Is this the world's bitterest husband and most devastating divorce case?
NEW YORK authorities are investigating whether a doctor who survived the explosion of a four-storey home on Manhattan's wealthy Upper East Side might have blown up his house rather than sell the property as part of a divorce judgment in his ex-wife's favour.
A police official said that Dr Nicholas Bartha, 66, had recently contemplated suicide in a rambling e-mail to his former wife. He wrote: "When you read this ... your life will change forever. You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger. You always wanted me to sell the house. I always told you I will leave the house only if I am dead."
The Romanian-born doctor was rescued after shouting up to rescuers while buried in the wreckage.
The explosion and fire created a horrific scene on the Upper East Side. Black smoke rose high above the 19th-century landmark on 62nd Street between Park and Madison avenues. Debris was strewn everywhere.
Authorities said at least 15 people were injured, including ten firefighters. Dr Bartha and one passer-by suffered severe injuries; the remaining injuries were minor.
Nicholas Scoppetta, the city Fire Commissioner, said authorities were looking into the possibility that the blast was the result of a suicide attempt, calling it "a distinct possibility".
Dr Bartha had recently lost a $4 million judgment in the divorce case.
According to a 2005 appeal court opinion, the doctor had "intentionally traumatised" his Jewish wife, who was born in Nazi-occupied Holland, by posting "swastika-adorned articles and notes" around their home.
Cordula Bartha was granted the divorce "on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment".
In a petition filed this year by Mrs Bartha, she asked that deputies remove Dr Bartha from the residence: "I have no doubt that (Nicholas Bartha) will ensconce himself in the marital residence and refuse to leave it after the auction is held. He has said many times that he intends to 'die in my house'."
The building was worth nearly $5 million (2.7m) based on a 2004 assessment, and was to be sold at auction to pay the judgment against Dr Bartha.
A lawyer who represented Dr Bartha in his divorce said his former client considered the house "his pride and joy".
"Faced with possibly losing it, he couldn't handle the pressure," Ira Garr said on television.
Lawyers for 64-year-old Mrs Bartha issued a statement: "Mrs Bartha cannot at this time withstand the additional burden of the media microscope on this personal tragedy. Mrs Bartha and her family are deeply saddened and terribly upset by today's occurrence."
The building housed two doctors' offices. Authorities said a nurse who was to open one of the offices arrived late, narrowly missing the explosion.
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