A servant for the late Dr. Herman Tarnower testified today that he saw Jean Harris lead a police officer to the upstairs bedroom where the diet doctor lay mortally wounded, and that she spoke to him, but he said he was unable to recall what Harris said.
"I did not pay attention," Henri van der Vreken said under questioning from defense attorney Joel Aurnou. "I was very concerned seeing him [Tarnower] like that."
Van der Vreken, a live-in servant at Tarnower's $500,000 Harrison, N.Y., home at the time the March 10 shooting, appeared in court today at pretrial hearings to determine admissibility of incriminating statements allegedly made by Harris, who is charged with second-degree murder.
Appearing in Westchester County courthouse here as a witness for the defense, van der Vreken had his remarks limited to the time after the shooting, when Harris, who had reportedly left the scene, returned with the police officer. But the Belgian-born van der Vreken, speaking in a heavy French accent, proved an unforthcoming witness.
Though he testified that he sat barely four feet from Harris when she made her call to the police, he said he did not hear any part of the conversation. He said he did recall, however, an officer reading Harris her rights after he, his wife, Harris and the officer left the bedroom. And he also remembered the poignant exchange that followed, when Harris ignored the officer to ask van der Vreken who Tarnower's guests were that evening.
"Your response to the question?" asked the defense attorney.
"My answer was in The New York Times not so long ago," said van der Vreken.
"For those who haven't read The New York Times . . . ," persisted Aurnou.
"I asked to have Mrs. Harris removed from the house," van der Vreken said.
He also remembered that when the police returned to legal matters, asking Harris if she wanted a lawyer, her thoughts were elsewhere.
"Even Henri doesn't want me in the house anymore," he quoted her as saying.