance, and in the middle of a missing person’s investigation, Durst had begun throwing out her clothes, makeup and university text-books.
They also discovered a chilling, hand-written “to-do list”, with words including ‘bridge’, ‘dig’, ‘boat’, and ‘shovel.’
McInerney’s conclusion about the missing person’s probe is scathing:
The New York City police did nothing. If they had done an investigation, two people would not be dead: Black and Berman.
They were killed because they knew too much.
In 2001, Durst was arrested in Galveston, Texas for killing his elderly neighbour Morris Black.
At his murder trial, he argued he had acted in self-defence, accidentally shooting Black before dismembering him and throwing his body parts in Galveston Bay. This convinced the jury, and Durst walked free.
Ten months earlier, on Christmas Eve 2000, one of Durst’s oldest and closest friends, the writer Susan Berman, had been found shot dead at her home in Beverly Hills.
Reports at the time called the death “puzzling,” and noted her connections to organised crime, through her father.
It later emerged that Berman had told Durst she was being asked to speak to investigators taking a fresh look at Kathie’s disappearance, and that Durst had been in California at the time she was killed.
Police found her body after receiving a now-infamous note addressed to “Beverley Hills police” and including Berman’s address above the word “cadaver.”
‘Oh shit, I’ve done it’
Skip forward to 2012, and the makers of ‘The Jinx’ are given an earlier letter from Durst to Berman, written in shockingly similar hand-writing, even matching the misspelling of “Beverly” found in the “cadaver note.”
In footage included in the season finale, Durst was confronted with this evidence, before muttering to himself in a bathroom, with his microphone still on: “There it is, you’re caught,” and appearing to admit that he had “killed them all.”
Geraldine McInerney believes Durst’s decision to give an interview in the first place reveals his “total narcissism.”
He thought, “I’m going to sit down, do this interview, say whatever I want, and this is my moment in the sun.”He still thinks he’s invincible.
But when he went to the bathroom he thought “Oh shit, I’ve done it. I have put myself in a position where I’m not invincible.”
‘Oh God, he really did it’
McInerney had been tipped off about the taped “confession” in the final episode of ‘The Jinx’, which starts on Sky Atlantic on 16 April.
However, she still found it a scarring experience when she sat down to watch it.
We knew what to expect, but we didn’t know how it was going to affect us.
The thing is – intellectually, you know she’s dead and you know he’s killed her. But emotionally, you don’t accept it.
It was a total jolt. Beyond a shock. I thought ‘Oh God – he really did it.’
The revelation was so convulsive for McInerney and the McCormack family that she travelled to New York the next morning to be with Mary, and Kathie’s mother Ann, who is now 101 years old.
It was like a wake. We mourned Kathie, really for the first time. Up until then, we’d always been trying to find her.
‘To stand at a graveside and say ‘The End.’
Robert Durst was arrested in New Orleans on March 14, before the final episode of The Jinx was broadcast.
He was found with a loaded revolver, five ounces of marijuana, a latex face mask, his birth cert and passport, and $40,000 in cash.
He’s been charged with the murder of Susan Berman, and is expected to be extradited to Los Angeles, where he could face the death penalty if convicted.
Despite all this, isn’t convinced he will finally be brought to justice.
She calls his defence lawyer Dick deGuerin “amazingly able”, and thinks it’s unlikely that Durst – who is now 71 years old and frail – will be sent to prison for the rest of his life.
In any case, her focus, three decades later, is still on her friend Kathie.
In a way, I bear no animosity towards him. I am not saying ‘Kill Bob Durst, get rid of Bob Durst.’
All I want is to say, ‘Hey, Bob – what happened to Kathie? Where did you put her?’
Kathie was an endearing, lovely, intelligent woman. She was a rare human being, she was enchanting.
And to think that at 29 he snuffed her out – what a waste for the world, because she could have made a difference in people’s lives.
My only hope at this time is for her family to be able to stand at a graveside and say ‘The End.’