Opera legend Maria Callas was murdered for her $9 million (GBP5 million) fortune, according to film director Franco Zeffirelli.

Zeffirelli, who has made a film of the soprano's last days called CALLAS FOREVER, is convinced the singer was poisoned 1977 at the age of 53 by pianist VASSO DEVETZI.

Zeffirelli explains, "In her last years, Maria was totally under the control of a woman named Vasso Devetzi.

"Little by little, she cleared everyone away.

"I have been told Maria left a will giving everything to her maid, her driver and a musicians' retirement home.

"But after she died, there was no sign of this will and Devetzi got most of what Maria had.

"Devetzi was giving Maria sleeping pills and amphetamines the whole time.

"It is legitimate to think that Devetzi killed Maria and then stole everything she had."

He adds, that Devetzi, who is now dead, ordered for Callas's body to be "cremated immediately after the funeral service" and "there was never an autopsy" as it was widely suspected Callas died of a heart attack.

28/11/2004 14:50