'Police neglect led to woman's death'

Court: Failure to heed parents’ pleas contributed to 2006 death.

August 31, 2010 02:55
3 minute read.

INBAL AMRAM. (photo credit: Courtesy)

More than four years after a 20-year-old woman was stabbed to death by a Palestinian car thief, the president of the Central District Court, Hila Gerstel, found the police guilty of negligence in her death.

At the end of a 39-page decision regarding a lawsuit for damages filed by the parents of the victim, Inbal Amram, Gerstel determined that “the state is responsible for negligence against the plaintiffs, since the obligation to be cautious was violated and there is a causal relationship between the obligation to be cautious and the prevention of Inbal’s death.”

Analysis: Police feel heat from scathing ruling on murder

At 1 a.m. on March 4, 2006, Inbal Amram volunteered to pick her sister up from a party taking place five minutes by car from the family home. Twenty minutes later, her sister called to complain that no one had come for her.

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The family became very concerned because Inbal was known to be a responsible person. They dialed her cellular phone but received no answer.

At 2 a.m., Inbal’s father and aunt went to the police station to report the disappearance.

The policeman on duty refused to register their complaint and told them to come back later.

The father and aunt tried to speak to more senior policemen but did not succeed.

The aunt got into an angry argument with the policeman, who threatened to arrest her.

The two left the station and Inbal’s father called a relative who worked for the police. The relative intervened and the father returned to the police station at 3:55 a.m. This time, the duty policeman recorded the complaint.

At 4 a.m., the police tracked Inbal’s whereabouts by homing in on her cellphone.

The cellphone indicated that the car was situated in an empty field near the Glilot interchange along Highway 5.

Amram’s relative drove out to the site at 5:30 a.m., but could not see Inbal’s car in the dark. At the same time, he tried to persuade the police to send up a helicopter, but was told it could not fly in the dark.

The authorization to send up the helicopter was given at 7:58 and the helicopter took off almost one hour later. At 9:30 it sighted the car and landed beside it. She was found stabbed in the neck and after attempts to revive her by medical rescue workers, she was declared dead.

According to Gerstel, there was no question that the police had acted improperly during the night’s events.

They had even admitted it themselves after conducting an internal investigation.

Among other things, Gerstel blasted the police for refusing to record the Amram family complaint at 2 a.m.. According to police regulations, the duty officer is obliged to do so.

Secondly, given all the circumstances of Inbal’s disappearance, the police should have classified the case as urgent and begun searching for her immediately.

She also sharply criticized the police because it had taken the intervention of Amram’s relative to get them to do their duty.

Nevertheless, the key question was whether the improper behavior of the police had a direct causal effect on Inbal’s death. In order to determine this, the court had to decide when Inbal died.

If she died immediately, before the family lodged the complaint, the police could not be held responsible.

However, given the fact that the police should have acted much more quickly, they would have been held responsible had she died later in the night and the later she died, the more clearly the police negligence would have contributed to her death.

After hearing witness testimony and the conflicting estimates of coroners for both sides, Gerstel came to the conclusion that Inbal died some time after 5:30 in the morning, and most likely after 8 a.m. Thus, it was clear that the police had contributed to her death.

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