Murder, intrigue and cover up: The “Twin Peaks” of Israel

Demonstrators seeking justice for Tair Rada and Roman Zadorov
Marianne Azizi writes: 

On 19 May Ilana Rada, recently widowed and the mother of murdered schoolgirl Tair, addressed a crowd in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. With strength and dignity, she asked for support to find the real killers of her daughter.

In December 2006 Tair was savagely and brutally murdered in a bathroom at her school. Her throat was slashed and she was repeatedly stabbed. She died a horrendous death.

Two weeks later, Israeli police announced that Roman Zadorov, a 29-year-old Ukrainian handyman, had confessed to the murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Flawed investigation and cover up

The police investigation was seriously flawed from the start. Hairs found in Tair’s hand could not be forensically linked to Zadorov. The murder was committed with a serrated knife, but Zadorov possessed only a smooth knife. Sixty-six items of evidence found at the scene could not be linked to Zadorov. According to forensic evidence, the murderer was left-handed, but Zadorov is right-handed. Footprints found at the murder scene did not match those of Zadorov.

A host of evidence was never investigated and, what is worse, it was covered up during the investigation. The police had “found” their man, and looked no further, despite all the evidence which cast not only reasonable doubt, but almost completely ruled out the possibility that Zadorov had committed the murder.

At the time of the murder, Zadorov had an alibi. He had been on the phone with his employer and had carried on working as normal until 5:30 the same afternoon. He never signed the “confession”. He could not read or write Hebrew. To this day he protests his innocence.

In December 2015, a second attempt to reopen the investigation was denied, with two out of three judges upholding the decision to convict Zadorov.

This would normally be the end of the matter, but many people remain unconvinced of Zadorov’s guilt. A Facebook page created to put pressure on the Israeli state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, to reopen the investigation has so far attracted a quarter of a million supporters.

Why is this case important?

Cover ups are common in police investigations in Israel. Forensic evidence is tailored to fit a suspect. A retired deputy police chief has spoken of torture being widespread to get a conviction. The innocence of a suspect is not the priority. Gag orders prevent the general public from knowing the truth. In the case of Zadorov, leaks from the forensic laboratory report – which has never been disclosed to the public – describe the hair found in Tair’s hand as being synthetic, indicating that someone at the murder scene wore a wig or hair extensions, which Zadorov did not wear.

Investigator Haim Sadovsky has written a book about the case in which he names the alleged real killers. He also discovered that a wig had been found discarded in the grounds of the school where Tair was murdered. Under Israeli law this casts sufficient doubt on Zadorov’s conviction to justify reopening the case, but the prosecution continues to ignore both the law and the new evidence.

The Israeli authorities find themselves in a corner. For 10 years, despite evidence to justify reopening the case, they have continued on the same path. If Zadorov is indeed innocent, or if they are forced to re-examine the case, then it is likely heads will roll – from the police, the forensic team and even the that of the state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan.

“It’s either Zadorov in prison or the collapse of the justice system,” says one of the investigation team. “He now pays the price for incompetence, cover ups and lies, while the real killers go free.”

Roman Zadorov supporters holding posters

Demonstrators seeking justice for Tair Rada and Roman Zadorov

Hila Gertzel, the oversight czar, recently filed a report to the Supreme Court criticising the investigation. The judge in the case had been under investigation for sex crimes, with yet another cover up, but was allowed to go on holiday and then retire upon his return. Gertzel criticised the forensic department for tampering with evidence and collaborating with the police in a cover up. Yet, the prosecution office had the report sealed until August and Gertzel suddenly retired, claiming disappointment that she had to hire lawyers to defend her stance.

Recent exposures of the involvement of judges and a senior rabbi in sex abuse have cast doubt on the integrity of the whole establishment. In any other country, Zadorov would have had the benefit of a trial by jury, but not so in Israel. He languishes in prison, and the mother of the murdered Tair is not just campaigning for his release, but demanding that the real killers be brought to justice.

A related murder

What has never been linked to Zadorov’s case is the murder of Moshe Einen, a trainer in a school in Katzrin, close to where Tair was murdered, who had his own doubts. Following a personal investigation, he was sure he knew who the real killers were. Seven months after Tair’s death he, too, was murdered, his throat slashed with a serrated knife by a left handed assailant. Investigators believe the knife was the same one which killed Tair.

In August Gertzel’s report is expected to be heard before the Supreme Court. If Zadorov’s case is reopened, it could bring the system down to its knees. Will the authorities act within their own law and consider the new evidence? Or is the price too high for an already corrupt Israeli prosecution authorities, police and forensic office?

The players

Below are the players in what is dubbed Israel’s “Twin Peaks”. Their names have been widely shared in Israel through mainstream and social media.

1. Roman Zadorov – Ukrainian handyman, no Hebrew reading/writing skills, who was picked by the police as the suspect and convicted for a crime he is overwhelmingly believed to have not committed.
2. Tair Rada – murder victim.
3. Olushka Korbachenko – the possible real murderer of Tair Rada. She has confessed to her boyfriend
4. Adir Habani – Olushka’s boyfriend who knew about the murder and remained silent for six years until a recent documentary on national TV, when he told the story about her confession to him.
5. Nofar Ben David – the daughter of Daniel Ben David who is a senior police intelligence officer. She had a dispute with Tair Rada.
6. Shai Mika – niece of Yitzhak Aharonowich, a former minister of public securit. He was the last person to see Tair Rada alive.
7. Lee Lachiani – Nofar’s closest friend from school who was also one of the murder witnesses.
8. Sapir Tirosh – Nofar’s friend from school who was also one of the witnesses.
9. Shir’el Bitton – she also had a dispute with Tair. Connected to Nofar Ben David.
10. Dannie Zilon – one of the murder suspects.
11. Noa Ben David – elder sister of Nofar Ben David, close friend of Olushka and friend of Dannie Zilon’s sister.
12. Moshe Einan – krav maga trainer who was mysteriously killed in July 2007, seven months after Tair’s murder, with the same knife after he investigated the case and believed he had solved the murder of Tair.

Sources in Israel say there will be a major announcement this weekend. The fight is not just for a retrial or to reopen the investigation – it is a fight against a system which insists on never admitting mistakes, and on covering more and more systematic crimes.

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