Review: Biography: The End Of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life by Stephanie Madoff Mack
Blue Rider Press, £16.85
Published 06/11/2011 | 06:00
At precisely 4.14am on the morning of December 11, 2010, Mark Madoff, the son of the disgraced Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, sent three short emails from his home computer.
The first email had the subject line "Help", with an ominous plea for someone to come by and take care of his infant son, Nick. The second, sent to his wife Stephanie, simply read "I Love You". The last, written to his lawyer, contained just two lines: "Nobody wants to believe the truth. Please take care of my family."
Having sent the messages, Mark then fashioned a noose out of his dog's lead, looped it around an exposed steel beam that ran through the living room of his trendy New York loft and hanged himself.
His 22-month-old son was sleeping in his nursery just yards away. A snapped cord from the vacuum cleaner lay on a nearby table, proof that Mark's attempts to kill himself had taken more than one try.
The 46-year-old investment trader had chosen to die on the second anniversary of his father's arrest for running the largest Ponzi scheme in American financial history. His wife was in Florida at the time, taking their four-year-old daughter for a much-anticipated trip to Disney World.
An epic fraud -- that his family insists was the sole brainchild of 'Bernie' Madoff -- the scheme scammed thousands of individuals, charities and organisations out of $65bn (€46bn) and led to the destruction of Madoff's formerly tight-knit family, and the death of his eldest son.
The unravelling of the Madoff clan and Mark's descent into despair is the subject of a new book by his widow, Stephanie Madoff Mack, The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life.
The book gives an intimate and harrowing account of Mark's two years of despair following his father's stunning revelation in December 2008 that his elite investment advisory business had been "one big lie".
In the book, Stephanie demonises her in-laws, Ruth and Bernie Madoff, while praising her unsuspecting husband as "a hero" for immediately turning his father in to US authorities upon hearing his startling confession.
Mark's decision to blow the whistle on his father should have redeemed him in the eyes of the public and the press, but instead it cost Mark and his younger brother Andrew everything -- their reputation, their livelihoods and their relationship with their parents.
"There are people who never knew Mark Madoff, yet who gleefully point to his suicide as proof that he must have known of or participated in his father's epic crime," she writes in the book. "Nothing could be further from the truth. His death was proof of his pain."
In June 2009, Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to securities fraud and received the maximum sentence of 150 years. In a jail house letter sent to Stephanie, Madoff compared his new home to a college campus with "lovely lawns and trees" and boasted of his new-found celebrity status. "I am. . . treated like a Mafia Don," he said.
But back in New York, Mark -- who refused to speak or see his parents after Bernie's confession -- struggled to overcome his sense of betrayal and shame. Unemployed, hounded by the paparazzi and weighed down by dozens of lawsuits filed by his father's victims, he became obsessed with the news coverage of the scandal.
"He would wake up every morning, immediately comb through the regular newspapers and that would be followed up by reading blog posts and comments," said his brother Andrew.
"And I would say, 'Look, you gotta -- you gotta shut off your computer. You gotta stop subjecting yourself to this because this is not helpful for you and it's not helpful for me. And if you keep doing this, it's just gonna lead to misery'."
After a failed attempt to kill himself in October 2009, Mark begged his mother to cut off all ties with her jailed husband, but Ruth Madoff steadfastly refused to leave the man she had been married to for more than 50 years.
'He begged me to stop seeing Bernie," Ruth told CBS news in an interview last week in which she also admitted she and her husband had entered into a failed suicide pact in 2008.
"And I said that I was having a really hard time abandoning him while he was under a life sentence in prison. And I had no idea of the dire effect that that had on him."
Mark's mother now blames herself for her son's suicide and since his death has cut off all contact with her husband. But her sacrifice has come too late for Stephanie Madoff who continues to honour Mark's wish by shunning Ruth from her own and her grandchildren's lives.
"I just wish, until my dying day, that I had done what he wanted," Ruth said.