COSTA RICA NEWS — Brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan wrote and directed Interstellar, the blockbuster movie that stars Anne Hathaway and McConaughey, but their brother, Matthew Nolan, is linked to a contract killing in Costa Rica.
He faces the persistent allegation that he was a ‘hired killer’ of a financier, but the US have refused to extradite Matthew and he remains a free man.
Master storyteller Nolan, who wrote the screenplay for the film with his younger brother Jonathan a decade after they first won acclaim for their dark reboot of the Batman franchise, has the real-life tale of the third Nolan brother, Matthew, and his links to lurid allegations of a contract killing in which an American financier was beaten to death.
Matthew, the eldest of the brothers, faces the persistent allegation that he was a ‘hired killer’, the hitman behind the financier’s death.
He was arrested and imprisoned during extradition proceedings – and prepared a bizarre escape attempt involving tied-together bed sheets.
The extraordinary story centres on the accusation by authorities in Costa Rica, filed in an extradition request to a US court, that Nolan was a ‘hired killer’ contracted to kidnap and torture American accountant Robert Cohen, 63, while he was on a trip to Costa Rica.
Cohen’s badly beaten body was found near the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in 2005.
The court heard that ‘there was little doubt that Cohen’s death was caused by trauma’ while a Costa Rican pathologist was said to have found evidence he was subjected to pain and anguish before he was bludgeoned to death.
The American justice system refused to extradite Matthew. He was released from prison and remains a free man. Yet not everyone agrees with the decision.
In another blockbuster-style twist to the long-running saga, the Costa Rican authorities have told The Mail on Sunday they consider the case still ‘active’ and want to put Nolan on trial. And the victim’s daughter, Alisha, wants Nolan to face court in Costa Rica.
The three Nolan brothers have had a cosmopolitan upbringing. They were born in London to Brendan Nolan, a British advertising executive, and their American mother Christina, and have spent much of their lives shuttling between the US and Britain.
Jonathan, 38, and Christopher, 44, who were educated at Haileybury school in Hertfordshire, are now two of the most highly sought talents in the screen industry, and are feted in Hollywood.
Matthew, 46, chose to make his mark in business. He worked as a property developer in Chicago and married his wealthy American wife Erika in a lavish society ceremony at one of the city’s most exclusive venues in 1999.
Posing for the wedding photographs, the three handsome English brothers seemed the epitome of American success. But despite the glamorous lifestyle Matthew enjoyed with his wife and two sons, it would seem that he had major financial problems: he and Erika filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
The tangled story of the murder and Nolan’s alleged involvement were laid out in extraordinary detail by an Illinois Federal Magistrate during a hearing in 2009 into the extradition request.
The US District Court was told the victim, Cohen, worked as an accountant for Florida millionaire gem dealer Robert Breska, who was sentenced to four years in jail in the 1980s after being exposed as a drug trafficker.
When US$6.2 million of Breska’s money went missing he, according to American court papers, blamed Cohen despite counter allegations that Cohen’s Costa Rican business partner Mario Quintana stole the money.
Cohen, it seems, was in no doubt about the trouble he was in.
In 2004, Quintana was discovered shot dead, in an apparent suicide.
Cohen, realising that he had lost all chance of recovering the cash, said, according to the court documents, that Breska ‘is capable of putting my life in danger… if anything were to happen to me. Mr Breska would be the person responsible.’
Breska, the court heard, brought Nolan in to recover the lost money and introduced him to Cohen.
Nolan, it was said, was calling himself Matthew McCall Oppenheimer in an attempt to hoodwink Cohen into believing he was a scion of the Oppenheimer diamond family.
Costa Rican investigators told the American court that this assumed identity was to hide Nolan’s real occupation as a hired killer.
The court papers said: ‘Breska told Cohen this man was a multi-millionaire and a member of a family that was dedicated to the jewellery business.’ They added that Cohen and Nolan met in March 2005 in Costa Rica, where Nolan also met hotel bellboy Luis Alonso Douglas Mejia, who subsequently was convicted in Costa Rica of Cohen’s kidnap and murder.
According to the Costa Ricans, witnesses claimed they saw Cohen and Nolan together in the capital San Jose. Later Mejia and Nolan allegedly forced Cohen into a Toyota hire car in a local shopping centre car park on March 6.
When the FBI were called in to help locate Nolan, agents discovered he had flown out of Costa Rica the same day to Houston, Texas, then went on to Paris, New York and finally Miami, all the time allegedly using a fake Paris address and his father’s UK mobile number for his contact details.
Three days later, however, Nolan was allegedly back in Costa Rica and rejoined Mejia, who was holding Cohen captive. The court heard the Costa Rican authorities claimed the pair ‘continued to torture the victim’, damaging his internal organs. The torture ‘caused a massive haemorrhage and resulted in death’. Cohen’s body was discovered on March 10.
At Nolan’s extradition hearing, Judge Michael T Mason noted that Nolan flew out of the country the following day and added: ‘There is competent evidence that Nolan continued his efforts to locate Breska’s assets following Cohen’s death.’
Nolan remained at liberty for another four years until 2009, when he was trapped by FBI agent Pablo Araya – who discovered Nolan was due to attend his own bankruptcy hearing in Chicago.
Araya, who arrested Nolan, said: ‘Matthew Nolan was the most arrogant person I have talked to.
‘I grabbed him after he had eluded me for one or two years, and when I arrested him his words to me were, “You would never have got me if it wasn’t for the bankruptcy.” But it was his greed that got him – because of his bankruptcy.’
Nolan was arrested and sent to Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center while the extradition hearing was prepared. It took place later that year.
Giving his decision, Judge Mason refused to extradite Nolan on kidnapping and murder charges, ruling that Costa Rica had not submitted sufficient evidence that Nolan was a ‘person who kills’.
When asked how Nolan had escaped extradition, Agent Araya said: ‘I do not know how he paid for his defence. He was going through bankruptcy. Someone paid for a high-powered attorney.
‘The Costa Rica extradition request was not up to the legal standards required and it took a good lawyer to see that and the good lawyer fought it and prevailed.’
Even then, Nolan’s anxious wait was not over. The court did approve his extradition on false passport charges – but the Costa Rican authorities abandoned their request and in 2010 Nolan was released.
But by then this story had already taken another extraordinary twist.
Earlier that year, in April, Nolan had pleaded guilty to preparing an escape from the Chicago jail, from where there had never been a successful breakout. Guards discovered a 31ft-long ‘rope’ made up of bed sheets, and a harness, razor and clip designed to unlock handcuffs.
Araya said: ‘It was make-believe stuff. Prison guards had his cell turned over and he had ropes made up. The guard said it was the best rope they had ever seen made.’
Matthew Nolan’s brush with the law and bankruptcy does not appear to have impaired his lifestyle. He and his wife – a Pilates instructor – and their sons Parker and Peter live in substantial four-bedroom townhouse in Chicago.
His lawyer, Andrea Gambino, last week said: ‘Matthew Nolan is innocent of the charges levelled against him by the government of Costa Rica.’