Son of Iran’s ex-shah kills self in South End, officials here say

A cruiser drove past the South End home of Prince Ali Reza Pahlavi. Officials say his death appears self-inflicted. A cruiser drove past the South End home of Prince Ali Reza Pahlavi. Officials say his death appears self-inflicted. (Charles Krupa/ Associated Press)
By John R. Ellement and Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / January 5, 2011

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The 44-year-old son of the late shah of Iran died early yesterday morning inside his South End home after he shot himself, according to Boston law enforcement officials and a Web posting by his brother.

Prince Ali Reza Pahlavi was found inside his West Newton Street home by Boston police around 2 a.m. Ali Reza’s girlfriend was in the home and called police to report a gunshot wound, according to two law enforcement officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case. The prince’s family later posted a statement on

“It is with immense grief that we would like to inform our compatriots of the passing away of Prince Alireza Pahlavi,’’ said the posting by the prince’s older brother, Reza Pahlavi. “Like millions of young Iranians, he too was deeply disturbed by all the ills fallen upon his beloved homeland, as well as carrying the burden of losing a father and a sister in his young life.’’

The posting continued, “Although he struggled for years to overcome his sorrow, he finally succumbed, and during the night of the 4th of January 2011, in his Boston residence, took his own life, plunging his family and friends into great sorrow.’’

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said Ali Reza’s death appears to be self-inflicted and is not being investigated as a homicide.

Ali Reza Pahlavi’s father, Shah Mohammed Pahlavi, was a close American ally who was overthrown in the 1970s by a fundamentalist Islamic revolution that remains in power today, bedeviling the current American administration with reported plans to build nuclear weapons. The exiled shah died of cancer in 1980.

Ali Reza Pahlavi was born in 1966 and had studied at Harvard University, where he enrolled in 1993 in a doctoral program in Near Eastern languages and civilizations. He did not complete that degree, according to the registrar’s office of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He lived in the South End for years, but has kept a low public profile.

Neighbors said they rarely saw visitors at Ali Reza Pahlavi’s multistory brick residence, which the Suffolk Registry of Deeds shows he purchased for $2.05 million in May 2001, less than a month before his sister’s death of an overdose on sleeping pills in a London Hotel.

Daniel Shannon, a doctor and scientist who lived across the street from Pahlavi, said he first met the prince in 1973 in his father’s palace in Iran, where Shannon had gone with a small group of doctors and scientists to advise the shah, who wanted to build a medical science center.

At the time, Pahlavi was about 7 years old, curious, friendly, and with an impressive knowledge of the United States, Shannon recalled. He was shocked to see the prince again on West Newton Street years later, this time as his neighbor.

“He was the spitting image of his father,’’ Shannon said. “I recognized him right away.’’

But the open child had grown into a reserved man whose face froze when Shannon brought up their first meeting in the 1970s.

“What I read in that is he didn’t want to talk about it,’’ Shannon said. “When I mentioned having known him as a child, the reserve turned to ice.’’

After that, Shannon and his wife, Marcia Lloyd, rarely saw him around the neighborhood. He would pull up in his black Porsche and dart inside the house. The only people the couple saw were another friend and a young woman who studied painting.

The wooden Venetian blinds in the windows were always closed, Lloyd said. He had also placed satellite dishes with Arabic letters on the roof of the house so he could receive the international news network Al Jazeera, but they disappeared about a year ago, Lloyd said.

“We’ve seen him so seldom that it was hard to know if someone was living there or not,’’ Shannon said. “He might have come here to be in a place where he was a little anonymous.’’

Late yesterday afternoon, the blinds remained closed. On West Newton Street, a police cruiser idled as three men from the crime scene clean-up company, Aftermath Inc., went back and forth from their van into Pahlavi’s house.

An elderly man answered the door but told a reporter he could not comment.

Erin Ailworth and Tracy Jan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Ellement can be reached at; Cramer at