Doris Duke Ran Down an Employee in 1966. Now, a New Witness

Book prompts paperboy to finally tell his story about the night the heiress ran over her designer
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2021 11:10 AM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2021 12:20 PM CDT
New Witness Emerges in 1966 Death of Heiress's Employee
In this Feb. 24, 1950, file photo, heiress Doris Duke attends a polo match in Cairo.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – An heiress killed her employee shortly after he quit, and the police called it an accident. Later, the heiress donated huge sacks of cash to revitalize the town, while the police chief retired and bought two Florida condos. Folks have long suspected that when Doris Duke ran over Eduardo Tirella in October 1966, it wasn't an accident. Now, a new witness has come forward and police have reopened the case, reports Peter Lance, who wrote a book about the events. In his latest piece in Vanity Fair, Lance says he was signing his new book, Homicide at Rough Point, last month when a Marine Corps veteran approached him with some new information. Bob Walker told Lance he was a paperboy in Newport, RI, and had been delivering a paper to Duke's mansion the day Tirella was killed. He heard the whole thing, and his story backs up the one previously pieced together by a police investigator.

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The official version is that Tirella got out of the car to open a gate and Duke slid into the driver's seat to proceed through. That's when, she told police, the car "leaped forward" and ran Tirella down. What Walker says he heard was an impact, a scream, and then another impact. He pedaled his bike over to see what was going on and said he saw Duke, unharmed, blocking his view of the back of the car where Tirella was pinned. When he asked if she needed help, she yelled at him, "You better get the hell out of here!" Walker says he never told authorities his version of the story because his father was worried there'd be retribution. He did tell the story to a few friends over the years. Lance interviewed those people for his Vanity Fair piece. Walker's story matches an accident reconstruction done at the time by Sgt. Fred Newton of the Newport Police. But the chief at the time, Joseph A. Radice, the one who'd retired, waved those findings away. "The narrative that was accepted by the cops was not the narrative that I remembered," Walker told the AP. (Read more Doris Duke stories.)

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