A financial dispute between two lovers was the motive behind the murder and decapitation and dismemberment of a Romanian foreign worker found stuffed inside a suitcase in south Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The alleged murderer, Turkish citizen Ayden Demiran, 50, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon a few hours before he was set to board a flight to Turkey, police said. Head of the special investigative unit, Officer Sharon Malkah, said police arrested Demiran in the village of Kfar Qassem in the Triangle, where he was known to stay when he wasn’t in Tel Aviv. Under questioning, he reportedly confessed to the crime and was taken by officers to perform a re-enactment of the crime. Demiran has been living in Israel for at least 18 months, where he was employed as a construction worker, Malkah said.
At the moment they have not determined if he acted alone, but that contrary to reports in the Romanian media, only one arrest has been made.
The woman, 45-year-old Ilona Denise of Romania, worked in Israel as a care-taker in recent years, first in Haifa and then later in Tel Aviv. Police said. She is from the town of Valea lui Mihai in Bihor County in western Transylvania, where her daughter Erika is a Hungarian language teacher, according to a Romanian journalist who spoke to the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Denise initially came to Israel with a legal work permit in 2004, but the visa had expired at some point before her murder, complicating her ability to find a permanent place of employment.
Her body was identified already on Saturday, due to “forensic evidence found at scene” police said – most likely DNA. Police and IDF canine units were also able to find other body parts stashed near the suitcase. Tel Aviv police then contacted Interpol and the Romanian Police who tracked down the woman's family in Romania. Denise's daughter was able to give police her phone number in Israel, which helped them track down Demiran.
Denise's head has still not been found, but police said that Demiran gave them information that could potentially indicate where the missing head is located.
Police added that they still are not exactly sure how Demiran removed the head or the other appendages, but that he did strangle Denise to death in their apartment on Hashita Street in Hatikva. After which he stuffed the body in a suitcase and dragged it to Hahagana Street, scattering other body parts in dumpsters along the way.
Denise was found on Saturday afternoon by a passerby at a passenger bridge underneath the Hagana train station. The man called police to report the suitcase as a suspicious package, and when police sappers arrived on the scene they made the grisly discovery.
On Wednesday morning, Demiran was brought for a remand hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, where Judge Ido Druian ordered his remand extended by 11 days.
During the hearing, a detective from the YAMAR investigative unit of the Tel Aviv police said that Demiran was arrested on Tuesday at 2pm, in a house on the outskirts of Kfar Qassem. He had already purchased a ticket back to Turkey leaving at 9pm Tuesday night when police stopped him.
The detective said that Demiran and Denise were to celebrate their one year anniversary on the 15th of August, and that while Denise lived permanently in the apartment, which was rented in her names, Demiran lived in Kfar Qassem and stayed in Tel Aviv with Denise on the weekends.
Police said that under questioning, Demiran told them that on Saturday a fight broke out between him and Denise and that he tried to defend himself from his girlfriend, who was wielding a hammer, and ended up hitting her in the head with the hammer in self-defense. He said that Denise then fell and hit her head on a toilet, and died from the blow. At this point he said he panicked and decided to get rid of the body, only choosing to decapitate and dismember it when he saw that it wouldn’t fit in the suitcase.
The detective said Demiran said that he didn’t call police or ask his neighbors for help because he didn’t think anyone would believe him.
Demiran’s lawyer, Attorney Neil Simon questioned the detective over whether police had any evidence that Denise was alive when she was dismembered, arguing that there was nothing to prove that she didn’t die and was then taken apart by Demiran. Simon’s argument in court Wednesday was that just because Demiran dismembered Denise doesn’t mean that he murdered her, or that he actually meant for her to die.
When asked if police have been able to determine whether or not Denise was killed by a hammer blow and not by strangulation – as had been reported in the Israeli press – the detective said “in regards to the blow to the head with a hammer, which he said that she suffered, we’d like to check this, but at the moment we don’t have the head. We’re still trying to find the head.”
The couple lived together in a small ground floor apartment on Hashita Street in the Hatikva neighborhood. The house was deserted on Wednesday, and the gate to the yard was padlocked shut. The apartment is where police believe Demiran murdered Denise, decapitated and dismembered her body before washing it clean of blood, and placing it in a suitcase. It was only a short walk from there across the Hagana Bridge to the site where he allegedly dropped it off only hours before it was discovered on Saturday.